Following up an amazing 2021 where Xbox was the clear publisher of the year, Xbox is staring at another very exciting year. Xbox is set to release two of the most anticipated new IP for the year with Redfall set for a summer release and Starfield set for a fall release. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the other possibilities 2022 may hold for Xbox:
The strategy of debuting Forza Horizon 5 at E3 last year and releasing the title just a few months later worked brilliantly for Xbox. Xbox surely saw the success of this strategy and its applicability moving forward. With so many games in development, look for this strategy to continue with one or two brand new game reveals at E3 with releases in Q3/Q4 calendar year 2022.
Prime candidates for this strategy are Project Belfry (publishing title with Stoic Studios) and Project Pentiment (Obsidian Studios rpg being led by Josh Sawyer). Additionally, Forza Motorsport looks to launch in Q3 2022 and will make it’s next appearance at E3 2022.
This would certainly make for another excellent first party year for Xbox, releasing all of the below: As Dusk Falls Deathloop [PC and Xbox version] Forza Motorsport Project Belfry Project Pentiment Redfall Starfield
There’s quite a few AAA this year that Xbox can target for gamepass. One that looks likely is that a multi-year agreement with the MLB was signed and will see MLB The Show 22 join the service. Some other AAA possibilities include Dying Light 2, Saints Row, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction, and Sonic Frontiers.
I believe that the most likely target for Xbox among these will be MLB The Show 22 and Sonic Frontiers. Sonic Frontiers makes a lot of sense as Sega is looking to the title to be a massive revival for the Legendary IP. Gamepass ensures instantly that millions and millions of people will play the game, and tell others about the game.
The acquisition season continues, and you can expect Xbox to be extremely active. After the acquisition of Bethesda/ZeniMax, Matt Booty, Phil Spencer and Satya Nadella have all talked unprompted at length about how acquisitions will continue. We’ve also seen the M&A teams for both Xbox Games Studios and ZeniMax have been expanded. As both continue to operate as their own entities, it is likely that both will continue to add resources that they identify as needs which means both are likely to expand inorganically.
If we’re looking at relationships and needs from the ZeniMax teams, they’ve been trying to staff up and figure out how to get more games from their IP library in production. The studios that stick out as a possibilities here are Avalanche Studios and Behavoir Interactive. They have both worked on titles for Bethesda/ZeniMax and have strong relationships. Both studios also have great relationships with Xbox with Avalanche Studios working on a new IP (Contrband) with Xbox Global Publishing and having an extensive library on gamepass and Behavoir Interactive having a very strong history of supporting Xbox titles like Halo and Gears of War. They both also have experience working on and developing new IP and managing multiple projects in different genres, so these are two studios to watch closely.
Meanwhile, over at Xbox Games Studios, Matt Booty has seemingly identified the type of studios that they are actively working to acquire. From Matt Booty’s interview after E3, he shed some light on what Xbox Game Studios is looking for:
“ We will continue to look for studios that can add great people, great teams, and great new ideas to our lineup. Second, we are growing our studios organization through acquisition. We use a filter of ‘people, teams and ideas’ to keep us disciplined. People that we have relationships with, teams who have delivered games through both success and have seen some adversity, and studios that have a proven track record of new idea. And we know that a thriving entertainment service needs a consistent and exciting flow of new content. So our portfolio will continue to grow as our service grows.“
With this in mind, look for teams that have worked successfully with Xbox or are currently working with Xbox. Studios like Asobo, Crytek and IO Interactive seem to fit the bill for what Matt Booty outlined above.
Over the past few years, Xbox has had a major focus on game preservation by making games playable on current and future Xbox generations. They’ve not only supported backward and future compatability, but also enhanced a large portion of that catalog. Additionally, they’ve worked with developers and publishers to bring games that were never on Xbox previously to Xbox. This has the added benefit for developers and publishers of prolonging the life of the IP, generating added revenue and growing the audience for the IP/franchise.
The backwards compatability team has pretty much exhausted their options to bring existing Xbox titles to the current generation, as issues with licensing are the bottleneck now. As a result, I expect the time and resources that were spent on that initiative will be reallocated to other methods of bringing more games to Xbox. The areas where this makes the most sense is to step up their work with developers and publishers to bring existing franchises and games to the Xbox ecosystem for the first time. Expect the work to really ramp up with teams that they have a strong history working with such as Sega and Paradox Interactive. Sega has a massive back catalogue not on Xbox and they also are actively looking to expand the audience for their IP, so this looks like a promising area of focus. Paradox Interactive has a number of games that have not been brought to console, but have a high level of popularity; they also have an extensive history of working with Xbox on gamepass. Look for those two to partner more to bring more games to Xbox.
I expect focus outside of these partnerships as well. Look for Xbox to work with developers and publishers that are popular for mobile gaming to bring these games to the Xbox ecosystem as examples of how great cloud and mobile gaming can be. Additionally, I expect some surprises from publishers like Konami and Square Enix to bring titles not previously on Xbox to the ecosystem. I am looking at game franchises like Bravely, Dragon Quest, Mana and Suikoden that can help expand both Xbox’s audience as well as the franchises audience and provide a nice payday for the developers and publishers.
As the very successful Alpha test of Halo Infinite closes and we move toward the launch on December 8th, it looks like 343i is beginning to plan their next Halo projects. Halo Infinite will take up most of 343i’s support for quite some time, so it looks like the studio will look to hire a Publishing Senior Producer for their next game and leverage external teams for the project.
The job description clearly indicates that the game will be in the Halo universe and indicates they want someone with experience on consoles. Aside from that, there is not an indication of genre or perspective. Could this be for Halo Wars 3 or is the franchise set to head off in more new exciting directions? This project will definitely be in the early phases so time will tell, though I would be surprised to see another FPS as a spinoff, so a new direction may be likely.
Everything is coming up Xbox lately, they have undoubtedly grabbed the console momentum. The momentum really started with E3 2021, when they showcased Halo, Forza Horizon 5, a massive slate of games coming to gamepass and huge new exclusive Xbox games including Redfall, Starfield and The Outer Worlds 2. The momentum continued all throughout the summer with a really good slate of Gamepass releases including standouts Knockout City, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Death’s Door, The Ascent, Twelve Minutes, Sea of Thieves: A Pirates Life, Hades and Psychonauts 2. The excitement around all of these games coming seemingly every other week this summer kept Xbox at the top of all the gaming conversations this summer.
According to a blog post from Xbox, they are going to keep bringing that heat on gamepass, saying “With more than 23 studios worldwide creating games for Xbox, our goal is to release at least one new, first party game into Game Pass every quarter”. Combine all those first party games that will be releasing every quarter with the initiatives ID@Xbox has and their partnerships with publishers including EA and it is clear that new content will be flooding gamepass.
That flood of content will be very evident this upcoming holiday season with a trio of huge first party games launching Day 1 on Gamepass with Age of Empires, Forza Horizon 5 and Halo. They won’t be holding down Gamepass alone though. Back 4 Blood, Crossfire X, The Gunk, Scorn and more are also joining the service Day 1 this fall/holiday.
With all this content coming to Xbox and Gamepass, they realized they have enough content to spread out between multiple game shows and even have separate showcases for their Indie titles. This year Xbox has already had two separate 60+ minute Indie focused title showcases. What this has done is keep Xbox in the news constantly. It really shows Xbox fundamentally understands how to maximize everything Xbox’s many teams are doing and that’s powerful as it will keep their momentum train going consistently in the future.
The content and momentum is set to continue well into the future as Xbox is releasing two major Bethesda games, Redfall and Starfield, next year in addition to the major 3rd party exclusive STALKER 2. Knowing that there’s tons of other Xbox teams working on games that will be coming in the next couple of years means that the momentum this Xbox train has developed won’t be stopping for anything and may in fact pick up especially when they acquire more studios and Phil and Satya have been stating for a while.
The recent months have been absolutely brimming with Xbox content, games and news. That trend looks very likely to continue this fall with a slate of big games releasing and a massive amount of games coming to Gamepass. The month of September, however, looks barren. There’s no news event, show, first party releases or big gamepass titles the entire month.
That could just be a coincidence, but it could also be a sign that some surprise news could be on the way. There is a recent precedence for this with the lead up to the Series X launch leaving a big hole in September. Until that is, that they announced the ZeniMax/Bethesda acquisition and filled months of talk with that move. Is it possible that something similar could happen this year?
There have been talks of more big gamepass games like with UPlay and acquisition talk from Satya Nadella and Phil Spencer, so there’s definitely potential for a big September.
What do you think, will September be a barren month or is some big news just around the corner?
Bethesda/ZeniMax deal was massive and means exclusivity and awesome games for Xbox Gamers – The most crucial thing for Xbox to establish this year at E3 is that Xbox is the home for Bethesda and if you want to play the games then you need to jump into the Xbox ecosystem. After assuring this, showing some of the amazing games in development and on the way is crucial. They need to establish Bethesda was more than a few big RPG.
Showing off Starfield in all its RPG glory will undoubtedly be huge, but showing Wolfenstein III, a big ambitious shooter from ZeniMax Online and a big open world game from Arkane all as exclusive to Xbox is where they will establish that this deal was MASSIVE.
Halo Infinite with a significant gameplay visual improvement – Last year Xbox debuted some absolutely massive announcements with Avowed and Fable at their conference. However, that was overshadowed by a disastrous visual showing from Halo Infinite, their flagship title. In order to gain back traction, Halo Infinite needs to have a much improved gameplay showing. The screenshots that have trickled out (see campaign screenshot below) definitely show quite a bit of improvement, but we need to see it in action and the enemy models need to look much improved of the Craig’s of last year.
Establish Xbox is a place for next-gen gameplay – While Halo visuals definitely need to be much improved, it’s not going to be the next-gen visual showcase. For that Xbox needs to lean on some of the big first party studios that they have invested in. These studios must show off impress gameplay visuals that can compete with Sony’s exclusives in terms of visuals.
It’s likely that Forza Horizon 5 will be the first title Xbox shows with graphics that just scream next-gen. There are a few other games/studios to watch this year for this are Bethesda’s Starfield, Arkane’s Project Omen, Compulsion Game’s New IP, Xbox Global Publishing (remember Quantum Break and Ryse were visual showcases last generation).
Gamepass BLOWOUT – Right now gamepass has a massive first mover advantage with gamepass and also have the advantage with their first party and EA Play being in the service. Theres a few other advantages they offer like game discounts and XCloud supports, but what it really will all come down to is the games in the service. Xbox has a giant opportunity to capture the attention of everyone at E3 by making a big moves here. Earlier this year, they captured a lot of attention by adding a big new third party IP in Outriders to the service.
They can capture that same type of momentum but on a much larger scale at E3. I’m looking for a significant move to corner the market and make gamepass undisputedly the best service in gaming moving forward. Showing something along the lines of adding Ubisoft Plus, EA Plus Premium (Day 1 EA games), Sega back catalogue would be major moves for the service. They could also go with a more individualized approach trying to get single games on gamepass releasing day 1 or ones that were major hits, some examples could be Back 4 Blood, FIFA/Madden, Battlefield 6, Elden Ring, Tales of Arise, Far Cry 6, Sekiro, Cyberpunk 2077, Assassins Creed Valhalla and Watch Dog 2. The last approach they could take would be getting games to come to their system that were previously exclusive or not on xbox, there are several key games/franchises they could go after like Persona, Bravely Default, Dragon Quest (additional titles since we know XI came to xbox), Baldur’s Gate, Hades/Pyre/Transistor or Monster Hunter.
Xbox is NOW – We all know Xbox has a ton of exclusives on the way and in development. However, we do not know enough about when those games are releasing. Is it going to be years before these titles are releasing, or will we have plenty to play in the near future. Personally I want to see what games I will be playing in the next 18 months, so I think it’s necessary to plenty show games with 2022 release dates or sooner. This will tell me there’s plenty of content to pay right now and that I don’t just have to be patient.
First party gameplay – Along the lines of showing what games I will be playing over the next 18 months, I need to see gameplay of those games so I know exactly what I will have to look forward to. Last year, the main gameplay centered around Halo and it unfortunately left a lot to be desired. This year I want to see variety, Xbox is the most diverse console out there, so show the world next-gen gameplay from the full bredth of first/second party genre(s).
Must have exclusives – The rumors are going strong that Xbox’s first party has tons of games in development. The job listings and talk from the studio heads and Phil Spencer corroberate them. Now it’s time to show off that they exist and they’re must-play games. Throughout last year we saw six big new first party IP’s announced. This year should be more of the same, with Xbox likely showing off new titles from Bethesda, Xbox Game Studios, Xbox Global Publishing as well as some other deals for full or timed exclusivity. They just need to make sure they showcase these in a way that makes people understand they’re only on Xbox and they’re massive must-play titles.
As we near E3, studios begin to hype their games and we start hearing bits and pieces about games in the works. This certainly is the case for inXile Entertainment. Over the past year, we’ve seen inXile release the latest installment in their hit, turn-based RPG series, Wasteland. They’ve also been very busy with hiring and a number of juicy details have been made available in recent job listings.
Job listings have indicated that the title will be a role-playing game, so there is no question they’ll incorporate their world-class touch in that realm. The other real questions are what type of environment that game will take place in and what type of rpg will it be? For answers to the first part, perhaps some of the recent artwork by Alksandar Danilovac, the Environment Artist for inXile Entertainment can shed some light on this. The below video was made last year and seems to display a magical, steampunk world. There is even a steam-powered carriage at 46 seconds in.
More recently, the studio has started to ramp up discussion and hints about their game. Last week, Brian Fargo tweeted out “I know that teasing is cruel but I am so excited about the visuals, design and writing for our next big game. Unfortunately you won’t see what I see for quite a long time.” However, earlier today, inXile tweeted out the below in response to an Xbox tweet, potentially hinting at their next title and answering the question of what type of rpg this game will be. Now, as Brian Fargo stated, it may be a while before we see this game, but maybe some of the hype alludes to a little teaser coming next month (we can only hope!).
As more information falls into place about the number of projects that the Xbox and Bethesda/ZeniMax studios are working on, the Xbox Roadmap becomes a little bit clearer (though we’re still learning about the games). Below I take an attempt at placing the first party known and unknown titles on a several year roadmap. This list does not include any third party exclusive or Xbox publishing games, so with that in mind, the years should be even more action packed!
A new job listing by Zenimax Media could be hinting that a new id Software title is in development. There are a few different titles they could take inspiration from, Commander Keen, Doom, Quake or Rage. Based on recent developments they could be eager to capitalize on the success of the most recent doom game.
Xbox for the second time in three months is adding a senior manager to their team focused on acquisitions. The job post details this is the team that brought some of the biggest names to Xbox like Zenimax.
These additions come after the Xbox acquisition of Zenimax, so these two high level roles will add more drive to a room that’s already brought major talent to Xbox. These moves do not happen with someone that is content with their current stable of studios and as such is a definite sign that Xbox will be adding to their first party studios in the near future. These positions are also longer term strategic positions, so it is likely that Xbox will be acquiring new studios and content for years to come.
These moves now come on the heels of Satya Nadella and Phil Spencer both stating that Xbox will be growing inorganically and targeting major IP. The content to attract people to their systems and services is what both are after, so it’s safe to assume any names that are bandied about will be big names or have big plans for their future. For some possible names they may be looking at be sure to check out my Unknown Worlds posts.