While Sony recently launched God of War, and Nintendo is coming off of a hot streak of Zelda, Mario, and Xenoblade 2, Microsoft’s first big exclusive game launch in a while, Sea of Thieves, which has been under development for four years (at least), met with divided reception upon release. It became yet another title to add to Microsoft’s ever growing list of games that failed to resonate as widely as Nintendo and Sony’s games do. Why did this happen?
We asked this question to Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. “You know, I think, and I mean this with respect, but I think they have limited capacity within their studios to innovate,” he said. “So the 343 guys do Halo, and that’s great, and it challenges them to the max, to come up with some new twist every 2-3 years on Halo. The Coalition guys do Gears, and it’s the same thing for them. Rare, on the other hand, has just not been very good at innovation.”
Pachter added that pirate games represent a niche genre to begin with- at least, in terms of his own personal preferences.
“I think the pirate genre is just outrageously stupid- but, again, that’s just me, it’s not my thing. I didn’t like Assassin’s Creed Black Flag because of the pirates stuff, but I know people who only did that. So… I think it’s a niche audience, and I am not that motivated to go find 400 treasure chests and put them on my ship, it makes me look like a container or cargo ship. I’m not into that, I don’t get it. And I don’t personally like games where you play multiplayer and others can go get your stuff, and you have to go get your weapons and your gear back. It’s not my kind of thing.”
Pachter went on to talk about why Sea of Thieves is just the latest Microsoft game that failed to gain wider traction, comparing Microsoft’s slate of studios with Sony to point out that Microsoft simply doesn’t have as many studios as their competitors.
“I think the decisions Microsoft makes on what games to make are based on the talent they have internally, and as for Rare, I think this is what they’ve go,” he said. “This is the best they can come up with. So it’s hard. There’s a lot of rumors about Microsoft buying someone, whether EA or Bethesda, and these rumors are based upon the commonly held perception that Microsoft needs more first party content.
“I honestly think Sony has a deeper bandwidth of talented studios, they have multiple 90+ ratings among them. And Microsoft doesn’t have as many. They had Lionhead, and that didn’t work out very well. They’ve stuck with Rare for 20 years, and that didn’t work out… I just think Rare has gotten worse and worse.”
Speaking of State of Decay 2, on the other hand, Pachter sounded more optimistic, stating that in spite of the zombie fatigue, it’s been long enough since the original State of Decay that the sequel might just do well enough.
“Well, hey, another zombie game!” he said. “You know, State of Decay is fun, it’s goofy, and that I can get, because it’s so silly. And I loved the first one, but it’s actually one of the reasons I am tired of zombie games, because I feel like I have done everything. But yeah, it’s been long enough that I think it might actually work.”
I think, on the whole, Pachter isn’t wrong about Microsoft lacking the kind of bandwidth that Sony has with its studios leading to a lot of Microsoft’s problems. There is no denying that. That said, Xbox boss Phil Spencer has recently indicated that this is a problem he is aware of and working on, so it will be interesting to see where Microsoft ends up in the coming few years on this front.