The best Halloween 2022 treat? I think it might be Xbox Game Pass

by -180 views

By almost whatsoever measure out, Microsoft put on a very potent showing at Sunday’s Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase.

A huge quantity and variety of games was shown, the majority of them coming to Game Pass on solar day i, and a good many boasting some class of Xbox console exclusivity. The big beginning-party Xbox Game Studios titles looked persuasive:
Forza Motorsport, and above all,
— the precious stone in the crown of Microsoft’southward acquisition of Bethesda, and a super-production with the kind of immense scope traditionally reserved for a multiplatform release.

The partnerships on display were canny and wide, from the headline-grabbing scoop of a Hideo Kojima project, through cred-boosting signings like indie darling
Hollow Knight: Silksong
and the much-loved Persona serial, to a novel strategic alliance with competitive gaming behemoth Riot Games, which volition bring in-game benefits in
League of Legends
and its other titles to Game Pass subscribers.

Meanwhile, the inclusion of Blizzard’south
Overwatch 2
Diablo 4
— despite these games boasting no form of Xbox exclusivity or Game Pass benefit — served as a sneak preview of the sheer production and franchise might that Microsoft will possess if its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard goes through.

Finally, the stated focus on games that will be released in the next 12 months, and the loftier volume of actual gameplay footage, fabricated the hope of the bear witness feel tangible and apparent. At that place was no vaporware. These were all games that we will really be playing, and soon.

At that place was but i problem: The biggest of them will non be released in 2022.

Xbox Game Pass lineup from June 2022 to June 2023

Not a balanced picture.
Image: Xbox/Twitch

The recent delay of
into next year had left the Forza reboot as the only hope for a major 2022 Xbox exclusive. It wasn’t to be;
Forza Motorsport
volition come out next leap. As I wrote when the delays were announced, they raise questions nigh the Xbox organization’s power to manage its production pipeline across its vastly expanded suite of game studios. The showcase’s focus on the coming twelvemonth worked well, but information technology besides conveniently excused Microsoft from having to address the state of several previously announced games that are reportedly suffering troubled productions: Rare’s
Everwild, Playground Games’
Legend, Undead Labs’
Country of Disuse iii
and The Initiative’s
Perfect Night. (Obsidian’south
as well seems a long way off, but as yet at that place’south been no proposition that it’southward in trouble.)

Last week, Microsoft said that it had launched five new beginning-political party games in the previous 12 months and was on track to see or exceed that number in the coming twelvemonth. The showcase bears that prediction out: Mojang’s
Minecraft Legends
and Obsidian’s historical take a chance
were announced, alongside the big-ticket trio of
Redfall, and
Motorsport. Just only
Pentiment, an intriguing but apparently minor release, will come across the light of solar day earlier the holiday. This is not the big, exclusive game that tradition has led us to wait from a platform-holders during the vacation release cycle.

Does it really affair? The games industry’s habitual annual rhythm, peaking in the last months of the twelvemonth, is hard-wired into anyone who’south been playing console games for more than a few years. But that has been driven, for decades, past the needs of a retail industry that Microsoft is barely participating in any longer. As the visitor extends the Xbox make into cloud and PC gaming, holiday console sales are no longer mission-critical. (And in any example, in these supply-constrained times, Microsoft and its competitors are pretty much guaranteed to sell as many machines as they can make.)

An illustrated page of medieval manuscript in Pentiment

Will Pentiment be the simply first-party Xbox game released in 2022?
Image: Obsidian Entertainment/Microsoft

Xbox is not selling boxes any more. It’s a combatant in the great 21st-century content wars, and where its peers Apple, Amazon, and Netflix have chosen to invest in streamed flick and TV as a fashion to colonize people’s leisure time, Microsoft has gone all-in on games. The centerpieces of this strategy are Game Pass and Cloud Gaming, which hope to bring games to players on whatsoever screen (including smartphones and, very soon, smart TVs) and convert them into paying subscribers by offering an unbeatable smorgasbord of content for a reasonable monthly fee.

Applying this business model to games is an unproven risk, but Microsoft, like Apple rolling late into the Telly streaming wars, is and then unimaginably wealthy that information technology can easily beget to take it. The numbers don’t need to make sense in the short or even medium term. User acquisition is everything in this game, then Microsoft simply needs to hook the firehose up to the bank account and start spraying. And it can’t mayhap hope to make enough games on its own, and so relying on licensing to have up the slack is fundamental.

In this world, scheduling is a secondary business organisation. (Netflix, for its part, doesn’t seem to pay likewise much attention to the film and Television industries’ ritual calendars, unless it’southward trying to play to the awards season.) You just demand enough content to keep people occupied, and the promise of heady exclusives to come. And so
missing Christmas is not every bit big a deal for Microsoft every bit, say,
Horizon Forbidden West
slipping from tardily 2021 into early on 2022 was for Sony. That filibuster put Guerrilla’due south open-word game directly in the path of
Elden Ring, which steamrolled it and doomed it to miss its sales targets. But Microsoft would rather you played
on Game Pass than bought information technology, so who cares?

A mech surveys a colorful countryside landscape in Lightyear Frontier

Lightyear Frontier
is a lower-profile game that might detect room to shine on Game Pass.
Image: Frame Break/Amplifier

Nevertheless, momentum still matters. The worry for Xbox is that, post-pandemic, its third-political party partners are having the aforementioned production issues that it’s experiencing internally. Few game studios out there are making their deadlines, and even this deep into June, the tardily 2022 schedule looks arid,
Overwatch ii
aside. The graphic of 2022 versus 2023 releases Xbox itself shared during its showcase was telling, and fix up some unflattering comparisons.
Naraka: Bladepoint
is a good go, but it’due south inappreciably
Diablo 4. If there aren’t enough exciting new games to play, Game Pass subscribers might consider canceling their subscriptions, even with such a bounty coming their mode next year.

These are exceptional times. Certainly Microsoft would prefer not to be waiting over a year between the releases of major exclusives, but equally Xbox players would. Merely, if in that location is to be a dry out spell, then perhaps browsing Game Laissez passer and landing on
Pentiment, or deciding to finally requite
a spin, will be the perfect way to fill information technology.

Microsoft’southward transformation into the singular titan of gaming content is not yet complete, and the teething troubles it’s facing raise some important questions. But it is changing the rules of the games publishing game to such an extent that information technology is even so the merely one with whatsoever answers.