Following Sony’s very impressive PlayStation 5 reveal event, Microsoft needed to really dazzle audiences with today’s Xbox Game Showcase. It’s up for debate if the company met those quite lofty expectations, but the event certainly excited fans of Xbox. The event was a string of game debuts from Xbox Game Studios, including long-awaited Halo Infinite gameplay, a new State of Decay, the return of Fable, and so much more.
All in, the hour-long presentation contained 10 world premieres and promised 22 console launch exclusives for the Xbox Series X when it debuts this fall. The games sold viewers not just on Microsoft’s new console the Xbox Series X but the increasingly enticing (and increasingly important for Microsoft) Xbox Game Pass. Read about the biggest moments of the showcase and how the Xbox Games Showcase positions Microsoft in the latest console war.
The presentation opened with the widely expected, previously promised first look at Halo Infinite gameplay. The 8-minute video revealed that the single-player content is an open-world experience, a major deviation from the standard first-person-shooter campaigns the franchise popularized on consoles. The majority of open-world games are third-person action-adventures, not first-person shooters. Last year’s RAGE 2 shows that it’s more than doable. The Bethesda game’s sales were disappointing, but it lacked the name recognition of Halo.
The footage was limited to the single-player campaign, with multiplayer information promised at a later date. Both modes are very important to the success of games in the franchise. We’ll have to see how well developer 343 Industries is able to adapt content from the single-player to a multiplayer setting (or vice versa.) And, of course, fans are intensely curious if Halo will enter the battle royale scene. That information will arrive in the coming months ahead of the launch of both Halo Infinite and the Xbox Series X.
Surprisingly, the Xbox Series X will not launch with the next Forza Motorsport, which is a shame since car games are great showcases for new hardware. But it’s hard to complain that Microsoft is giving developer Turn 10 time to perfect their first go-round with the new console.
State of Decay 3
Before the title of the game was revealed, the State of Decay 3 cinematic trailer turned a lot of heads. For a moment, it looked like a studio was answering long-ignored calls for diversity in video games by making the protagonist of this new project a woman of color. If the previous entries in the series are any indication, however, the video is misleading. In State of Decay 1 and 2, playable characters are randomized or customizable, which means the Black woman in the trailer is probably just one of many character configurations. That’s a frustrating bait and switch by Undead Labs, especially since video games are a form of entertainment seriously lacking in representation.
Two years ago Microsoft acquired Obsidian Entertainment, the studio renowned for RPGs like Knights of the Old Republic and Pillars of Eternity, and their purchase is already paying off. The developer shared new DLC for its 2019 game Outer Worlds and released the launch trailer for the video game equivalent of Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Grounded. Much more importantly, Obsidian debuted Avowed, a new first-person RPG that looks like it could be the next Skyrim. Microsoft is in desperate need of great action-adventure games for the Xbox in order to compete with PlayStation exclusives. Given Obsidian outdid Skyrim publisher Bethesda once before with Fallout: New Vegas, they may be able to repeat themselves and outdo one of the most groundbreaking games of a generation.
The “One More Thing” of the Xbox Games Showcase confirmed the worst-kept secret in gaming: the return of Fable. Forza Horizon developer Playground Games is developing a new game in the beloved Xbox series. Given the reveal only consisted of a short cinematic video, its release is probably a ways off. But the teaser shows that the fantasy game will retain the whimsey and charm of the original Fable trilogy.
The Xbox Games Showcase featured many more world premieres of exclusive titles than what we’ve already covered. Games like The Gunk from Image & Form and Tell Me Why from Dontnod Entertainment may not sell systems on their own, but they have the power to push potential customers over the edge and make Xbox Games Pass even more alluring. Microsoft showed that it’s filling out its lineup of exclusives with interesting smaller-scale projects that will sit alongside its big-budget AAA titles.
Game Pass Goodies
Every title published by Xbox Game Studios, including every game already mentioned, is included with Xbox Game Pass, its $10/month “Netflix for gaming” subscription service. Subscribers also receive access to a litany of 3rd party titles. During the Showcase, Microsoft shared several new titles coming to Game Pass. The most eye-popping announcement was Tetris Effect: Connected, an expansion to the audio-visual wonderland arriving first on Xbox. Destiny 2 and its expansions, developed by the creators of Halo, is also coming to Game Pass.
The Xbox Game Showcase put together a strong argument for gamers to consider the Xbox Series X, and an even stronger one for Xbox users and PC gamers to subscribe to Game Pass. Microsoft is making Xbox Game Pass the most important part of its gaming division, eager to push the Netflix-for-gaming model to its full potential. It’s a bold strategy but today’s presentation provides even more reason for industry analysts to believe Microsoft and Xbox can pull it off.