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Is Red Dead Redemption 2 the Xbox One X’s First Killer App?

It might be time to upgrade.

by Kyle Hanson


Xbox One X arrived on store shelves just under a year ago, and while the “most powerful console of all time” has certainly found a large audience, there’s still many out there doubting Microsoft’s vision. “What’s the point of an uber powerful console that doesn’t have any exclusive games to play?”, these skeptics say. And while there still hasn’t been a major exclusive released for the Xbox One X, thanks mostly to Microsoft’s pro-consumer Play Anywhere system that makes games playable on PC as well, word is spreading that the platform might finally have its killer app in the form of Red Dead Redemption 2.

“But,” I hear you already saying, “Red Dead Redemption 2 isn’t an exclusive? How can it be a killer app for the Xbox One X if I can just play it on PS4 instead?” Valid points, but to discuss this we first have to establish what a killer app is, since we haven’t really talked about them for some time.

It’s clear that to get the best experience out of Red Dead Redemption 2, you should play it on Xbox One X

According to Google (which is the new “Webster’s dictionary defines”), a killer app is “a feature, function, or application of a new technology or product that is presented as virtually indispensable or much superior to rival products.” Nothing in here says it has to be an exclusive, just that it must be far superior to its rival products. In this case it is easy to see how Red Dead Redemption 2 might be a killer app for Xbox One X, as the console touts itself as offering a better experience than its rival, the PS4 Pro.

Now the only question is, is Red Dead Redemption 2 far superior on the Xbox One X as compared to the PS4 and PS4 Pro. The answer, according to Digital Foundry and many other outlets who have compared the versions, is a firm “yes”. Every aspect of the game’s graphical experience is improved on the more powerful console, including resolution, texture quality, and the all-important framerate. The piece concludes by saying “But really, to see this phenomenal game at its absolute best, Xbox One X is the platform of choice – and by quite a considerable margin.”

It’s clear that to get the best experience out of Red Dead Redemption 2, you should play it on Xbox One X. This seems to meet at least the base understanding of what a killer app is, but will this actually move the console war one way or the other? Likely not, while RDR2 might play best on the X, the fact that it can be played on even a launch PS4 will mean few will see a reason to upgrade. However, this could just be the first salvo in this new stage of the PS4 vs Xbox One conflict.

Future games featuring this same level of graphical and performance disparity could begin to shift the greater public’s understanding of the consoles. Due to the PS4’s original advantage when it comes to performance, many bought into the PlayStation ecosystem for the first time, or returned after a brief stint with the Xbox 360. Potential buyers of new consoles over the next few years will need to reassess this idea, now that the Xbox One X has proven its true capability.

So Red Dead Redemption 2 is the Xbox One X’s first big killer app, but so far that doesn’t mean much. The next few years could change that however. We’ll all want to watch the NPD numbers in the future, especially if Microsoft can get another big AAA title out that’s either exclusive or markedly better on their machine.

- This article was updated on:November 9th, 2018

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