On February 5th, XCOM 2 landed and once again we could become the commander and wipe out the alien scourge that threatened humanity. Well, not all of us.
Despite the game’s modest sales and high critical praise, Firaxis have still not shed any light on whether or not a console port of XCOM 2 will come to fruition. The developer’s reasoning is that their skills lie in creating content for PC and not consoles, as it’s where they’ve had the most experience. As it currently stands, the team at Firaxis do not even want to discuss a console port and that’s truly a shame.
It’s completely understandable that a developer wants to keep their staff within their comfort zones when creating a game, but to not even discuss releasing it on consoles is really not good for business. Particularly when you factor in that that XCOM: Enemy Unknown was a huge success both critically and commercially, which in no small part is down to the fact that it was made available on so many platforms. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 ports undoubtedly ushered in a horde of new fans who’d more than likely not heard of the series up until that point as it was something of a cult relic until 2K got their hands on it. Alienating console users is not going to do the XCOM brand any favours, particularly after the frankly awful The Bureau: XCOM Declassified sullied the franchise not long after it made such a triumphant comeback.
The official sales figures for the console ports of XCOM: Enemy Unknown have never been officially released, but Firaxis have gone on record to state that the PC version sold the most. It sounds like a no brainer really. The PC version was the first to be released and the series roots are firmly in the desktop world, so the fan-base was already waiting. Porting Enemy Unknown across to consoles was also a no-brainer. From a technical standpoint Enemy Unknown wasn’t anything spectacular and the interface had been simplified from the impenetrable standards that the original games were known for. It still stands as one of the best translations from PC to console, not sacrificing any of the original game’s performance and making turn-based strategy every bit as exciting as anything else on the market.
Where I feel that this is the biggest shame, is that by not giving XCOM 2 a console release, its stunting the variety of big-budget titles available on home consoles. When we think Triple-A titles, turn-based strategy and base management aren’t usually high on the priority list, it’s all guns, sandboxes and online multiplayer that dominates the shelves. That’s all well and good for some, myself included, but it seems that unless you’re big into the indie scene, console gaming offers a limited buffet of genres. Sure there’s a handful of RPGs and a couple of fighting games knocking around, but not enough to really boast a variety.
The turn-based strategy game has been largely neglected in the last two generations of console gaming; being all but confined to the download market except a few bigger releases here and there. It’s a style of game that offers a thrill like no other, not born of testing one’s reflexes, but of testing one’s ability to strategise and improvise on the fly. The tension felt during an enemy phase is unrivalled, particularly with XCOM’s often sadistic difficulty curves and perma-death which are known to break even the most hardened of players. Sure, there’s been games like The Banner Saga and Disgaea 5, but neither of those share the same broad scope and white-knuckle tension that XCOM offers.
To clarify, a console port has not been entirely ruled out by the developers, but it seems that for the moment they don’t want to even discuss porting it over to consoles. The game has only been out for little over a month so it’s still early days, but with announcement of the PC version implementing controller support, there could still be hope. Perhaps this is just the ramblings of a fan who’s feeling somewhat hard done by in this scenario, but I feel I speak for a lot of people when I say that XCOM 2 deserves a chance to thrive on consoles. So come on Firaxis, farm it out to some other company and let us console peasants be the commander once again.