For Xbox, the Future Has Only Just Begun

Early this year I began to make plans for E3, excited at the prospect of the in-person gaming event returning regardless of its final form. My plans and dates were finalized, and I was looking forward to catching up with so many of my peers that I hadn’t seen in a few years. Then came the cancellation. Disappointed, I came to terms with covering the smattering of summer events remotely and organized with the team at Seasoned Gaming.

Then, however, Xbox invited me to their showcase and Starfield Direct along with a briefing with their team on what’s next for gaming. So, I got back to scheduling and made the trip out to Los Angeles. And I couldn’t be more thankful that I did.

Not only was it an incredible experience with the Xbox team and so many of the friends that I’ve made over the past several years, but it also provided a lot of insight into the current state of Xbox, including their specific focuses, goals, and plans for the future. As someone who has written and talked extensively about Xbox’s evolution, describing myself as a kid in a candy store would be an understatement.

Putting On A Show

On Sunday, June 11th, Xbox broadcast their showcase and Starfield Direct globally, and I was fortunate to be in the Novo theater alongside an amazing group of friends and content creators. It was an excellent show that highlighted a vast array of games coming to the ecosystem capped off by the utterly spectacular Starfield Direct. But, more than that, it was the show that many of us had been waiting for from Xbox.

It’s not that Xbox hadn’t presented excellent showcases recently. But, rather, many of us were more curious about the output from the large stable of first-party developers that had been acquired and grown over the past several years. With the acquisition of several studios, the standing up of The Initiative, Bethesda joining the fold, and several studios notably expanding their staff, players have been anxiously awaiting for the cadence of first-party delivery to hit its stride.

This year’s showcase took that next step. Along with new presentations for Starfield and Forza Motorsport that are both releasing this fall, Xbox provided new looks at Hellblade 2, Fable, Flight Simulator 2024, and Avowed, which are all scheduled for 2024. They also provided the first looks at projects from some of the acquired studios that we’d been waiting to see, such as Clockwork Revolution from inXile and South of Midnight from Compulsion.

Finally, getting to see what several of these studios have been working on was a joy, and it was clear from the vibe, both after the show locally and online, that fans were overwhelmingly pleased.

Xbox also continued to demonstrate support for long-running franchises such as Elder Scrolls Online, Sea of Thieves, Fallout 76, and Flight Simulator. These franchises are pillars for Xbox that are often overlooked and/or misunderstood (which I will provide more detail on shortly). Lastly, it was exciting to see a continued focus on broadening the relationships with some publishers relating to the Xbox ecosystem. Seeing Persona titles and the next Like a Dragon alongside the debuts of Path of the Goddess from Capcom and Metaphor ReFantazio from Atlus absolutely deserves recognition.

Overall, then, it was a fantastic showing and exactly what Xbox needed this June alongside the other gaming events. But it was additional conversations that provided greater insight into Xbox leadership’s current line of thinking toward the console market, game delivery, how they support developers, and more.

So Then, What’s Next?

In a press briefing featuring Phil Spencer, Sarah Bond, Matt Booty, and Todd Howard, they each spoke to various aspects of the Xbox ecosystem and how they are thinking about the gaming industry in the coming years. For those of us that follow the details closely, there wasn’t anything I would call revelatory. However, it’s always insightful to understand the mindset of the industry leaders, particularly when they lead a console manufacturer alongside developers and publishers.

Taking place after the showcase, naturally one of first questions asked was to Head of Xbox Game Studios, Matt Booty, on first-party delivery and the progress being made there. Booty answers candidly, something I greatly appreciate from Xbox leadership in these situations:

“So far this generation I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve had some of the top-reviewed games, right. We’ve had Forza Horizon 5, Psychonauts 2, games like Pentiment. These are some of the most well-reviewed of the generation. As Phil mentioned, you know, we had some gaps last year but I think we’ve turned the corner coming into 2023. We feel very good about launching Hi-Fi Rush, we have Minecraft Legends out there which is doing well, we’ve had Age of Empire which is continuing to come to console.”

He continues “…As we saw today very excited about this fall with Forza Motorsport and then we go into Starfield. Then when we get into 2024, it really kicks into gear. We’ve got Towerborne, we’ve got Hellblade 2, we’ve got Avowed, Flight Simulator 2024, and some other things we might not have even talked about.”

Of critical importance is the cadence of first-party delivery, something I and many others have talked about for a few years now. In this vein, Booty’s continued comments further increase the optimistic outlook:

“This is really for inXile, Compulsion, for Obsidian, the first games they’ve showed that sort of, beginning, middle, and end under the Xbox banner. So these are games that started post-acquisition as part of us and it’s great to see those come out. And all of that is really part of our goal to get to at least four games a year which we’ve talked about a whole lot.”

The future for XGS is very promising, and we’re beginning to see the delivery that Xbox has been promising for some time. But I believe an aspect that is far too often overlooked in the Xbox ecosystem is their on-going support for live-service titles.

Over the past several years, we’ve seen a number of games expand and grow with notable playerbase increases in that time. It’s fair to say we’ve seen some of these games launch in states that weren’t ideal or lacking in various ways, and I’ve spoken about that at length, but it’s the continued support that I want to call out here.

Games like State of Decay 2, Sea of Thieves, Flight Simulator, Forza Horizon 5, Gears 5, Minecraft Dungeons, and, of course, Halo Infinite, have seen large content updates for years now, and each represents a different experience for players to enjoy. And, of course, that’s before folding in major Bethesda titles such as Elder Scrolls Online and Fallout 76.

When taken on the whole, Xbox sees more than 150 million monthly active users (MAUs) as of the second quarter of this year, which is incredibly impressive. And that is spread across a number of the games that I mentioned above. Booty comments on this directly:

“In the last, I think, five years we have shipped 10 games that have over 10 million players life-to-date each. So we’ve got 10 games that have built communities of up-to 10 million people. And when you add that up across Bethesda, Zenimax, and Xbox Game Studios, we’ve got over 150 million monthly players. So 150 million MAU across first-party. That number is important to us not just because of the number. But it’s how we measure success.”

Naturally I have to mention Starfield. The Direct presentation of the game blew a lot of us away, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it in the near future. Along those lines, Chief Software Engineer at Bethesda Softworks, Todd Howard, is asked what it’s been like building that game alongside Xbox:

“We’ve worked together for, you know, twenty-plus years going back to the original Xbox. But now that we’re part of Xbox our ability to be more ambitious. To take risks that we might not have on our own. That’s on the screen in Starfield. There’s no other way it happens. And it’s important, yeah, it’s just incredible. Seeing the response and everything today, it really reminds me getting out here, as I said it’s my first public fan event for games in four years, it reminds me why we do it.”

Todd Howard and the teams at Bethesda are one thing, but what about creators and developers who don’t have that pedigree? Developers who may just be starting out or simply have a vision for what they’d like to create in the future? Corporate Vice President at Xbox, Sarah Bond, comments:

“Ultimately, when I think about what creators are doing what I want is for people to be able to find true economic success with Xbox. To have a vision. To work years and years and years to put it out there. And then to succeed and be able to do it again. And to be able to build on it again, and again, and again, and to grow. And so, a lot of what our team thinks about is how can we make that possible? How can we help this creator realize that?”

Bond continues “…So an example you know, that I think is a beautiful testament to that part of it is I got to introduce 33 Immortals today from the Thunder Lotus team. And our partnership with that team actually spans back many, many years when we started working with them on Spiritfarer. It was in the 2019 showcase. They were in Game Pass. And today, here they are. They’re back. They sold over 2 million units of Spiritfarer which is awesome. And they’re back with their first multiplayer game, on our stage, in Game Pass announcing with us.”

Reaching more developers and expanding that talent, both internally and through partnerships, are quite obviously tenets for the leadership team at Xbox. It was fantastic to hear their perspectives on what that means across various channels of their business.

Acquisitions, Litigation, And The Cloud, Oh My

Of course, given the timing of this article, it would be impossible not to mention the on-going litigation revolving around Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision-Blizzard. We’ve spoken about the specific details on our channel (shout out to Bitcast co-host and friend Rick Hoeg for his analysis), so I’ll refer you there for any specifics.

Relevant to this outlook, though, is Xbox leadership’s continued focus on how they expand the Xbox ecosystem with more and varied content while also reaching more players globally. And it’s this approach that excites me the most. While the acquisition of Activision-Blizzard would be massive for obvious reasons, it’s not the acquisition itself that excites me. Rather, it’s the approach of filling gaps in the portfolio and providing players more ways to engage with more content.

It’s clear that there are many first-party projects aimed at vast, single-player, narrative and/or cinematic experiences. It’s something many of us have wanted from Xbox for years, now, and they’ve shown they are listening and working to deliver. The thought of Xbox, with its extensive and growing first-party capabilities, having access to beloved, dormant IPs is exciting. And no, I won’t get on my Banjo-Kazooie soapbox here, I promise.

Rather, Activision-Blizzard owns IPs that fans would love to see come back in some form. And, thanks to the on-going court case over the acquisition, we’ve now been able to more properly understand Xbox’s broader plans for developer and publisher acquisitions.

As part of their “watchlist,” there were a large number of developers and publishers being considered, including Sega, Square-Enix, IO Interactive, and more. Thinking about the possibilities for the IPs under those umbrellas potentially being given additional time and funding for development is exhilarating. Being an old-school Sega fan, I’ll go ahead and say that seeing Phantasy Star return in AAA form would be a dream come true.

Regardless of what happens with the acquisition of Activision-Blizzard, or additional acquisitions and partnerships in the future, it’s clear that Xbox is focused on continuing to expand their internal capabilities, their global player reach, and their content delivery. As merely someone who loves gaming in nearly all forms, I’m excited to see where they head next.

Future So Bright I Gotta Wear A Spacesuit

As we sit here today, we are enjoying arguably the greatest single year in gaming history. It feels like we have an endless buffet of incredible experiences of all shapes and sizes to indulge in. And, as someone who’s love of gaming has only increased over the decades, I adore it.

With Starfield just over the horizon (wink) and the new Forza Motorsport just behind it, some incredible experiences being released monthly on Game Pass, and a bright outlook heading into 2024, it feels like Xbox is hitting its full stride. And, regardless of your preferred platform(s) or access points, that should be exciting. More projects means more developers and more experiences for us to enjoy. And at the end of the day, that’s all that truly matters.

I just wanted to give a quick shout out to the teams at Xbox for the experience they provided media and fans a few weeks ago. It’s always a joy getting to chat with so many peers and leaders in this amazing industry, and I’m very thankful, and humbled, to be a part of it. Cheers all.

By Ains

Founder and Editor-In-Chief: Seasoned Gaming. Avid gamer and collector. Plays a lot of Halo and Diablo. Find me on Twitter @Porshapwr.


  • What a fantastic article. I too feel like Xbox is on the right path. It was an incredible experience in LA and it was an absolute pleasure to have the chance to chat with you in person and meet so many amazing folks. Keep up the awesome work. ♥️

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