With a strong showing during the Xbox Game Showcase and a promising Starfield Direct, the company is finally hitting a turning point. The potential is slowly being realized, and after following through on many promises, the rest of 2023 represents a critical moment in the Xbox console generation.
As far as exclusives go, 2022 wasn’t exactly a blockbuster-filled year with only Pentiment, As Dusk Falls, and CrossFireX. After a stellar start to the year with the release of Minecraft Legends and Hi-Fi Rush, the company suffered a major setback following Redfall‘s less-than-favorable launch back in May.
With the recent announcements and updates for Starfield and Forza Motorsport, both respected titles in their genres, the remainder of 2023 is shaping to be a critical moment for Xbox’s current console generation. All eyes will definitely be on Starfield as Bethesda presents its first original IP in over 25 years following the November 22, 2022 delay.
Addressing the media in attendance, we heard the Xbox leadership speak in the “What’s Next For Gaming” Panel featuring Phil Spencer, Sarah Bond (Head of Xbox Creator Experience), Matt Booty (Head of Xbox Game Studios), and Bethesda’s Todd Howard.
Content is King
With the upcoming launch of Starfield and Forza Motorsport, the ambitious goal of 4 first-party games a year is slowly becoming a reality. Provided that all the announced titles are on track to launch in 2024, such as Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Avowed, and another unannounced game, this ambition will truly be achieved.
2024 is still quite a ways away, which makes Fall 2023 the imminent hurdle that Xbox needs to overcome, especially after Redfall. This brings us to Starfield being the key killer app in an ocean of killer apps including Sony’s Spider-Man 2 on the horizon and the imminent Final Fantasy XVI. With Nintendo’s showing of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom last month, the pressure is on Bethesda to deliver.
The key to all of this is Game Pass, the famed service that’s being touted as one of, if not the, best deals in gaming. Just last quarter, there was a 46% increase year over year in people playing PC games on Game Pass, and revenue from subscriptions overall reached nearly $1 billion last quarter.
To put more content into perspective, the ID@Xbox indie program has now paid out over $4 billion to over 5,000 creators in over 100 countries, and there are currently more than 5,000 games in development for Xbox.
Game Pass allows players to try out games with minimal risk, and with other supplements like Cloud Gaming that lets players enjoy titles anywhere and everywhere, the company is set to bring all of this content to gamers around the world.
Commitment to Players
Phil Spencer’s commitment is to finding new players and new creators to experience Xbox all across platforms. Whether or not you’re playing on a console, PC, or any supported medium, you will have a home in Xbox. With that, the PC Game Pass has been expanded to 46 more markets such as the Philippines, which officially got the service back on April 21, 2022.
On the Xbox Cloud Gaming front, there hasn’t been much movement lately. However, Sarah Bond did mention that they’ve partnered with NVIDIA to give Game Pass members the ability to stream select titles through NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW, enabling the PC Game Pass catalog to be played on any device that GeForce NOW streams to, like low spec PCs, Macs, Chromebooks, mobile devices, TVs, and more. We are firm believers in the future of Xbox Cloud Gaming, and with GeForce Now adding to the eco-system, it’s another step towards that cloud future.
This is great news to make gaming more accessible to more people, and while that vision is still far into the future, we can be assured that with Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, Xbox is leading that charge.
Consoles are the Main Home
To clear the air about their console priorities, Phil Spencer did not count the console business dead yet and instead double-downed that consoles are incredibly important to them, even alluding that their name literally has a “box” in it.
In fact, supply chain issues have eased up, and the Series X is now easier to find than ever before. They’ve listened to consumer feedback and have just announced a 1TB Xbox Series S Carbon Black model due out September 1. It comes just in time for Starfield, which will take a whopping 128 gigs of hard drive space.
It carries over to their core strategy of “new players” because more than half of the Xbox Series S purchases last year came from new players. Phil Spencer does acknowledge that while the Xbox Series X boasts amazing computing power, it may not be the right hardware for everybody given their particular situation, so the Series S is definitely positioned at an attractive price point.
Considering a solid ecosystem, affordable services, and a killer app (Starfield) on the way, Xbox definitely has all the tools ready to finally live up to its potential. Phil Spencer did mention at the start of the panel that their business has doubled since the time of the Xbox 360, so commitment is something that players can very much look forward to.
Spencer reiterates that what they do, supporting new players and new creators, comes from a place of love. At his core, Phil Spencer is a lifelong gamer like you and me and he would like to make gaming a friendly and accessible venture to all interested parties across the globe. With a vision like that, what’s not to like?