Microsoft’s gaming division and its partner studios released a 90-minute pre-recorded presentation on Sunday, the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase, that announced many of the games coming to the Xbox platform in the next 12 months.
Going into the presentation, the question on analysts’ minds was primarily what Microsoft had planned for the Xbox in the back half of 2022. Its biggest release for this holiday season had previously been Starfield, a massive science-fiction action/RPG by Bethesda Softworks that Xbox’s Phil Spencer described as “one of the most anticipated games in Xbox history.”
Both Starfield and Arkane Studios’ vampire-hunting shooter Redfall were recently postponed to early 2023, however, which left the question of what Microsoft had to fill in the gap. As it turned out, the answer was simply to stay the course, with several lower-key announcements that are all leading up to Starfield‘s release next year.
The Showcase ended with a full gameplay reveal of Starfield that hinted at its size and scope. Using a character creator that Bethesda’s Todd Howard described as “our most flexible yet,” you can design a custom explorer and set out into a distant future where humanity has spread out across the universe.
You quickly attract the attention of an organization called Constellation, the “last group of space explorers,” which is on the hunt for a number of alien artifacts with an unspecified purpose. Over the course of your search for them, you can freely explore over a hundred solar systems, with the ability to land on each individual planet therein; set up and crew outposts to generate resources; join up with organizations such as peacekeepers or a pirate fleet; and build and fly your own custom starship from components found on the open market.
What was arguably the biggest reveal at the Showcase wasn’t really a reveal at all. Spencer came onstage to announce that Xbox Game Studios has entered into a collaboration with the Japanese game designer Hideo Kojima and his self-titled production studio.
Kojima Productions’ previous release was the surreal 2019 post-apocalyptic mailman simulator Death Stranding, while Kojima himself may still be best-known as the creative director behind the Metal Gear Solid franchise. Kojima’s games have a tendency to be popular, influential, and genuinely weird in a way that few other designers in the modern games industry can match.
Kojima appeared at the Showcase to describe his unnamed project with Xbox as “a game I have always wanted to make,” which utilizes Microsoft’s cloud technology in an unspecified way. While the project “may take some time,” Kojima said, he hopes to be able to say more about it in the near future.
Another big surprise came courtesy of Riot Games, the company behind the mega-hit League of Legends franchise, as well as the e-sports hit Valorant. Riot, which recently expanded into Seattle, announced that it would bring its lineup of games to the Xbox Game Pass for PC and mobile devices, including League, Valorant, Legends of Runeterra, and Wild Rift.
Most of Riot’s games will appear on the Game Pass with all their respective characters automatically unlocked, which is a massive amount of free content; League of Legends alone has over 140 playable champions at time of writing, which new players would typically have to accumulate gradually over the course of play.
This move essentially sets the Game Pass up as a cheap means of gaining entry into some of the biggest multiplayer games on the planet. It’s hard to overstate the impact this could have on attracting new players to both Riot’s games and the Game Pass on PC.
In addition to the preceding news, the Showcase revealed a couple of dozen upcoming games for the Xbox platform, as well as new content for several existing titles, all of which are planned to release on the Xbox Game Pass on release.
Conspicuous no-shows at the Xbox/Bethesda Showcase included Halo Infinite, which has attracted both critical and fan criticism for the slow pace of its content releases since its launch last year; Rare’s fantasy game Everwild; Obsidian’s far-future capitalist parody The Outer Worlds 2; and the revival of Fable.
These other announcements included:
- While Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard has not yet been finalized, Blizzard was well-represented at this year’s Showcase. A trailer for a new hero for Overwatch 2, the Junker Queen, was released alongside a first look at the final playable adventurer in Diablo IV, the undead-summoning Necromancer. Both games are due out in 2023.
- Mojang Studios debuted a trailer for Minecraft Legends, a new action-strategy game set in the Minecraft universe, about “the legend of a united overworld.” If you ever wanted to be the Genghis Khan of Minecraft, 2023 is bringing you that chance.
- Xbox Game Studios presented a new but unnumbered entry in the Forza Motorsport series of racing simulators, which promises to add “a new level of realism to the track.” It’s coming in the spring of 2023.
- As Dusk Falls is a new game from the new London studio Interior/Night, to be published by Xbox Game Studios. Your decisions determine the fate of a family who end up stuck in a small town in Arizona, simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. CEO Caroline Marchal describes it as “an interactive story, powered by video games, that gives you agency over the life of far-from-perfect human beings.” It’s scheduled to release July 19.
- Obsidian Entertainment’s Grounded has been on the Xbox Game Pass as a “preview” for almost two years now. In September, it finally releases as a full game, allowing players to finally conclude its story. As a teenager who’s been shrunk to the size of an insect, you and several friends must explore and craft weapons to survive against the threats to be found in your house’s backyard.
- Obsidian also premiered the first look at Pentiment, “a narrative adventure most unexpected,” which is designed to resemble the sorts of illustrations found in a medieval folio. It’s planned to release in November.
- Rick & Morty creator Justin Roiland’s games studio Squanch will release High on Life this coming October. In this first-person shooter, you wield an arsenal of sentient weapons in an attempt to free alien abductees before a galactic cartel can turn them into street drugs. As dark as that sounds, it is, in fact, played almost entirely for laughs.
- Bethesda and Arkane Studios released a first look at gameplay for its co-op shooter Redfall, which made its debut at last year’s Showcase. A small town on an island off the coast of Massachusetts has been taken over by a cult of vampires, and as one of four hunters who’re stuck on the island with them, your job is to take them out and free the town. Unlike similar recent co-op shooters such as Back 4 Blood, Redfall is readily playable solo.
- The indie hit Hollow Knight has a sequel coming up, Silksong, which is confirmed as a day-one release on Xbox Game Pass.
- Kepler Interactive, a relatively new publisher with a “for devs, by devs” business model, is bringing Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn to Xbox in early 2023. Flintlock, by New Zealand dev A44, is a character action game where you fight with a pistol and tomahawk to try and seal the door to the afterlife before the undead overrun the world.
- Focus Home Interactive and Asobo Studio debuted a first-look gameplay trailer for A Plague Tale: Requiem, the sequel to 2019’s A Plague Tale: Innocence. As a teenage girl trying to survive during the Hundred Years’ War, you must protect your little brother from British soldiers, the Black Death, a mysterious swarm of supernatural rats that devours everything it touches, and apparently, your own rising bloodlust. Innocence was one of my big games of 2019, with a final level that you have to see to believe, and Requiem promises to improve on that when it comes out later this year.
- Sea of Thieves will start its seventh season of content on July 21. You can now become the captain of your own ship, with the ability to customize your cabin and even name the vessel.
- The Japanese game studio Atlus is porting the last three games in the Persona series of urban-fantasy RPGs to Xbox, starting in October with 2009’s Persona 3 Portable. As a group of high school students, you must solve mysteries, maintain friendships, fight monsters, and harness the power of mythological creatures.
- To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Microsoft Flight Simulator series, the company’s longest-running franchise, a big free update is planned for November 2022. This includes the ability to pilot biplanes, single-engine prop planes, airbuses, helicopters, and gliders, as well as historic aircraft like the Spirit of St. Louis.
- As of today, another free update for the 2021 Microsoft Flight Simulator adds a flyable version of the Pelican, the personnel transport plane from the Halo series, as well as an alien biome or two to fly it in. This will not involve any kind of combat; you just get to fly a space-capable jet around for a while.
- Oxide Games (Ashes of the Singularity) will bring its next strategy game, the civilization-builder Ara: History Untold, to the Game Pass for PC at launch.
- Forza Horizon 5 announced a collaboration with the Hot Wheels toy line, coming on July 19, which lets players race along crazy new custom tracks.
- Lightyear Frontier, a “peaceful open-world farming adventure” for up to four players, will be an Xbox console exclusive at its (undetermined) launch. You land on an alien planet and can use your trusty transforming mech to gather materials, farm for food, build a homestead, and explore the planet’s mysteries.
- The Last Case of Benedict Fox is a Lovecraft-inspired “Metroidvania” that’s coming out as an Xbox console exclusive in the spring of 2023.
- Naraka: Bladepoint, a high-fantasy battle royale from the Chinese developer 24 Entertainment, will make its console debut on Xbox Game Pass on June 23.
- Indie publisher Raw Fury debuted the cinematic trailer for Ereban: Shadow Legacy, a stealth-based action game from Baby Robot that’s due out next year. As a woman with shadow powers, you outwit and outfight an army of robots in a near-future dystopia.
- The Canadian indie studio Cococucumber (Planet of the Eyes, the forthcoming Echo Generation) released the first trailer for Ravenlok, an action-RPG about a girl who’s transported to a fantasy world via a magical mirror.
- Annapurna Interactive will publish Cocoon as a console launch exclusive for Xbox in 2023. Cocoon is being developed by a new studio led by Jeppe Carlsen, the lead gameplay designer on the popular surreal indie games LIMBO and Inside. It appears to be a weird puzzle game, but frankly, it could be anything. If you’ve played either LIMBO or Inside, you know that it’s probably not a good idea to assume anything about Cocoon.
- One of the big exclusives for the original Xbox was Ninja Gaiden, a notoriously difficult 2005 action game by Team Ninja, a division within Koei Tecmo. Team Ninja is returning to Xbox with its next project, 2023’s Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, which pits a warrior against an invading undead army in medieval China.