Last year was a frustrating year for anyone who owns an Xbox Series X. Here you have this beautiful, powerful, and impressive piece of hardware, but little was ever released for it that would demonstrate its true potential.
Thank goodness that third-party titles like Modern Warfare II, A Plague Tale: Requiem, and a little indie game called Elden Ring were available for download, right? The problem is, for all the ways the gaming industry has evolved, the basic reasons why someone would choose a home console over another haven't changed much. Exclusives continue to matter, and Xbox has been delivering disappointing results for too long.
This doesn't mean that Xbox hasn't made some improvements in other areas. The Game Pass model (whether it ends up being viable for developers in the long run or not) is currently in its halcyon days. Is it possible to become the first HD console to spotlight indies with events like Summer of Arcade? All fantastic leaps forward. However, the appeal of Game Pass will always be limited if many of the games you've already seen.
When Microsoft announced that all first-party games would be available for Game Pass subscribers from the start, players would be surprised by their luck. Yes, games like Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2, and Gears 5 were welcome early additions that players could get for free, but now, two years into what should be an exciting generation revolving around the Xbox Series X, As Dusk Falls and Pentiment are not the kind of games that people think of when purchasing a $499, 4K-
Nobody is more aware of this first-party drought issue than Xbox itself. It's been on a major spending binge as of late, first with the acquisition of Bethesda in 2021, then later announcing similar intentions to purchase Activision Blizzard for a record $69 billion less than a year later (though it's still unknown whether this acquisition will ever go through).
a number of recent factors may be to blame, such as the global pandemic's continual impact, the typically lengthy 6-to-7-year development cycle that modern high-budget games now seem to demand. What Xbox is quickly discovering is that purchasing studios would only go so far if the foundationwork for cultivating and incubating original first-party studios had been laid decades ago, rather than putting tens of thousands of them under one roof.
When you consider the fate of Xbox in a situation where it would have purchased Bethesda (and all its accompanying IPs) two years ago, you realize that Starfield and Redfall are the two biggest Xbox first-party exclusives scheduled to be released this year; the former was initially announced for PlayStation before being ripped away by Microsoft, while the latter was most likely conceived and in pre-production long before that deal? It's disturbing to say the least.
The Initiative, a well-known example of Xbox's attempt to create and incubate its own "quadruple-A" first-party studio (as it is called) is currently developing a modern reimagining of Perfect Dark, which was purchased by Xbox in 2002.
When taken as a whole, Xbox players should be groaning in anticipation. According to reports, the studio is losing its employees and serious development on the exclusive has stalled. Already this year we've seen evidence that such mounting development challenges will not be gone.
Is there a light at the end of the tunnel, according to Microsoft. Most of the Xbox team's release slate has now been announced until June of this year. That's Turn 10 and Mojang, but other studios such as Roundhouse, The Coalition, and Alpha Dog are still unknown.
The 2023 season of series X and S has the potential to be a game-changing year for the series X and S. However, there's a possibility we might have already gotten there if Xbox had learned how to nurture first-party studios from the ground up rather than buying existing ones and waiting patiently for them to release exclusive titles.
The hope remains that Xbox's exclusive problem will be resolved eventually. With Xbox studios putting their own spin on these titles (and these are just the upcoming Xbox first-party exclusives we know about) we'll get significant Xbox exclusives...eventually. But until then, our eyes are on the meantime. The surprise release of Hi-Fi Rush, a bright and colorful rhythm game as early as this week would indicate Xbox hasn't demonstrated its full power yet (even if it's a Bethe
Microsoft might build some strong momentum with loyal players and new followers in 2023 by demonstrating that it isn't too late for Xbox to cultivate first-party exclusives at a AAA level that are capable of achieving high prestige and a long-term legacy. Here's hoping it's not too late.