In a few short hours, Xbox Games Showcase will reveal the big lineup that Microsoft has promised for its Xbox Series X console launch. The pressure is high, with the last games showcase in May not faring well with fans. With rival PlayStation’s stellar showcase with the PS5 ‘Future of Games’ presentation last month, Xbox needs to deliver on the one thing that gamers care most about – the games.
So, what can Microsoft do to outshine Sony? As far as their console is concerned, Phil Spencer has now made their stance clear on console exclusivity. Well, even though we might not be seeing any actual system sellers, we will (hopefully) see some great games. Here are some core tenets that Microsoft needs to stick to in order to really sell the Xbox Series X as a viable upgrade for next-gen:
Lead With Halo: Infinite
Halo has always been the Xbox game, with Master Chief being just as recognizable as the consoles themselves. With Halo: Infinite, it’ll mark the first time since 2001 that an Xbox console has debuted with a Halo game. Microsoft knows this, and with yesterday’s box art reveal for Halo: Infinite, the hype train is now on overdrive. It’s quite evident just how closely Infinite is mirroring the feel of Halo: Combat Evolved, the game that made the Xbox a household name. 343 is playing all the right moves, with the confirmation of split-screen multiplayer being a big one. The name has also lead to speculation that it’ll be an open-world game, with players being able to traverse the entirety of a Halo ring. Now that would be quite awesome!
Something Something Fable
Alright, this one still hasn’t been confirmed officially, but I think we can all agree that a Fable revival can really turn the tables for Xbox. The classic RPG franchise has long been considered ‘dead’ since the last mainline entry Fable 3 came out in 2010. However, there have been rumors recently about a Fable revival. We don’t know much about it, but rumors have suggested that it might be in development by Playground Games and might adopt an open-world approach. Whether this is a sequel or a reboot, we don’t know. But what we do know is that Fable coming back as an Xbox game would be huge news! With Halo: Infinite looking much closer to Halo: Combat Evolved, it wouldn’t be far fetched to think Microsoft is going back to the drawing board in terms of ideas to entertain its fan base’s nostalgia.
New AAA IPs…More Than Halo, Gears & Forza
One of the reasons of the stigma surrounding Xbox’s ‘lack of games’ is that Microsoft hasn’t exactly innovated much on its existing properties. When you get an Xbox, you already know you’re getting franchise installments of the Big Three– Halo, Gears, and Forza. And while the individual games have been good, they don’t necessarily shake up the formula or are inviting for new fans. On the opposite side, PlayStation continues to innovate with new IPs, all the while supporting and reinventing their existing franchises.
Take God of War (2018), and compare that to the older games. Not only did it completely shake up the franchise, but it was also very inviting for new players to jump into. And then look at Horizon: Zero Dawn or Spider-Man, or even the recent Ghost of Tsushima. Neither of them are existing franchises (except technically Spider-Man), but they drew large chunks of players in to buy the PS4.
What could this new IP be? I don’t know, but it definitely needs to be something that would (and should) make the game industry stop and wonder. I’m talking about something like an Uncharted 4 in terms of scope, ambition, and gameplay innovation. And of course, make it an Xbox Series X exclusive to take advantage of the next-gen hardware. Of course, Microsoft does have a studio whose goal is just that – The Initiative. More on that below.
Really Deliver on Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 and The Medium
Speaking of new IPs, The Medium looks to be promising. The game is being developed by Bloober Team (known for Blair Witch, Observer) and looks to be a promising new AAA title. It’s certainly something Xbox needs for variety, and pushing it as an Xbox exclusive is quite inviting. It’s also one of the only Xbox Series X exclusives on this list, so it should be a good place to start showing what the console’s hardware is capable of.
Similarly, if the first game was any indication, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 has a really talented team behind it. For all intents and purposes, Hellblade could be Xbox’s God of War. While it will build on the first game’s satisfying combat and themes of psychosis, it’s also bound to look amazing, considering it’s using Unreal Engine 5 to tap into the Xbox Series X’s power. Both Hellblade 2 & The Medium look like solid Xbox games to silence those who (reasonably) call out Xbox on their lack of AAA exclusives.
A Good Japanese Presence
We’ve seen Xbox shift their focus towards the Japanese market a little in the last few years. It’s no secret that the Xbox brand has always struggled in that market, which has mostly been dominated by PlayStation. Everyone likes a good JRPG, and we really want to see Microsoft reveal new ones for the first time.
Take a look at PlayStation with the Demon’s Souls reveal, which sent fans into hyperdrive. I’m guessing Microsoft’s equivalent could be a proper Elden Ring reveal, but that IP has its own fair share of issues that they need to sort out before we can get any new look at it. In any case, Microsoft needs to push Xbox outside of North America, which where most of their buyers are. That means pushing new IPs/reveals to cater to an international audience, and Japan is certainly on top of that list.
The Initiative’s AAAA Game (Maybe Perfect Dark?)
It’s been 2 years since Microsoft announced the reveal of The Initiative, which is Xbox Game Studios’ big first-party studio. Think of them as Xbox’s Naughty Dog, whose sole purpose is to create highly polished, AAA exclusives. The studio has been at work on their new (and first) game for a few years now, with some rumors pointing it to be a Perfect Dark reboot. While that would excite a lot of older Xbox fans, I’m expecting a wholly new IP. Of all the developers under Xbox Games Studios, The Initiative is the most mysterious (and talented) one. However, it’s still possible that the game is still deep in development, seeing as how the studio is still open to hiring core development positions.
Xbox Games Showcase Honorable Mentions
Of course, there’s still plenty of Xbox games that we didn’t mention, mostly because we still don’t know much about them. Here are some additional games/studios we expect to see tonight for the showcase:
- Double Fine Studios: Psychonauts 2
- The Coalition: While we already got a Gears title last year, we wouldn’t be too shocked to see another announcement.
- Compulsion Games: We Happy Few 2 perhaps? The first game did just fine in terms of critical reception, so we’d rather see them try something new with Microsoft’s extended funding.
- Obsidian Entertainment: A sequel to The Outer Worlds is likely, however, we’ve heard many rumors pointing to a new AAA RPG. Right now their only 2020 release is Grounded, which is a much smaller project.
- Rare: Everwild is their next project, which by the looks of it might be another social/live service game like Sea of Thieves. We expect some more gameplay detailing what Everwild exactly is for the showcase.
So there you have it. Those are our predictions for the Xbox Games Showcase. Most of it has already been rumored, but then again with Xbox you never know. Seeing as how Microsoft has gone around acquiring new studios over the last couple of years, we really want to see a strong games showcase.
We already know that Xbox Games Showcase will focus on just that – games only, which is a good thing since the Xbox brand needs a strong lineup of emerging franchises in order to compete with PlayStation’s world-class exclusives. On the other hand, even if we don’t get all of the above, Xbox Game Pass is already the best deal on the planet for gaming. The recent merger of xCloud with Game Pass, along with the rumored cancellation of paid online support (Xbox Live) only points towards good things to come.