Let’s Chat: How Microsoft Acquiring Bethesda Might Affect the Next Generation

As is becoming regular occurrence this year, a huge bit of gaming news was announced out of the blue on 21st September, in the form of Microsoft planning to acquire ZeniMax Media Inc. for the price of $7.5 billion (wowzas); for those unaware, ZeniMax owns the renowned games publisher Bethesda Softworks, who are behind such iconic game series as The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. Whilst we are currently unaware of the full extent of how this might play out – it is feasible that now future Bethesda games could be Microsoft-exclusive – it is clearly a statement of intent, especially with pre-orders for Series X/S going up just one day after this news, on the 22nd September. Could this sway people away from PlayStation 5?

Now, regular Let’s Chat co-writer Ashley Harrison is busy and going to be away for the short-term, so we have multiple new voices this time around to discuss this news: friends and fellow gamers Jordan Senior, Jed Harling, and Toby Court. Read on…

William Robinson: There’s been sudden gaming news during 2020, but still, I wasn’t expecting this from Microsoft and Bethesda! Before we get more into the details of this revelation, it might be a suitable idea for each of you to concisely introduce yourselves. Let us know where you currently do most of your gaming, and your favourite game series!

Jed Harling: Thanks for asking for my input Will. I’ve basically been on the PlayStation train since I was a youngun, but I’ve dabbled on the Wii and the Switch, and recently made the big jump to getting a PC. Though, I would still describe myself as a console gamer through and through! I really couldn’t say what my absolute favourite game series was; that’s such a tough question! But let’s just say that if you wanted to avoid a deep-dive into Metal Gear Solid lore, you shouldn’t invite me to your party.

The Metal Gear Solid series certainly has style

Toby Court: Hey! I am primarily an Xbox gamer but am finding myself playing more and more on the Switch. I think we can all agree (pre-COVID-19) that adult life can make it difficult to park yourself before a console for any lengthy amount of time! My favourite game series has to be The Legend of Zelda. Few games have impacted me as those have; I still vividly remember the first time that I plucked the Master Sword from its plinth in Ocarina of Time. Nothing gets the blood pumping like picking up a magic blue sword that turns you into an adult! That, and the fear that my parents could return home from the pub quiz at any moment and send me to bed.

There are many iconic gaming moments in the Zelda series

Jordan Senior: Gaming has been a huge part of my childhood, and has taken me through to the present. Growing up, my earliest experiences have been playing my Dad’s original PlayStation, and spending countless hours of classics like Tekken and Crash Bandicoot, so Sony’s been in my blood since I was a kid. Between my Dad, brother, and I, we’ve owned every PlayStation console – although I did rebel and get an Xbox 360. So, PlayStation has been the only console I’ve considered for the most part; however, last year I bought a Switch as there’s too many games I want to play, Breath of the Wild being one on it that I love. For me it’s all about the games, so hardware doesn’t bother me as much as other gamers. Sony and Nintendo always knock it out of the park in terms of first party games. Instead of series, my favourite game of all time is a toss up between The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion or Hitman: Blood Money!

Adventures and action await in The Elder Scrolls, a series highly regarded by many

WR: Awesome, great to get that intro from all of you, thanks for that! Now the formalities are done, it’s time to get into the Bethesda news proper. Firstly, were you at all predicting this happen? Microsoft has been purchasing many studios over recent years, but Bethesda is quite the acquisition.

JH: There’s no doubt that Xbox’s acquisition of Zenimax and Bethesda is a seismic move, but I can’t say that it was wholly surprising? If we park the discussion about teraflops and tech-specs regarding next generation hardware, I think there is a huge elephant in the room for Xbox. What games has it got? Purchasing studios is a response to that.

There’s no doubt that Xbox’s acquisition of ZeniMax and Bethesda is a seismic move

Jed Harling

JS: With Microsoft buying Bethesda, this is a great move for them and will give them a slight edge on Sony. It’s hard to predict what exactly they will do from here on out, but I have a few theories: firstly, that The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Starfield will not be exclusive to Xbox and PC, but they will perform better on Xbox consoles than PlayStation consoles. Even if PS5 sales of the games are high, Microsoft will benefit greatly as they now own Bethesda. This can also put Bethesda Game Studios themselves in a better direction; they have been on a slippery slope, especially with Fallout 76 not doing as well as expected. Secondly and alternatively, I can see new Bethesda-published games being exclusive, as it will make Microsoft a formidable foe in years to come. So, games like Dishonored, Wolfenstein and Doom will become exclusive.

TC: I think, oddly enough, this news comes as both surprising and unsurprising. Had this not happened during the current height of the console war (and a day before Xbox pre-orders are made available), I don’t think this would have been as groundbreaking. I say it’s no surprise because I feel that Bethesda has always favoured Xbox over PlayStation. My one and only argument for that is how the DLC for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released earlier on Xbox than it was PlayStation. Though, when you think about it, that doesn’t make much of an impact. Maybe I’m biased! Regardless, I go back to my initial point; as exciting as it is because of the console war hype, I don’t think we’re going to see the ramifications anytime soon. PlayStation will draw first blood and win on initial sales; they have such a brilliant library of exclusives. That being said, there is a new The Elder Scrolls on the horizon, and everyone is asking the same question: will it be an Xbox exclusive? Answer: probably not. That would be a serious hemorrhage of money, but it does leave that tiny nibbling thought in the back of your mind of what DOES this mean? I think the likelihood is that Xbox will get certain priorities and benefits. Anything from earlier releases maybe even to minor exclusive games (Fallout: New Vegas remaster anyone?). Yet, hey, nothing stays exclusive forever (we’re looking at you Cuphead) – none of it is off the table.

WR: As we have been referencing, announcing this after a very strong PlayStation 5 showing recently, and a day before Series X/S pre-orders, has to be a statement of intent right? For me, it doesn’t actually sway me that much, because I am – relative to you three – not that much of a Bethesda fan; my plan remains to get a PlayStation 5 first, as that is where most of my friends play, and it has exclusives such as Horizon Forbidden West that are system sellers in my eyes. However, with all of the pro-consumer moves and the exclusives on the way for Series X/S, I am confident that I am going to invest into that ecosystem again – I mean, Everwild, The Gunk, Fable… The future is exciting! My question is, then, whether this Bethesda news is going to alter your purchasing plans?

Games such as GhostWire: Tokyo will still be released on PlayStation

JS: As mentioned before, it’s all about the games. As I’m becoming time poor and not having lots of disposable income, I feel like I need to be more selective over my choices. While this news will change a lot of things, I’m still sticking to the PS5! Spider-Man, Horizon, Ratchet & Clank, as well as God of War are games I would love to play, so there is more incentive there. Getting both consoles would be quite difficult for me, but I could work around this by getting the cheaper Xbox Series S. I might strategise and get the PS5 as my main console for exclusives and third-party games, and then the cheaper Xbox purely for the first-party games. The hardware is great on both sides, so either is a worthy purchase; it is mainly considering what is a priority. Whilst exclusives are a driving force, there are also other factors such as technical performance and quality of life aspects to consider. If, for example, The Elder Scrolls VI is a better experience on the Xbox, then it is clearly going to be better to get it on that platform and vice versa.

TC: I am nothing if not a Bethesda fan. I’ve poured hours of my life away to The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, and I plan to again in the future. In the unlikely event that Bethesda comes out and says that all future games would be Xbox exclusives, I would go Xbox without hesitating. I don’t plan on getting either console on day one, I need time to make my decision, and will probably get one a year or so down the line. Aside from seeing how each console performs and continues to perform after its release, it will give me opportunity to see how this new partnership will pay off.

JH: Likewise with Toby, my time in Oblivion and Fallout 3 have no doubt crafted me into the washed-up freak I am today. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m sure Xbox PR has been loving the industry-shake-up juice this announcement provides; I think this merger doesn’t technically finalise until the end of next year, though such a big move will have been planned and talked about behind closed doors for a while. Perhaps even why Xbox might have been pulling their punches a little recently, knowing their “one more thing” this year was actually one of the largest acquisitions gaming has ever seen? If things are kept multi-platform, and Microsoft try and hit me with the marketing line that “Bethesda games play best on Xbox”, the simple truth is that they won’t. The Elder Scrolls & Fallout are PC games through and through – they simply can’t try that route. So, we’re in danger of them starting to get into the realms of imposed differences instead. If an Xbox is able to get a better technical performance out of the games than a PS5, by all means, go for it and market that. I don’t think that’s enough to make me change systems. If all future Bethesda titles do turn console exclusive on Xbox, in a sense I’m entirely immune to that being damaging to me through having access to a PC. However, that would be such a heart-breaking blow to all PlayStation owners everywhere. It would also be monumentally contradictory to all the Xbox press releases and philosophies stating that bridging players wherever and however they play is now a high priority. Side note: notice how that ideology has only really come to the forefront since they were trailing behind this generation – I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

WR: I do reckon that Microsoft will try and keep that pro-consumer feeling going; it would indeed go against recent messaging to suddenly take Bethesda games away from PlayStation owners. I see more of a Minecraft situation here, where they make lots of money from it across platforms, but it doesn’t necessarily become a lead exclusive in the way Halo is. This news takes on different meaning depending on whether you play on PC or not, as for those such as Jed who have that option, they know that version is there. But for those who are focused on console, there is more uncertainty of whether future Bethesda releases are going to be on the machine they own or not. There are potential downsides, but I imagine Microsoft is going to play this very carefully. Let us go glass-half-full for a bit; in your ideal situation, where does this go? For example, could Microsoft actually help Bethesda with some of the issues they have had in recent years with glitches and problematic releases? Are we suddenly going to see other first-party Microsoft studios working on Bethesda intellectual properties – such as, y’know, having Obsidian Entertainment return to Fallout?

It is possible the Obsidian/Fallout partnership could happen again

TC: If all this meant was Obsidian returning to Fallout, it would be a worthy partnership in my eyes! Last year The Outer Worlds showed us just exactly what Fallout 4 was missing, and reminded us what it was about New Vegas (which Obsidian developed) that we fell in love with. If we could marry those two together again in the future I would die a happy man. Microsoft bought Obsidian back in 2018 and with the likes of New Vegas being a Bethesda IP, a sequel wasn’t possible. With Microsoft now owning both parties, they’d be fools not to develop a sequel to one of the highest rated games not just in the Fallout franchise but in the genre. Overall, I’m optimistic. I think this will help Bethesda make cleaner, tighter games. But hey, let’s face it, barring the game-breaking/crashing kind, silly glitches are what gives these games character.

With Microsoft there, they will be a fresh pair of eyes, and also new ideas can be implemented

Jordan Senior

JS: Going forward, I would like to see Microsoft help Bethesda fix their ongoing issues and make sure that their games are of a really high quality. Prior to this deal, Bethesda were their own company and relied too much on the name of their IPs. In 2020, that is not enough, and they have to make sure that their games are fluid, seamless, and most importantly playable at launch or soon after. With Microsoft there, they will be a fresh pair of eyes, and also new ideas can be implemented as they’re not relying on the same talent as before – a shake up will be a good thing. Not saying that they should ditch their core gameplay values, but instead evolve and adapt the brand and games for this new generation. What excites me about, say, Starfield, is that it is a new IP and doesn’t have the same expectation and recognition as Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. They have a chance to be really experimental and implement mechanics that will feel distinct yet familiar. I want to feel like I’m playing a Bethesda game with Starfield, but don’t want it to just be Fallout in space. They can do something very special with this, and hopefully this will inject new life into Bethesda and make them a more trustworthy company again.

JH: If you’re thinking that the acquisition will mean the end of Bethesda glitches, I think you’re in for a bad time. It really depends on how much control (or meddling) Xbox is going to have. The fear is that they own it, so they can do what they want; they have all the control. Hypothetically, if Microsoft decides they want Bethesda to work on Kinect 2, then they will work on Kinect 2. Don’t assume that just because they’re big companies with similar values that everything with be fine. Look at Bungie/Activision: after their split, Bungie came out of the basement and spoke about how Activision was bullying them into business models they didn’t approve of, but were powerless to do anything. That’s all worst case scenario though, and I don’t see that happening. I’m getting hopeful! If we can get Obsidian to work on Fallout again, I think that’s really exciting. Not sure how Todd will feel about letting someone else show him up on stage with a better game (again), but I don’t see Bethesda coming out with anything more Fallout related for a very long time, bar those updates for Fallout 76. So, maybe they can bounce development off someone else in the interim. Going by Obsidian’s Twitter (see this post), I think there’s hope for this going forward. But again, this is going to be a long way down the line, with Avowed taking their attention. I’ve got to be honest, I struggled to get into The Outer Worlds on first try, but I’m excited to give it another go.

TC: I will say in rebuttal that the Kinect is dead, Xbox Series X/S offers no support for the camera or the games that required one, so fear of a Bethesda Kinect 2 Electric Boogaloo is RIDICULOUS Jed, what were you thinking?!

JH: Hypothetically, if Microsoft decides… That’s all worst case scenario though. I don’t see that happening.

WR: Yeah, with Avowed their focus, if we do see Obsidian on Fallout it may not be for years, but the possibility is there to keep us excited! Though, don’t give them ideas with Kinect and such, see what happened with Rare when they became owned by Microsoft… On the other hand, Rare is recovering now with their gameplay-focused creations of Sea of Thieves and the upcoming Everwild, showing that perhaps Microsoft has learned a lesson there. This also adds even more value to Game Pass going forward, as if the Day One availability on Game Pass for first-party games continues, this means games such as Starfield are going to be there immediately to play through that service. If Game Pass is the area Microsoft is pushing, the whole console-exclusivity idea may not be their priority. Even considering that I lean towards physical copies of games, it is evident how amazing Game Pass is.

Whether on PC (as above) or console, Game Pass is supplying a service with multiple options

JH: There’s no doubt about Game Pass’ value for money. It’s a great offering, and I’m able to play some past Xbox offerings right now on the computer.

TC: I think both Xbox Game Pass and the new features of PlayStation Plus have a lot to offer both consoles. I was having this conversation with Jed the other day; I’m slightly underwhelmed with Game Pass, but that would only be because I’m used to and aware of the games in the Xbox library – even when the games on there are impressive. When I look at the PlayStation Plus library, it looks amazing because I’ve never had access to these games, having never owned a PlayStation past the PS2. So there will no doubt be people like me on both sides that will be impressed by the other consoles’ games, and that’s nothing but a good thing.

JS: In the future, I can see streaming services such as Game Pass and PlayStation Plus Collection (a library of PS4 games available to play for Plus subscribers) be at the forefront in years to come. As concepts, I really like them, but I haven’t yet utilised the services to their full potential. What makes it enticing is the fact that you can play a bunch of games for a certain amount a month rather than individually buying games – prices will have to accommodate this though. Everything is becoming more streamlined and adopting a one size fits method, which I think is great. It won’t be a complete overhaul instantly, but I can see it becoming more commonplace than not. In all honesty, I’ve never explored Game Pass, but if I get an Xbox, I might dabble. I’m quite slow to new tech surprisingly (I still use wired headphones) but if the streaming approach is explored more, then the convenience plus quality will equal a rich and easy gaming experience!

WR: I’m right there with you Jordan on the wired headphones, aha! Your comments on how it isn’t an instant change, but is certainly going in that service direction, are apt; you can see how the industry is gradually going that way, similar to how streaming services are emerging as progressively prominent for TV and films. You could say that Microsoft are a key part of pushing that and making the rest of the industry go with them; without Game Pass, would a PlayStation Plus Collection have happened? I am not so sure, it seems a response to Game Pass – which is great for gamers as there are options on either side. Healthy competing! As mentioned previously, if Microsoft keeps adding well-known names to connect to Game Pass – be it Halo or now Bethesda – then that push is going to get stronger and stronger. We have covered quite a lot here, so I may close us out now. Has been fun getting new voices in here! Any closing comments from each of you before we go?

I think overall the prospect of Bethesda and Microsoft’s partnership should be exciting no matter which console you play on.

Toby Court

JS: To close off, I think it’s a great time to be a gamer in 2020, despite challenging times. New gamers will not have an alienating time getting into the medium, as it seems more accessible now then ever before. I can’t wait for the next generation of console gaming and to see its development in the future!

TC: It’s true everything seems to be going to a premium streaming service nowadays, all you see online and on TV are adverts for some new collective service. And in respect to gaming, a solely digital console being pushed more as a viable option could see the death of physical games at some point in the near future. Thank you for having me Will! Been interesting hearing everyone’s points, and I think overall the prospect of Bethesda and Microsoft’s partnership should be exciting no matter which console you play on.

The Series X/S offering is getting increasingly cohesive

JH: Yeah, just as a closing comment, it is strange to see that Will seems to be swayed so much by the prospect of Game Pass, given your dedication to physical media. I’m looking forward to being able to play more and more games that have not been accessible to me in the future, but I am aware that all of these digital libraries are, at best, temporary. I guess we just can not afford to be complacent.

WR: It is an internal debate for me; I have such a connection to collecting physical games, but I can see how much value Microsoft are putting into Game Pass – including now acquiring Bethesda – and trying to recognise it, even if I am not sure whether or not to dive in. What it may do is, similar to how you say, get me to try games that otherwise I may not have because they are there and so efficiently accessible, in which case the Series S could be a fun machine for experimenting with that library. The physical side is my priority, so my head and heart are clashing slightly here. So, I am gonna go and see if I can make a decision, aha! Thanks for joining me everyone; until next time!

These guest editions of Let’s Chat may become more frequent, especially in the immediate future with Ashley busy. He will be back, though! You can click here for previous entries in the Let’s Chat series.

Let’s Chat: Xbox Games Showcase Reaction!

Following on from our prediction article for the Xbox Games Showcase – which you can read here – this Let’s Chat is going to be Ashley Harrison and I reacting to the event. There is a lot to talk about here, and also scores from our predictions to tally up! The Ascent was in the pre-show, so I am immediately 1-0 up. Just saying.

William Robinson: Hey Ash! As we recently did predictions, it makes sense that this Let’s Chat is going to be all about reacting to the Showcase. Microsoft revealed a lot of new games, so as with the Ubisoft Forward, let’s go through it chronologically. First, though; I was impressed at the variety of different games shown, and the dedication to fixing the area of weakness that has been their first-party line-up compared to their rivals. Before we go into it, just recap your general expectations for the Showcase as a whole and whether as an initial reaction, it satisfied those? I mean, there wasn’t Minecraft 2… Haha!

Ashley Harrison: Hey again Will! Honestly, I have to say, I wasn’t really expecting much from this Xbox Games Showcase because, like I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I’ve just never been that much of an Xbox player. However, saying that, I was extremely impressed by Microsoft’s recent showing, and it’s genuinely starting to sway me towards buying an Xbox Series X as my next-generation console rather than a PlayStation 5. Although I do wish Minecraft 2 was a thing as well.

WR: Wow, that’s a significant swing and goes to show that they did a great job here. Microsoft has clearly put a lot of effort into addressing the first-party weakness that the Xbox One has suffered relative to other consoles; their flagship exclusive is Halo, and they kicked off the Showcase with a decent chunk of gameplay from Halo Infinite. That now makes it 1-1 for predictions! It was great to see it in action beyond cinematics, but whilst it ran smoothly, it didn’t blow me away as a next-generation preview. It doesn’t stand out as particularly beyond the capabilities of current consoles to me – it seemed to be Halo but with larger areas.

AH: They’ve stepped up both their first party support, and their third-party indie support for this generation so much already compared to the Xbox One, and I’m more than here for it. I’m with you on that about Halo, as I said when we were watching live, it looked impressive from a framerate standpoint (that lovely 60FPS action looks soooooo smooth) but visually I expected more. I get that it’s the very beginning of the console generation, and developers are going to take a couple of years to get to know the hardware, but for a first-party game (especially one as synonymous with Xbox as Halo is) it’s a bit of a letdown in my opinion.

WR: Especially after building up anticipation for it for around two years now; it seems as though it is going to be a bit of a reboot for the series, but aside from those larger spaces I haven’t yet seen much innovation… I’m not sure solid Halo gameplay is enough, when both Sony and Nintendo have found acclaim for taking flagship series in new directions – I was hoping for more of that here. Put it this way; as someone without a particular investment in the franchise, I didn’t see why this is an essential purchase.

Halo Infinite was fluid, if unspectacular

AH: I’m with you there again 100%. Compared to many of Sony and Nintendo’s first-party exclusives, this Halo demo didn’t scream “God damn, this is the game to sell me on a system!” to me whatsoever. You look at the recent PS5 reveal event, and games like Ratchet & Clank and Horizon Forbidden West (even though I personally won’t be picking the latter up as I wasn’t a fan of the first game) definitely had that feeling for me.

WR: There appears to be some criticism for the Halo Infinite showing around; do you reckon there is real concern to be had? 343 has never garnered the same level of praise for their Halo games (Halo 4 onwards) that Bungie did back in the day. They’re the equivalent of the leading first-party studio at Sony, Naughty Dog (you may have heard of it?), but they just don’t have that reputation yet.

There’s a clear difference in quality between Bungie and 343’s Halo offerings in the view of fans of the series

Ashley Harrison

AH: Naughty Dog? Who are they? Never heard of them. I wouldn’t say there’s real cause for concern after a single 8-minute gameplay segment for what’s surely a much longer game, but at the same time though I wouldn’t hold out much hope. Like you’ve said, there’s a clear difference in quality between Bungie and 343’s Halo offerings in the view of fans of the series, and I don’t expect this one to be anything different.

WR: The Studio Head Chris Lee then segwayed into a CGI trailer, which is where the predictions become 2-1 to me after I successfully called the reveal of State of Decay 3! There was not any gameplay here, so it seems a way off, but I thought the tone of the trailer was great. My hopes for State of Decay perhaps going in a more mature direction may actually be happening… it’d be great to see the franchise evolve in that way. I will say, though, that this marked a return to a lot of CGI trailers in this Showcase, with not that much gameplay…

The tone of the State of Decay 3 reveal is a departure for the series

AH: Xbox and not showing gameplay, name a more iconic duo! It definitely sucks to see them going back to CGI trailers instead of just showing gameplay, and honestly, it does get my suspicion levels going a bit. I assume that State of Decay 3 probably isn’t all that far into development and they likely don’t have much (if any) gameplay to show. When games are so different to the CGI trailers being shown (remember the original Watch_Dogs unveiling compared to the final product?),, then I’d rather wait until developers are able to show gameplay to reveal their games.

WR: Yeah, especially with this cinematic being so different in tone to the more B-movie-style marketing for State of Decay 2, it raises suspicions. This then led into us finally seeing the one and only Head of Xbox Phil Spencer with his usual T-shirt game on show. My real question here is… is he in the future? Those pristine grey walls, a lack of exits… is he being held hostage? Perhaps being sent back in time to fix Microsoft mistakes?!

AH: I’m like 90% Phil Spencer is a robot anyway. I don’t think I’ve ever seen “him” have any life behind the eyes, this one being shown is probably straight off the factory line, hence why the area looks so strange, top secret facility ain’t it?

Yes, I just spent time taking screenshots of Phil Spencer. What did you do with YOUR day?

WR: Oh… what if those T-shirt swaps from previous E3s are actually just different Phil Spencers rotated through the conference?! OK, so, in all seriousness, he says important stuff here. We get a glimpse of the 15 Xbox first-party studios, with Spencer noting about 9 being present, with 5 new reveals. This is where we saw Mojang and started half-predicting Minecraft 2 was actually happening haha! Crucially, though, he then informs us that EVERY game is going to be available to those with Xbox Game Pass, which is amazing. This isn’t getting as much discussion as it should; for the up-to-£10.99 a month, you get access to ALL first-party games. Halo Infinite, State of Decay, Forza, Gears of War, Fable, etc. – that value is incredible, even if my personal favour for purchasing games physically goes against it. To clarify: for £7.99 you get the base Game Pass, including access to all the games in this Showcase! For £10.99 you get the Ultimate version, which is all of that plus Xbox Live Gold, which is usually £6.99 a month separately. Oh, and your first month of Ultimate is £1 – and if you already have any remaining time on your Live subscription, it turns all of that into Ultimate for just £1 extra. Again: that is *incredible* value.

AH: Honestly, I thought we’d gone on some weird tangents in previous Let’s Chat articles, but that was definitely the weirdest one we’ve been on. Game Pass is staggering value for what you get, and it’s another of the reasons that I’m genuinely considering going to Series X for next generation. It’s ridiculous just how good value it actually is – for the price of 2 games a year at launch, you get access to all those games (assuming you’re going the base Game Pass, Ultimate works out a bit more) and those already on the service. I’m genuinely so surprised that Sony haven’t copied it already, rather than just pushing the massively inferior PlayStation Now service. I really do wonder if that will change for PS5.

WR: They may have to if Microsoft is supporting it with better games; really, the main aspect holding it back before is that whilst you got first-party games through the service, there wasn’t all that many actually available. If there is now an increased range and quality, which there appears to be, then suddenly it’s a much better proposition. Sony may be forced into adopting a similar functionality with PS Now, depending on how it plays out, and that’s great for gamers. If you only usually have money for one or two game purchases now and then, suddenly for around the same price you have this vast library available to you. Or for younger gamers with less money, too, it means they can try out more games. It’s an exciting prospect!

All the games from these studios are included in Game Pass. Wow.

AH: The only fear I have with it isn’t even one that is guaranteed to happen. With the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Disney+, and with more games sales happening digitally than ever before, it looks like we could be set to go into an all-digital future, so if that does happen soon and buying games physically isn’t a thing any longer, it leaves the price of Game Pass up to be changed at any time, and as such it could become less value for money than it currently is.

WR: As I mentioned, I’m very much on the side of physical media, so that isn’t a future I would like to see! With all-digital consoles and the evolution of Game Pass, we’re getting more options which is great; as long as one doesn’t get a monopoly, as you say. However if PlayStation had a similar service, that would mean price competition and may keep that at bay. Right, next up is another correct prediction for me in the new Forza Motorsport (3 to 1 at this point), with Phil Spencer introducing in-engine footage of the Turn 10 game. Forza has often been a great graphical powerhouse for Xbox and it seems to be continuing in that vein.

AH: Whilst the Forza showcase was only in-engine footage, rather than actual gameplay, I have to say, it’s looking absolutely incredible. The lighting and reflections on the cars especially are insane to look at, this is definitely the graphical prowess showcase if you ask me, not Halo. In my opinion, this is what the conference should’ve opened with, and have that big “yeah, this is what we can do with Series X” moment instead of Halo.

WR: Yeah, I agree with you, Halo may actually have been more impressive if we were already convinced by Forza of the power of the Series X, and then Halo could have been more of a gameplay and framerate demonstration. It is intriguing that there is no number after Motorsport (the last one was 7). Maybe this is more of a platform game that is added to over time? That would synergise well with the subscription service being offered through Game Pass.

Those are some nice-looking cars. So shiny…

AH: Honestly, I can’t say I’m a fan of the “games as a service” model many developers have taken up over the past half-decade or so, so I’m really hoping that it’s not going to go along that route, especially if they sell a new “Year X Pass” every year. If it’s free updates throughout the life-span then I wouldn’t mind too much, though, having said that.

WR: Yeah, and if they’re getting funding through Game Pass, maybe they can make them free? We shall have to wait and see. OK, next up is a game that was a highlight for both of us: Everwild, the stunning new Rare game. This trailer enchanted me – it has the aesthetic of an amazing animated film. I can see this being a console-seller, and it was great to see the clear enthusiasm Executive Producer Louise O’Connor has for the project.

This trailer enchanted me – it has the aesthetic of an amazing animated film.

William Robinson

AH: This game is genuinely a highlight of the whole Showcase; it just looks so good! The art style for it is just absolutely gorgeous, I’d much rather developers adopt styles like this rather than try and push to make their games look hyper realistic because, in my opinion, it looks a million times better, and also means that the game won’t age anywhere near as badly visually. I love the nature theme that seems to be the core of the trailer, it definitely seems like it’s going to be one of those games where the world is just so much fun to mess around in and see what you find.

WR: See, to me, it has actually been games such as this and Kena: Bridge of the Spirits in the PS5 reveal presentation that have been the clearest graphical step forward for me. The games with this sort of art direction now seem to be visually at the level of animated films, but now we can play them! The vibe of this trailer was so my style, and the character designs are awesome. Excited to see more of this… At this stage of the Showcase I was wondering how they could keep the momentum up, as there had been major first-party reveal after first-party reveal.

Everwild is a standout exclusive

AH: I definitely see where you’re coming from with the animated movie comment. I know they worked on Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch & the sequel Revenant Kingdom, so I’d LOVE to see what Studio Ghibli could do on these next generation consoles, I bet whatever they came up with would look beyond gorgeous. And yeah, as you say, this conference was just reveal after reveal after reveal of fairly big first-party games up until this point, it definitely made you question just how much they had up their sleeves to reveal if that was how the first 20 minutes or so went.

WR: Oh wow imagine a Ghibli game on next-gen… yes please. The conference started to lose a bit of momentum from here on out, but it still kept my interest. Tell Me Why from DONTNOD is one I’m not sure on; I am of course a superfan of Life is Strange, but after being affected by the glitch that deleted all my save data at the end of Life is Strange 2: Episode 2 I haven’t gone back and that sequel has been a bit of a soured experience for me as a result. Tell Me Why has got the DONTNOD traits; emotional family themes, and that art style – an art style that does at first glance appear to have been pushed on visually.

AH: Straight away it just screams “yup, this is a DONTNOD game” from the visuals and character design and there’s part of me that doesn’t think that’s all that good of a thing; it feels like they haven’t really moved on from Life is Strange. When the characters in the trailer saw the ghost things in the trailer, I was genuinely expecting it to end with a logo for Life is Strange 3. I wouldn’t want DONTNOD to go the same way as Telltale Games, making basically the same game over and over until they go under.

Guess the developer! Oh, we already told you.

WR: The story did admittedly capture my attention though, so I am probably going to try it out when the first episode releases on August 27th. You? Did you ever start Life is Strange 2, for that matter?

AH: The story definitely captured my attention and it’s definitely on my list of games to play, it just depends on when. If it’s episodic, I’ll just play when all the episodes have released, but if it’s a full game, then I’ll wait for a sale honestly. To answer about Life is Strange 2, nope, still haven’t played it, and honestly I don’t ever really see it happening unless the full season drops to below a fiver or something. It’s not something I’ve ever really felt that I actually need to pick up and play through, I’m quite happy for my Life is Strange experience to be the original season and Before the Storm.

WR: Following this we saw some news about additions being made to games we know about. Gennadiy Korol, Co-founder and Director of Technology at Moon Studios, gave us details on a new version of Ori and the Will of the Wisps for Series X, giving us detailed explanation of the new 120 FPS (!) and full 4K HDR, plus new audio development options. This game was already known for visuals; that new 120 FPS is very impressive. It’s a game that is already out though, so not as much of a headline as, say, Everwild.

AH: It’s always nice to see improvements for older games, especially when it’s the fastest we’ve ever seen a game running on a console, but like you say it’s dampened a bit by the fact that it is an already released game, rather than a big-budget upcoming one. However, it’s 100% something I’d pick up if I do decide to get a Series X because of the fact that it’s running at 4K/120 FPS, that’s insane to me because you’d only ever really hear of framerates that high on PC until now.

After the Ori segment was Obsidian Entertainment, who showed off Grounded (above) and more

WR: This directly led into another already-release game, The Outer Worlds by Obsidian Entertainment (now a Microsoft first-party studio). Peril of Gorgon (releasing September 9th) is the new DLC, and seems fun enough if not particularly surprising in the features we saw. Of more note to me was the rest of this Obsidian section of the Showcase, with two new games on show: Grounded, a retro, nostalgic garden RPG (July 28th) and a brand new sprawling RPG Avowed. This was, again, a CGI reveal, but the tone of Avowed is very much to my tastes – epic fantasy adventuring, yes please! How did you find the Obsidian segment?

AH: I was actually a big fan of the Grounded reveal trailer, I love the fact that it wasn’t serious whatsoever, and just poked fun at itself all the way through. Hopefully that humour carries through into the game itself as well, because it’s definitely got me interested. Also, it has a Battletoad in it, so that automatically wins points if you ask me, GOTY material right there. Honestly I wasn’t too interested in the Avowed reveal, it just didn’t capture me as much as it has done for you. And besides, if you ask me, it wasn’t even the best fantasy RPG shown during the showcase (this is where Ash put a winking emoji, the millennial).

WR: Ooh, masterful foreshadowing there Ash. Haha! I’m already noticing the amount of games you’re mentioning very positively – exclusive games, and it’s such a change from the start of last generation when that just was not the conversation around the console (there were other issues with the Xbox One, too). This is why this Showcase was very optimism-fueling for me – it is the company learning from their errors. Returning to the dystopian future, Head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty then told us about independent studio Interior/Night and their new game set in Southwest USA, As Dusk Falls. I’m not convinced by the static approach to the art style, but I shall wait and see.

The reveal of As Dusk Falls had a unique art style

AH: Honestly, I don’t mind the static art style whatsoever, it reminds me of the old choose-your-own-adventure style games and I’m okay with that; though I know that it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. It reminded me of an episode of Retro Replay where Nolan North gets stuck on the same style of game thanks to Quick Time Events (none of those please) and any game that reminds me of when that show was actually good is great in my opinion. I don’t know why it also reminded me of the game Space Age exactly, because flicking back through the episode it’s not similar at all, but whatever.

WR: “when that show was actually good”, woah, shots fired! Yeah, I am okay with a stylistic approach; let’s hope the story is of a quality where it works. See, this upcoming part of the Showcase was quite odd to me; we go to Ninja Theory, where Studio Head Dom Matthews reveals… Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is set in Iceland and you can now watch a development diary about it. Huh? There was no new footage… It still technically counts for your prediction, I guess. 3-2…

AH: It was there, I get to count it. I’ll agree though, it’s odd that there’s no new footage, but I have to admit that I quite like behind-the-scenes documentaries that explain development choices, so I definitely need to go watch this one at some point. Guess it hasn’t progressed all that much since seven months ago with the world going to shit? Which is understandable, I guess.

Nevertheless, the setting of Iceland is a stunning one (image above is from the CGI trailer)

WR: Maybe… when we got the “Xbox Game Studios Presents” screen afterwards I thought it was going to be a new trailer for it, but instead it was Double Fine! VERY different tone, with Jack Black singing over a trailer for Psychonauts 2. I don’t have the investment of playing the original but I know there is a fanbase with nostalgia for the series, and this is an example of the new first-party variety of Xbox.

AH: Imagine if either of us had put “Jack Black to appear” on our pre-Showcase predictions, we’d be calling each other crazy for it, and yet, there he was. I also never played the original (though I’m fairly sure I own it on Steam) so I’m not too interested in this to be straight up honest, but again, I love the art style for it. With how synonymous Xbox has been in the past with being a console for shooters and sports games, and nothing else, I’m so glad to see such a variety and most of all, actual colours! If this is the future of Microsoft, I’m more than happy.

With how synonymous Xbox has been in the past with being a console for shooters and sports games, and nothing else, I’m so glad to see such a variety

Ashley Harrison

WR: It actually seems to suit your tastes for 3D platformers, no? Yeah, variety is the spice of life, and from Halo to Everwild to State of Decay to this, you can see the range of genres and art styles. I’m gonna blast past Destiny as it is a game we know about – the new info was about being able to play updated content on Series X and on Game Pass – and into the next WORLD PREMIERRRRRREEEE for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 and then again for Warhammer 40,000 Darktide, both more gritty reveals in the vein of those less colourful shooters you just mentioned. Tetris Effect Connected, a new version with multiplayer, was then after that to return the vibrancy… this section was where I felt the Showcase lost some of that front-loaded momentum. The reveals were okay, but blended into one a bit…

AH: Yeah, honestly, I can’t really say much about this section either. Nice to see Tetris slowly catching up to DOOM as the game able to run on the most devices though.

It’s pleasing to see the variety of games; Psychonauts 2, above

WR: Though Skyrim may have an argument about that too, haha! A game much more in our wheelhouse was the shock exclusive from Image & Form Games, The Gunk. I say shock because usually their priority has been Nintendo platforms, so to see them have such a presence in the Xbox Games Showcase was a surprise to me. They haven’t got much experience with 3D games, but they’re a fantastic, talented development team so I am confident this will be great. I really find the environment design brilliantly eccentric – it has mechanical elements so it could still be in the SteamWorld universe…

AH: Image & Form might genuinely be the best indie company around right now for my money, so I’m really hoping this serves as their big break into the mainstream that they thoroughly deserve. Whilst they might not have any experience in the 3D design world, they haven’t made a single bad game yet if you ask me, and this looks set to continue that trend. The Gunk is very heavily Super Mario Sunshine inspired from the looks of things, an under-rated Mario game if you ask me, so I’m very much looking forward to this being released. Hopefully down the line it’ll be released on other systems instead of just Series X and One, but if not, this is without a doubt the game that will get me to buy Series X more than any other. I’m that confident in Image & Form’s previous development quality that I’ll say that right now.

WR: Even more than Everwild? Yeah, Image & Form have proven their qualities time and again – I was hoping that they would be allowed to do a steampunk version of Metroid at some point – and I hope this is a success. In the trailer the movement seemed a bit clunky and unrefined, but I imagine that shall improve a lot.

I am anticipating fun interviews with Brjann Sigurgeirsson (who runs Image & Form) about The Gunk

AH: Even more than Everwild, yeah. This is without a doubt the highlight of the Showcase for me, I just love Image & Form’s games that much. I don’t think this is a permanent move from Nintendo (speaking of which, we still need the other console ports of SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech…) so they might well yet get the opportunity to do their own take on Metroid, and I’ll be there to buy it Day 1.

WR: With the Metroidvania elements of the two SteamWorld Dig games, it would be such a great collaboration! OK, so we’re getting to the final reveals of the show now, and after picking up with The Gunk we again switch genre into horror with The Medium. This has really stylish visuals but without really seeing the gameplay it’s hard to place where it is going to be quality-wise. Rendering two worlds at once is mighty remarkable though!

AH: Now this is a game that interests me greatly, and because of the gameplay, as impressive as rendering dual worlds is. What intrigues me is that whilst watching the reveal trailer for it, I can’t help but feel like I’m watching a trailer for Stranger Things: The Game. And since calling the official game for the show god awful is still being kind, I’m more than happy to have this as a replacement. There’s so many similarities between The Medium and Stranger Things, with the worlds being the same layout wise but the “other side” being a dangerous place, to the monster you see in the game sharing more than a passing resemblance to the Demogorgon from the show.

Well, that’s just showing off

WR: This is where you tell me, again, to watch the show, right? Haha, it’s on the list… there is some really creepy imagery, and having the Akira Yamaoka (of Silent Hill) on music duties is awesome. Again, this fills a genre gap for Xbox – even if it is only a launch exclusive. So, er, for the next reveal, are you a Phantasy Star Online player? I feel as though New Genesis: Phantasy Star Online 2 is a really significant reveal as a launch exclusive (especially considering the track record of Xbox in Japan) but I just don’t have that investment in the series.

AH: For fuck’s sake Will, go watch Stranger Things, it’s so good. Plus, that way, you’ll see what I mean when I compare the two. I can’t believe that you haven’t already seen it. As for PSO, nah, I’m not a player. Like you said, it’s a cool get for the console in Japan especially, it’s just not for me.

WR: It has a very Xenoblade Chronicles style with the open world and real-time combat, especially Xenoblade Chronicles X considering the tech and guns. That’s a complimentary comparison, so if I get a Series X this is a huge adventure I shall have my eye on. The penultimate reveal was a single-player campaign for CrossfireX, but again it sorta blended into the gritty-shooter genre for me without really standing out?

I’m sure Phantasy Star Online makes sense. Somehow.

AH: It’s definitely just another shooter in my view, does nothing to separate itself from the crowd and as such, nothing to honestly make me remember it. It’s definitely a skip for me honestly, should I choose to buy Series X. I know people will probably say that the first trailer for a game is way too early to write a game off, but when you can tell a game isn’t made for you, it doesn’t matter how far into development it is for me.

WR: It did seem a strangely generic reveal to have so close to the end of the show. We return to the future where we reunite with Matt Booty, and he reminds us about how all these games are included in Game Pass, before sending us off with one final reveal – a reveal a lot of people were predicting, Fable! Playground Games (of Forza) are switching genres and bringing back this well-know RPG IP. It was a CGI trailer, yes, but it had a great, whimsical tone and, y’know, announced Fable! It was a brilliant one-more-thing to close the show in my opinion, even if it may far away.

AH: And, from what I’m reading today, it’s going back to the single-player RPG roots rather than the online MMO style of the cancelled Fable Legends, I’m genuinely so happy. This was one of my “hopeful” predictions for the Showcase, and I’m extremely glad to see it there. A good RPG is something I’m always up for, and when it’s something the calibre of classic Fable, it’s a day one game for me. Even with it being a CGI trailer, the rendering on the frog is ridiculous, you can see how bumpy the texture of its skin for crying out loud! It’ll be interesting to see what Playground Games are able to do with the series, especially considering their only previously released games are the Forza Horizon series…

There it is! Now, er, wait

WR: Oh really? That’s great to hear, and with this and also the Obsidian games, RPGs could be an area where Microsoft really has an advantage over Sony in the coming years. We have seen Guerrilla Games go from FPS of Killzone to Action RPG of Horizon Zero Dawn successfully, so I hope there is another similarly successful story here. This was a real crowd-pleaser of an announcement, and has got me considering educating myself on Fable by getting the 360 games! Also, yeah, this makes it 3/6 predictions each, not bad!

AH: I knew I recognised the name of Playground Games but I couldn’t place where, so I had to Google it and yeah, Wikipedia says their only previous games are Forza Horizon 14. Also they’re a British developer, based in Leamington Spa, so always nice to see our little island get repped in such a huge conference. I like to think it’s 3/4 predictions each because, let’s be honest, we both knew beforehand that the ridiculous predictions were never going to happen, and if they did, whoever got even one right would’ve automatically taken the W between us haha! Overall, this is absolutely the strongest showing from Microsoft in a long while if you ask me, and like I said earlier, so strong that it’s genuinely making me consider picking up an Xbox Series X as my next generation console, so fair play to Microsoft for that, never thought that’d happen.

There is a reinvigorated, energetic feeling about Microsoft at the moment

William Robinson

WR: There were quite a few British developers in this actually! Yeah so if we judge the whole Showcase now, how do you compare it to the Sony PS5 event? Both had a particular focus on games which is great to see. I reckon they’re quite close; they both had exciting exclusive reveals, and also considerable third-party presence. There is a reinvigorated, energetic feeling about Microsoft at the moment with all these new studios that is really drawing me towards that Series X. If you add the value of Game Pass, it’s a really attractive proposition.

AH: It’s crazy how comparing the Microsoft that started this generation by, let’s be honest, completely flopping the Xbox One reveal, and today’s Microsoft who’s done everything right with this Series X game reveal, it’s like looking at two completely different companies. Microsoft has definitely been forced to learn from its mistakes with the launch of Xbox One and in my opinion has done so. I’d have to rewatch the PS5 reveal to be able to give a definitive answer as to which is better, but I’m fairly sure this would edge it in terms of content I’m interested in that would make me buy the system, and thus be the better showcase in my opinion. Now it comes down to price as to which console I pick up.

The internals of the Xbox Series X

WR: My personal feeling is to edge slightly towards the PS5 event in terms of games I am excited for – Horizon Forbidden West, Resident Evil VIII – but the Xbox Showcase was a better presentation, with more variety and an even snappier pace than Sony. The best praise we can give it is saying that we are much more inclined to get a Series X now, which we both seem to be. Price is going to be crucial, and they can’t both wait forever! One of them is going to go first, it’s going to be fascinating to see it play out. If you’re being critical, where would you say this could have been better? From our discussion, maybe moving Halo to a different point so it isn’t the graphics focus and then not having so many of those less-impressive reveals around two-thirds in?

AH: Yeah, if we’re being critical, you’ve hit the nail on the head there with how I’d improve it. Get rid of the less impressive reveals that could be a Twitter announcement or something, and have a game like Everwild showcase the Series X graphical capabilities rather than Halo Infinite. Although I do get why it opened with Halo and closed with Fable, as those were the two biggest games shown and by placing them first and last, the consumer is way more likely to remember them.

WR: Yeah, I mean, Halo was always realistically going to either start or end the show. That’s their most well-known first-party franchise. You staying with The Gunk for your favourite game of the Showcase? Everwild is mine, closely followed by Avowed and Fable.

The impact of Halo Infinite may have been more keenly felt elsewhere in the Showcase

AH: My top 3, in this order, are: 1. The Gunk; 2. Everwild; 3. Fable. Nice to see for once that we pretty much basically agree on it all, haha!

WR: Yeah, so positive! Going back to the start of our talk, then… how likely do you reckon it is you are going to get the Series X at launch, in comparison to the PS5?

AH: Honestly, if I were being forced to put a numerical percentage on it, probably at a strong 75/25 split currently, Sony really do have work to do if they’re to convince me now.

WR: I’m more around the 50/50 mark myself, price is going to be a factor. Game Pass is, as aforementioned, such an incredible offer too and a considerable advantage over PS5. When ya reckon we get price reveals?

AH: Well, considering both consoles are set to be released before the end of the year, hopefully within the next couple of weeks. It’d be stupid to leave it too much later now if you ask me.

Isn’t Everwild beautiful?

WR: I genuinely am not sure who is going to end up on top of the two! Microsoft has delivered a fine counter-blow. Is there any final remark from you before we close out? We’ve been quite thorough already.

AH: Nah, I can’t think of anything else to say, other than I genuinely can’t wait to get my hands on a lot of the games shown. November-ish time is going to be crazy!

WR: This is certainly a unique year… Now, Nintendo, where are you at?! Thanks for joining me again, Ash!

AH: Nintendo please show up properly soon. But yeah, in a bit Will! See ya next time!

The Showcase impressed us, and the prediction scores ended up even at 3 all – what a wonderfully satisfying conclusion. If you would like to read more of our Let’s Chat articles, click here!

Xbox Games Showcase Hopes and Predictions!

July 23rd, 5PM BST is a crucial, crucial day and time for Microsoft and the Xbox Series X. After Sony recently gave us info on games such as Horizon Forbidden West, Marvel’s Spider Man: Miles Morales, and more, the PS5 has a very exciting line-up of future games. The Xbox Series X, meanwhile, does not have the same sort of line-up yet; however, with the Xbox Games Showcase that is being aired tomorrow (see here for more info), this could all change. A presentation focused on games is just what Xbox needs; exclusives have been an area of weakness for Xbox in recent years, and this is a great opportunity for Microsoft to really, ahem, showcase how that is changing.

With the event very close now, Ashley Harrison (of the Let’s Chat series!) and I have put together some predictions. We have each selected 6: 2 we expect, 2 we hope for, and 2 that are frankly ridiculous, for a combined total of 12. Keep reading for our picks!


Halo: Infinite

Ashley Harrison: I’m going to start my predictions with an absolute banker in Halo Infinite, mostly because it’s already been confirmed to be shown at the Xbox Games Showcase, although even if it hadn’t then I’d have chosen it as one of my picks. We haven’t had a mainline Halo release since Halo 5: Guardians back in 2015, and since we know that Infinite is set to be a launch title for the upcoming Series X console, I’m expecting a full-blown reveal here including at least 10 minutes of pure gameplay. It’ll give time to show off exactly what Infinite is about and how it benefits from the new generation of consoles, whilst not overstaying its welcome. With it being a first party game, and arguably Xbox’s key franchise, I definitely expect this to get a bigger, longer showing than any other game at the Showcase. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get a November release date reveal, so we at least have some idea of when Microsoft will be launching the Series X console itself too. We’re really not that far away now if the console is releasing this year like stated; we’re almost into August.

Forza Motorsport 8

William Robinson: Whilst Xbox has had a rough time exclusive-wise this generation, especially compared to competitor consoles, Forza has remained a reliable, critically-acclaimed series throughout. The Forza games have maintained popularity through both quality and variety, and this is one of the few software areas where Xbox has overtaken the PlayStation equivalent in Gran Turismo; so, I imagine Microsoft are keen to make sure this is a battle they keep winning. In recent years, Forza has alternated between Motorsport and Horizon, which are branches of the series that lean towards racing and exploration respectively (there has also recently been a Forza Street game, too). If we go by that logic, then with the recent Horizon 4, the next game shall likely be Forza Motorsport 8. Console launches usually mean racing games showing off the visual prowess of the console, and well, Forza is a prime candidate for that. It can be tough to surprise people with a racing game, but I expect Forza to feature strongly in the Showcase, with new modes and features made possible by the power of Xbox Series X – and lots of very, very pretty cars.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II

Ashley Harrison: I actually didn’t know what to choose for my second expected game because honestly, having never been much of an Xbox player and instead a PlayStation one , I don’t keep huge tabs on what upcoming games are scheduled for release on Xbox. However, I do remember this being announced at The Game Awards alongside the Series X console design, and with it being a first-party release then I think it’s a pretty safe bet to assume it’ll likely be shown off. Developers Ninja Theory have already stated that the game is being developed to take full advantage of the power of the Series X, so since the game hasn’t been seen in about 7 months, it’ll be interesting to see how the game has developed since then and how exactly it is taking advantage of the console. Since it was also revealed using an in-engine cinematic trailer, I’d also like to see some actual gameplay this time around. It looked visually stunning (the lighting especially was on point) during the initial reveal, so I want to see how it looks whilst playing now.

The Ascent

William Robinson: Microsoft received criticism for their First Look Xbox Series X Gameplay video this year, and one reason why is that there was a lack of gameplay for the new reveals. One game that did have gameplay shown, though, was The Ascent, a promising cyberpunk action RPG (no, not that one) on the world of Veles amidst The Ascent Group; they are a mega corporation that shuts down, leaving their towering metropolis compromised. Under threat, you – and up to three other players in optional co-op – defend your district and discover the secrets of this mystery. Customisation and augmentation contribute to the cyberpunk setting and it generally seems to be on course to be an exciting console exclusive (for now it is only confirmed for Xbox and PC). The Swedish developer, Neon Giant, is made up of only 10 people, but they have experience working on game series such as Wolfenstein, Far Cry, and Gears of War. Surprise exclusives that get people talking are going to be important for Xbox, and this may well be one of those, so I expect to see more of it in the Showcase.


Fable 4

Ashley Harrison: It’s not exactly a secret that I’m a big RPG fan, so if there’s one thing that I’m hoping to see during the Xbox Showcase, it’s absolutely Fable 4. The last 2 Fable games, Heroes and The Journey, weren’t exactly the most well received of games, scoring Metacritic averages of 55 and 61 respectively. The most recent confirmed project in the series, Fable Legends, even got cancelled following the closure of developers Lionhead Studios. However, following a tease of Fable 4 by Phil Spencer during Xbox’s 2018 E3 showcase, I’m hoping to see a reveal of Fable 4 at this upcoming showcase, and hopefully gameplay for it too rather than just a cinematic trailer. Sony has undoubtedly smashed it out of the park when it comes to RPGs recently between the PS4 and Vita consoles, so Microsoft announcing Fable 4 could be the game reveal that helps sway my decision as to which next-generation console to buy.

Tomb Raider

William Robinson: The modern Tomb Raider trilogy has been a personal highlight of this generation, but with said origin trilogy now completed by Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 2018, the question is: where does Lara Croft go next? More spin-offs such as the brilliant Lara Croft GO are possible, but it is doubtful to me that Square Enix would stop releasing mainline entries in the series. Microsoft revealed Rise of the Tomb Raider through their presentations at E3 and Gamescom in 2014 – it was even a timed exclusive for Xbox One – so there is precedent for this, though I doubt the next game would be an exclusive again. So, which direction could Tomb Raider be going? One option is to continue where the trilogy ends, as there is a tease of future adventures; I would be glad to see Camilla Luddington return in the role, as she is fantastic as the character. In terms of gameplay, my hope would be that they double down on the exploration of environments and the tombs within them, as this is so satisfying in the trilogy. The main plot could actually be less of a factor, with more emphasis on seeking out secrets in the world. Alternatively, they could press the rest button again, but that wouldn’t be my preference. I am greatly anticipating details on where the series is headed in the future!


Ashley Harrison: The 3D Platformer has seen a bit of a re-emergence recently with original games such as Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time, and of course the recent remasters of the classic Crash Bandicoot and Spyro PS1 trilogies. As a result, it wouldn’t surprise me to hear a “guh-huh” during the showcase, and the announcement of a new Banjo-Kazooie game as Microsoft looks to try and capitalise on the action. Fans have been clamouring for a new Banjo-Kazooie game in the same vein as the N64’s Kazooie and Tooie, so what better time than now to release a canonical third game called Banjo-Threeie? With the seemingly friendly partnership between Microsoft and Nintendo currently, they could also announce this as coming to Switch at the same time as Series X.

State of Decay 3

William Robinson: This one is a hopeful prediction in a specific way. Undead Labs, who developed the two previous State of Decay games, are one of the studios that Microsoft has purchased in recent years, and it is now known that they are working on the third State of Decay game. This is a game that seems to have so much potential, with the concept of building up your settlement and surviving the zombie apocalypse with your friends. However, holding it back is a general lack of polish, with glitches and a varying range of visual refinement. So, with two games now out there and the support that comes with being a first-party Microsoft developer, I hope that the third game can be a step up. This, combined with a deep narrative, could really capture the attention of both myself and others – and this upcoming Showcase may be the optimum time for us to see just that.


Rare Replay Switch

Ashley Harrison: I know, I know. This is a game that if it was going to be announced anywhere, it’d be at a Nintendo Direct as that big, final reveal that Nintendo love to do, and not at an Xbox Showcase for Series X games. But hey, come on, let a guy dream. It wouldn’t be the first time that a first-party Xbox game has been released on Switch, following in the footsteps of games such as Ori and the Blind Forest and Cuphead. I genuinely don’t think there’s a partnership more revered in the game industry than that of Nintendo and Rare in the 90’s, and since a good portion of the games featured on Rare Replay originally made their debut appearances on Nintendo consoles, I’d argue it’s time they came home. I’d kill to play Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, and Conker’s Bad Fur Day on the train. Please, Microsoft, do the right thing.

Minecraft 2

William Robinson: It is easy to forget that the mega-hit Minecraft is a Microsoft property now, considering it is on basically every platform imaginable. If they had suddenly made it an Xbox console exclusive after the acquisition, there would have been outrage from the devoted fanbases on other platforms, so I totally understand why that hasn’t happened. However, if Microsoft really are after an exclusive that would make people buy their new console, then a full-fledged Minecraft sequel could be that game. I am saying this as a ridiculous prediction because I just don’t see it happening; it would still produce some backlash from Minecraft players on other platforms if they were locked out of new content in a sequel. In general, a follow-up could be hard to justify – how would you balance it with updates for the original game? – but Blizzard is attempting to walk that tightrope with Overwatch 2, which may be evidence that it can be done. This would certainly be a bold move that gets people talking!

Sunset Overdrive 2

Ashley Harrison: This definitely is a ridiculous prediction now, sadly, what with Sony having purchased developer Insomniac Studios and all. Sunset Overdrive was legitimately one of my favourite Xbox One games and I was so hoping that we would’ve seen a sequel already by now, but alas, that wasn’t to be. Whilst the story itself might not have been the best, it was such a gorgeous game visually, and so much fun to play. The movement mechanics that allowed you to essentially skate your way throughout the map, combined with the arcade silliness of the gameplay and enemy designs, mesh together perfectly and produce an almost comic-book level of ridiculousness in a good way as you tore through the Overcharge Drinkers with ridiculous attacks. I mean, after all, the very first boss of the game is literally a giant Mascot Blimp for Heaven’s sake. Sometimes for me the best games are ones that don’t take themselves seriously at all, and this is definitely an example of that.

Rocksteady Game Reveal

William Robinson: Okay, this is probably-almost-certainly not gonna happen. If Rocksteady finally show off their next game, it is likely going to be on the terms of publisher Warner Bros. and not at the Xbox Games Showcase… but this is the place for ridiculous predictions, so I’m going with this. Since the renowned developer released Batman: Arkham Knight in 2015, the only other release we have had from them is Batman: Arkham VR in 2016 – so they’ve been working away on a project(s?) for a long time since. There has been so many rumours of different DC properties they could be working on – Suicide Squad, Superman, Justice League, another Batman… yet, the idea of them working on a brand new IP also has enticing potential. We don’t really know much else, we’re just waiting for them to tell us more – and, whilst it is highly unlikely that this game would be an Xbox exclusive, maybe the Xbox Games Showcase is the time. Maybe?

So, there are our thoughts! With the Showcase so close, it is an exciting time for Xbox. If you have any particular thoughts or predictions, let us know in the comments!

Let’s Chat: Xbox Game Pass, Cloverfield, & the Digital Future

Welcome to what is planned as a new weekly feature, where fellow gamer (and Chelsea fan, though we’ll let that slide) Ashley Harrison and I discuss the big topics of the week. For this inaugural article, we’ll be talking the future of how we consume our games, films, and other media. The bombshell drop of The Cloverfield Paradox on Netflix has brought up whether we’ll need anything other than our cosy bed and TV to watch the latest exciting releases in the days to come, and with Microsoft committing to first-party games coming on launch day to Xbox Game Pass, we could be moving that way. Keep reading for an in-depth discussion…

William Robinson: Hey, Ash! Thanks for joining me to talk (slightly) more professionally than we would normally. So, the whole Netflix strategy is on the mind of the mainstream right now. Microsoft impressed many by announcing first-party games will launch same day on Xbox Game Pass; and at the Superbowl, Netflix themselves shocked us all with a Cloverfield Paradox trailer that ended with it being available that same night. Let’s start with the latter – looking back after a few days, was it a good move?

Ashley Harrison: Yo Will, how’s it going? Looking back on it, I think in the case of both Xbox Game Pass and Netflix dropping The Cloverfield Paradox out of the blue, they’re incredible decisions for two completely different reasons.

WR: They’re different approaches, but to a same end goal; both are looking to push us to a streaming-dominant future. Can you see either of them making a major impact long-term?

AH: Xbox’s streaming service I can. Especially at the current price of £8 a month, I feel like that’s going to be an offer too good for most people to resist as we transition into a more digital than physical world. However, I’m not sure about Netflix. I feel like Cloverfield Paradox worked with this new model given it’s not exactly a huge name film, but for actual blockbuster films such as Star Wars, for example, a traditional release is the only thing I see Hollywood allowing; they earn WAY too much from box office sales to even consider allowing films to release on a streaming service.

WR: I think it would have been a bigger deal if Paradox was, to put it kindly, better than average. If that film had been at the quality level of 10 Cloverfield Lane, then it would have felt like getting a new cinema release at home. Instead, it ended up feeling like a B-movie that was being sold to us with clever marketing. On the Xbox topic, it seems like a good deal for players now; but if this works, we’re going to see publishers making their own services – look at EA Access! It’s already happening. The price is going to add up to have them all, just like with Netflix, Amazon, NOW TV and more competing with each other in the streaming space.

AH: Yeah, there’s that too. The clever marketing, mostly in thanks to the shock sudden release, helped to hide the fact that it just wasn’t that good of a film, and I feel this way it likely brought in a lot more viewers than it would if it had had a cinema release, as people more than likely watched it before reading any reviews that would’ve put them off. Every publisher having their own streaming service is my only fear to come out of this. I don’t know about you, but I actually rarely buy games brand new, unless I really want them, and each one seems to have a different publisher. The cost of having to pay for each service will add up to way more than the price of a game. However, there’s also the flip side that if you’re only interested in one publisher’s games, then I’m sure it’ll work out cheaper in the long run.

WR: We’ll be seeing more films try to copy the Paradox effect, I think, but Cloverfield was probably ideal for the treatment because of the whole mysterious marketing strategy that series uses. Personally, I get my games new and physical when I can. I am a big physical media fan, but I can see them going the way of magazines – less room for the general product, but a remaining market for those that embrace the beauty of a tactile, well designed publication (or, in this case, game package). We always talk about this being the “final generation of consoles” before the next gen proves us wrong, but whether it actually happens this time is yet to be proven.

AH: I don’t think there’ll ever not be a next generation of consoles, unless the game companies go the way of the PC, and just provide an upgradable box, although I doubt that will ever be the case. What I don’t doubt though is the way in which we interact with the consoles will change. I do think we’re not too far from an all digital future, where consoles will essentially just be boxes with a hard drive in, and we’ll be streaming or downloading games as the internet gets faster and faster for customers. I think Game Pass and EA Access are just the beginning of that step.

WR: Yeah, Steam Box went well, eh? In all seriousness, I’m not against the idea of being able to stream the majority of games – as long as there are still physical editions, at least for the bigger releases. One part that does worry me is how these monthly prices are unlikely to include those pesky DLC and microtransactions; the issues there will only be exacerbated as publishers look to them as the main source of income. What about you? Would you be on board with a streaming future?

AH: I’m not sure there would even be physical editions of bigger releases, as I’m sure a console with a focus on digital games would just ditch the disc drive altogether. As you said, the monthly prices probably wouldn’t include DLC or microtransactions either, and with the amount of games now launching with one or both of those, it could end up being even more expensive than anticipated. There’s nothing to stop companies increasing subscriptions prices, either, because if it’s a digital only future then you have no other choice. I’d personally never be happy with all digital. Whilst I appreciate the convenience of having the games all stored on your console without having to switch discs, or having thousands of movies on your phone, there’s something about the feel of holding a new game in your hands (and that iconic smell!) or going to a cinema to watch a newly released film that you just can’t quite beat.

WR: Definitely – I adore the event of going to the cinema, but we’re edging towards a future where we all just consume everything at home… To finish up, let’s bring it more short term. Xbox Game Pass in 2018 – would it convince you to think about playing Xbox One titles you wouldn’t have otherwise? The lead games aren’t huge names like Halo this year, so it could be viewed as a conservative way to test a risky strategy.

AH: For £8 for a month, I’m sure I’ll pick up a subscription at some point to try out games on the service, however I don’t think I’ll keep the subscription running; if I find anything I like I’ll just purchase it rather than rent it, as that’s just how I am. It’s a risky strategy to try it this year rather than say last from what we know at the minute, however I’m sure Microsoft are going to retrospectively add their games to the service, to make the price more worth it. Plus, we don’t know what anyone has up their sleeves for E3 yet, so Microsoft could easily be sitting on a huge game, just waiting for the right time to announce it and release the service.

WR: Maybe they could drop Halo 6: Paradox at E3, and say it’s out that same night? Might sound ridiculous, but we have to be working our way towards someone trying a big move like that.

AH: I’m 100% sure that one company could pull something like that, as if I remember rightly someone within Nintendo has already said they’d love to do it, but I don’t think we’ll see it happen any time within the next 5 years, for fear of repercussions from retailers for the big games.

WR: As ever, time will tell for all these things. I’m really excited – with trepidation – to see how this goes. Honestly, I just want another (good) Cloverfield film, so it makes me glad to hear that the fourth film is coming this year. Thanks for talking and doom mongering with me about the end of physical media, Ash!

AH: No worries, man.

You can let us know what you thought about the new feature style below – or perhaps your own thoughts on the future of media distribution. Also, you can read our pilot “A Discussion” about The Last of Us Part II over at Tanuki Bridge, or read my review of The Cloverfield Paradox here, if interested. Either way, thanks for taking the time to read this article right here!