2k and Firaxis have resurrected the classic turn-based Microprose game X-COM to great effect. Game of the Year awards, spin-offs, and expansion packs have all fed the brand. X-COM: Enemy Unknown and X-COM Enemy Within not only took the magic of the mid-90’s original but also brought the franchise right into the heart of modern gaming. In a world of fast-pased strategy games this series went a long way towards showcasing the intricacies of the turn-based model. They also segued perfectly into the mobile market, which is key.
Imagine the surprise to console gamers when it was announced that X-COM 2 would be a PC-only release. The developers’ reasoning was that they could add more functionality by devoting their development to one platform, which is sound strategy. Additionally, the console sales represent a small portion of the success of the game. The reality is that a loss leader that leads console gamers to the world of PC gaming and one that strengthens the overall brand is a good one. The rift between PC and console gamers has always been wide but it almost certainly will diminish the legitimacy of X-COM at least on the surface. There’s always a chance a port will show up at some point but the fact remains that the gaming world is a better place with both markets covered.
The X-COM series puts the player in the body of the head of UFO Defense for their country of choosing and it is their job to protect the world by launching teams to attack crafts, lay siege on alien landings, and in researching alien technology and developing weapons to build their arsenal. It’s a delicate mix, balancing a far-reaching story with intense missions where the loss of a team member has deep repercussions.
For old folks (like me) who have been gaming since the Atari 2600 and plan to until their dying breath the series represents all about the medium that got us into it in the first place as well as the eternal potential the future holds. Here’s hoping that Firaxis and 2k continue to feed the console market.