Let me show you what it’s all about.
Some of you may recall that I recently said that I would just be posting reviews on my blog for the remainder of the year. Well, I want you all to know that I’m a liar and I cannot to be trusted. Why? Because this is not a review. Today, we will be talking about Microsoft’s recent fan event called XO19 which was held in London. They aired a special episode of Inside Xbox (we all know how I feel about that show) which I decided to watch since they (meaning Microsoft) were talking a big game leading up to the event. I must say that, despite my feelings about Inside Xbox, I was impressed with what I saw and thus I needed to talk about it. XO19 showed that Microsoft is doing quite well in four specific areas and is lacking a little in one department in my opinion. Enjoy!
Xbox Game Studios
For those of you who don’t know, Xbox Game Studios is the first-party arm of Xbox and is responsible for its exclusive games. Compared with what we had at the start of the Xbox One’s lifecycle, what they showed at XO19 was a smorgasbord. They talked about games we already knew about (Sea of Thieves, Bleeding Edge, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, etc.) and even unveiled a few new titles.
The two most important new reveals were new IP from both Rare and Obsidian Entertainment. The studios revealed Everwild and Grounded respectively. I couldn’t tell you much about Everwild other than the fact that its art style looks good and that it appears to be a multi-player game. Grounded is different from anything Obsidian has done before because it’s a survival-building sort of game. Although we have had way too many of these types of games come out before (with none of them appealing to me), Grounded has my attention. This is because you play as a kid who has been shrunk down to a size smaller than a blade of grass and you must fight insects and other foes to survive. As I said, you can build structures and craft items. It looks like a good time. While that’s all we know about both Everwild and Grounded, the important point here is that Microsoft is giving its studios the freedom to make what they want.
Perhaps the most interesting announcement of the night was Tell Me Why by Dontnod Entertainment. It appears to be an episodic, narrative-driven game in the vein of Life is Strange. What makes the game interesting is not what it is but how it came to be. It is not being published by Square Enix (who published Life is Strange) but Xbox Game Studios itself is handling the publishing which makes Tell Me Why an Xbox One/PC exclusive. This was a big surprise to me personally since Microsoft itself hasn’t published a single-player second party game in a long while. What makes it even more surprising is that Microsoft has promised to publish even more games from “creative partners” in the future. I honestly can’t wait to see what these projects are since I’m always a fan of weird publishing relationships.
Before we wrap this section up, I do want to mention one thing. A lot of people were disappointed with Microsoft’s first-party announcements at XO19. I think this is misguided because it’s important to keep in mind that most of Microsoft’s new studios have multiple teams within them. This means that even though a few of the new studios have revealed new projects that you may not like, there is still a chance that they could be making a game that you do. Take Obsidian for example. The studio recently released the single-player RPG The Outer Worlds at the end of October (which I still need to play) and they just revealed Grounded which is a co-op survival game which is going to launch as an early access title. It’s important to note that Josh Sawyer, one the guys heading up the new game, was the director of Pillars of Eternity which is completely different from what Grounded appears to be. These studios are full of talented people who have worked on many different things in the past. Chances are they will return to work on the kinds of games that made them successful in the first place (and ones that fans have come to expect).
The PC Focus
I must be honest and say that I initially wasn’t really a fan of Microsoft’s newfound interest in supporting PC games. I thought it was going to detract from the Xbox One and signaled the end of Microsoft’s interest in console gaming altogether. I’m happy to report that I was wrong. In fact, I believe that Microsoft’s renewed interest in PC gaming has fueled the expansion of its gaming efforts in recent years which in turn has led to more games for the Xbox One.
At XO19, Microsoft showed that it was serious about PCs by releasing Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition on the first day of the show; showing gameplay footage of Age of Empires IV and Microsoft Flight Simulator; and by revealing the release date for Halo: Reach on PC (more Halo games are coming in 2020 too). I’m particularly excited for Halo on PC since it means I will be able to play those games with my friends again since most of them have moved on from Xbox consoles. Yet another reason why I like Microsoft’s renewed PC efforts and I hope it continues well into the future.
Japan, Japan, Japan!
This section, out of everything I have mentioned, is what has me the most excited. I’ve said many, many times that I’m a fan of Japanese games and that I wished for more of them on Xbox One. Well, I got my wish. Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami, Yakuza Kiwami 2, and all of the Kingdom Hearts games before III will be coming to Xbox One starting in 2020 (and it’s the first time any of these games have appeared on an Xbox console). Although these are only a few titles out of the vast amount of Japanese games missing from the Xbox One, the fact that they are coming to the console in the first place fills me with great joy. I personally will be getting the Kingdom Hearts games on Xbox One when they release and I hope you will too.
Now, since I’ve played and finished all three of the aforementioned Yakuza games on PS4, you could say that it’s too little too late for those games on Xbox One. Not so, says I. I believe that this is only the beginning. My proof? Phil Spencer, the Head of Xbox himself, said onstage at XO19 that “I’ve been on the plane from Seattle to Tokyo quite often…I know there’s more work I have to do there.” He went on to say that there are many popular Japanese franchises missing on Xbox One and that he is working to get them onto the platform. One of the games he is working on bringing to the Xbox One is Final Fantasy XIV Online. This leads me to believe that this is just the first wave of Japanese games coming to Xbox. This is music to my ears because I’ve been saying for a long time that Microsoft should work harder to get Japanese games onto the platform. I’m glad they finally listened to me.
Xbox Game Pass
What makes all of this even more amazing is the fact that all of the titles I’ve mentioned above are coming to Xbox Game Pass. Game Pass is a monthly subscription service that allows players to download and play any game on the service as much as they want. When the service was first announced, I was afraid that Microsoft wouldn’t support it very much but, like with the company’s interest in PC gaming, I was wrong. Microsoft is doubling, nay tripling, down on Game Pass by putting all of its first-party games on the service along with placing some very good third-party titles on there as well (a bunch of good-looking indies are on there too). This will hopefully broaden Xbox gamers’ tastes in games and lead to a wider selection of games on the Xbox One. Game Pass is a service that keeps getting better and better. Side note: be sure to try out those Japanese games, people! Also, the older Final Fantasy games are coming to Game Pass as well so play those too!
And now we come to the one area in which I think Microsoft needs to improve; single-player games. Other than Tell Me Why and Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Microsoft did not talk about any other exclusive single-player games. Although I would have liked to have seen more of these types of games at the show (because I love single-player games), I’m not too worried about it because of what I said before. Most of Microsoft’s studios are multi-team affairs and are known for their single-player games. I’m sure that Ninja Theory, Obsidian, and Compulsion Games are hard at work on these types of games. Not to mention the rumored Fable IV that is supposedly being made by Playground Games. I have accepted the fact that I have to be patient and will probably have to wait for Project Scarlett (the next Xbox console) to be released to get my hands on new exclusive single-player games from Microsoft.
My hopes were even higher after Phil Spencer (after talking about Japanese games) stated that Microsoft had dropped the ball when it came to RPGs on Xbox One. He said that “We’ve missed that as a first-party [organization] this generation.” He went on to specifically mention The Outer Worlds and he also talked about his excitement for InXile Entertainment’s new game Wasteland 3. Although Wasteland 3 will launch on rival platforms, InXile is a Microsoft studio thus all of their future projects will come exclusively to Xbox and PC. This is why I’m not worried about single-player content on Xbox consoles in the future; Microsoft has many teams under its roof and it appears that they are all hard at work on narrative-driven single-player games.
Well, with that out of the way, I can now get back to writing those reviews! I still don’t when they will be done but I will be sure to let everyone know when they are so you can read and/or watch them! What do you all think about Xbox’s future? Are you excited? Disappointed? Or mad? Let me know!