With news that two key developers, one the lead on Halo Infinite, have left 343 Industries right in the middle of the development of the Xbox Scarlett launch title, one has to wonder: is the Xbox Scarlett in trouble? The answer, based on everything we know, is an astounding yes. Microsoft’s first mistake was playing their hand at E3 2019, which Sony decided to skip, and announce that the Xbox Scarlett was releasing Holiday 2020. Now that Sony has come out and confirmed that they, too, are releasing the PlayStation 5 at that time as well, Microsoft is left in a difficult predicament. If Microsoft had sold 80 million units this console cycle, things would be different, but Sony destroyed them in console sales. Not even taking into account console sales, Sony decimated Microsoft when it came to first-party exclusives as well. I love my Xbox as much as the next person, as it has a superior controller and a better interface, but PlayStation is where the games are. Games are what make consoles, not power, as the Nintendo Switch has shown us over the past two-and-a-half years. With the latest news regarding Halo Infinite, Microsoft, and in turn the Xbox Scarlett, maybe playing at a loss before the system even releases. Halo is Microsoft’s flagship franchise, although it has been in decline since Halo 4. Microsoft announced at E3 2019 that it would be a launch title for the Xbox Scarlett, but with two key developers leaving in a matter of two months mid-development cycle, this looks like it could be in doubt. Yes, we have no idea what other games Microsoft is deciding to launch with, but they need Halo. It’s a system seller. It’s true that we don’t know what Sony is going to launch with the PlayStation 5, but there isn’t any pressure on them. They dominated this console generation. Nintendo is doing their own thing and the Nintendo Switch is very successful and has been consistently beating out Microsoft since its release with primetime exclusives. Microsoft has been great for third-party games, but their first-party has been severely lacking. They have set up the infrastructure for more exclusive titles with bringing a number of developers under the Microsoft Studios banner, but will they have games in time for launch? The answer may be an astounding no, and if Microsoft doesn’t have a high-quality Halo game at launch (we really have no idea what the game plays like; we’ve only seen cinematics), they may forfeit this upcoming console generation before it even begins. Losing your creative director almost a year out from launch is a disaster. Then, a month or two later, losing your lead producer on the campaign? These kinds of losses cripple the development of a game. There’s still a chance that Microsoft can prove everyone wrong and have a strong launch, but things are awfully pessimistic as they stand. This could destroy the Xbox brand, and that’s not an understatement. Halo is synonymous with Xbox. There hasn’t been a Halo game since the deeply divisive Halo 5, and that was years ago. The last good exclusive (other than a Forza game) that Microsoft has released over the last several years has been Gears 5, which very well may be the 2019 Game of the Year. I’ve said this on numerous occasions: Microsoft has built the infrastructure to be successful and compete with Sony in the console business. They have the best online subscription service, a wonderful game “rental” service, a high-quality controller, and a superior user interface compared to their competitor. The problem is is that they don’t have the games to compete, and Nintendo has taught us with the Switch that games are what matter, not power. Microsoft seems so caught up in the technical aspects of their consoles that the software seems like an afterthought. What was the point of the Xbox One X by the way? It was never properly utilized and did not justify the price point, just more of a waste. Third-parties cannot carry consoles. Sony and Nintendo have numerous first-party exclusives which are some of the greatest games of all-time on their current platforms; Xbox has Gears 5. No doubt that’s a great game, but it’s the best first-party game to come out on Xbox One in roughly three years, which is inexcusable. Not to mention it’s one of only a handful of first-party games that have made it to the console in those three years, which is a joke. The Xbox Scarlett is in trouble if they don’t pick up the pieces, and quickly, with regards to Halo Infinite. We all saw what developers leaving mid-way through the development cycle did to Mass Effect Andromeda and Anthem; they were both huge flops, and terrible games. Microsoft won’t release an unpolished Halo game, but if it isn’t ready for launch, they’ve already lost next generation.