By almost any measure, Microsoft had a very strong showing at yesterday’s Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase.
There was a huge number and variety of games on display, most of them coming to Game Pass on day one, and many with some form of Xbox console exclusivity. Xbox Game Studios’ big first-party titles looked compelling: red fall, Forza Motorsportand above all, star field — the crown jewel of Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda, and a blockbuster with the kind of immense scope traditionally reserved for a cross-platform release.
The partnerships on display were astute and wide-ranging, from the headline-grabbing scoop on a Hideo Kojima project, to credibility-boosting firms like indie darling Hollow Knight: Silksong and the much-loved Persona series, to a novel strategic alliance with competitive gaming giant Riot Games, which will bring in-game benefits in League of Legends and its other titles to Game Pass subscribers.
Meanwhile, the inclusion of Blizzard’s surveillance 2 Y devil 4 – even though these games don’t come with any kind of Xbox exclusivity or Game Pass benefit – it served as a foretaste of the sheer production and franchise power that Microsoft will possess if its proposed acquisition of Activision goes through Blizzard.
Ultimately, the stated focus on games releasing in the next 12 months and the high volume of actual gameplay footage made the show’s promise feel tangible and believable. There was no vaporware. These were all the games we’ll actually be playing, and soon.
There was only one problem: the biggest of them will not be released in 2022.
The recent delay of star field Y red fall The next year had left the Forza reboot the only hope for a big Xbox exclusive in 2022. It wasn’t going to be; Forza Motorsport it will come out next spring. As I wrote when the delays were announced, they raise questions about the Xbox organization’s ability to manage its production pipeline across its wide range of game studios. The showcase’s focus on the coming year worked well, but it also conveniently relieved Microsoft of having to address the status of several previously announced games that are reportedly suffering from production issues: Rare’s Everwildchildish games’ Fableundead labs’ State of decomposition 3, and the initiative perfect darkness. (Obsidian Declared it also appears to be a long way off, but so far there have been no indications that it is in trouble).
Last week, Microsoft said it had released five new games of its own in the previous 12 months and was on track to meet or exceed that number next year. The storefront confirms that prediction: Mojang’s minecraft legends and Obsidian’s historical adventure penance were announced, along with the important trio of star field, red fallY Strength motoring. But only penance, an intriguing but seemingly small-scale release, will see the light of day before the holidays. This isn’t the big exclusive game that tradition has led us to expect from platform owners during the holiday release cycle.
Really matters? The usual annual rhythm of the games industry, which peaks in the last few months of the year, is ingrained in anyone who has been playing console games for more than a few years. But that has been driven, for decades, by the needs of a retail industry in which Microsoft barely participates anymore. As the company extends the Xbox brand into cloud and PC gaming, holiday console sales are no longer mission critical. (And in any case, in these times of limited supply, Microsoft and its competitors are guaranteed to sell as many machines as they can make.)
Xbox no longer sells boxes. It’s a fighter in the great content wars of the 21st century, and while its peers Apple, Amazon, and Netflix have chosen to invest in movies and streaming TV as a way to colonize people’s free time, Microsoft has gone all out for games. The centerpieces of this strategy are Game Pass and Cloud Gaming, which promise to bring games to gamers on any screen (including smartphones and, soon, smart TVs) and turn them into paying subscribers by offering an unbeatable smorgasbord of content for a reasonable monthly price. rate.
Applying this business model to gaming is an unproven risk, but Microsoft, like Apple late to the streaming TV war, is so incredibly rich that it can easily afford to take it. The numbers do not need to make sense in the short or medium term. User acquisition is everything in this game, so Microsoft just needs to connect the fire hose to the bank account and start spraying. And it can’t hope to make enough games on its own, so relying on licenses to pick up the slack is key.
In this world, programming is a secondary concern. (Netflix, for its part, doesn’t seem to pay too much attention to the ritual schedules of the film and TV industries, unless it’s trying to play awards season.) You just need enough content to keep people busy, and the promise of exciting exclusives to come. So star field missing Christmas isn’t as important to Microsoft as, say, Forbidden Horizon West going from the end of 2021 to the beginning of 2022 was for Sony. That delay put Guerrilla’s open-ended word game squarely in the way of elden ring, which crushed him and doomed him to miss his sales goals. But Microsoft would rather you play star field on Game Pass who bought it, so who cares?
However, the momentum is still important. The concern for Xbox is that, after the pandemic, its external partners will have the same production problems that it experiences internally. Few game studios are meeting their deadlines, and even this late in June, the late 2022 schedule looks barren. surveillance 2 besides. The chart of 2022 versus 2023 releases that Xbox itself shared during its showcase was revealing and drew some unflattering comparisons. Naraka: Sword Tip is a good option, but hardly devil 4. If there aren’t enough new and exciting games to play, Game Pass subscribers might consider canceling their subscriptions, even with such a reward next year.
These are exceptional times. Certainly, Microsoft would rather not wait more than a year between releases of major exclusives, the way Xbox gamers might. But, if there’s going to be a dry spell, then maybe I’ll browse Game Pass and land on the mechanized farming game. light year frontieror finally decide to give Grounded a turn, it will be the perfect way to fill it.
Microsoft’s transformation into the singular titan of gaming content isn’t yet complete, and the teething troubles it faces raise some big questions. But he’s changing the rules of the game publishing game to such an extent that he’s still the only one with answers.