Following up an amazing 2021 where Xbox was the clear publisher of the year, Xbox is staring at another very exciting year. Xbox is set to release two of the most anticipated new IP for the year with Redfall set for a summer release and Starfield set for a fall release. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the other possibilities 2022 may hold for Xbox:
- The strategy of debuting Forza Horizon 5 at E3 last year and releasing the title just a few months later worked brilliantly for Xbox. Xbox surely saw the success of this strategy and its applicability moving forward. With so many games in development, look for this strategy to continue with one or two brand new game reveals at E3 with releases in Q3/Q4 calendar year 2022.
Prime candidates for this strategy are Project Belfry (publishing title with Stoic Studios) and Project Pentiment (Obsidian Studios rpg being led by Josh Sawyer). Additionally, Forza Motorsport looks to launch in Q3 2022 and will make it’s next appearance at E3 2022.
This would certainly make for another excellent first party year for Xbox, releasing all of the below:
As Dusk Falls
Deathloop [PC and Xbox version]
- Gamepass keeps on rolling adding multiple AAA Day 1 games to an already impressive Day 1 lineup that includes STALKER 2, A Plagues Tale Requiem, Redfall, Forza Motorsport, Starfield, Warhammer 40K Darktide and Sniper Elite 5 (Check out the full list of confirmed 2022 Day 1 Gamepass titles).
There’s quite a few AAA this year that Xbox can target for gamepass. One that looks likely is that a multi-year agreement with the MLB was signed and will see MLB The Show 22 join the service. Some other AAA possibilities include Dying Light 2, Saints Row, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction, and Sonic Frontiers.
I believe that the most likely target for Xbox among these will be MLB The Show 22 and Sonic Frontiers. Sonic Frontiers makes a lot of sense as Sega is looking to the title to be a massive revival for the Legendary IP. Gamepass ensures instantly that millions and millions of people will play the game, and tell others about the game.
- The acquisition season continues, and you can expect Xbox to be extremely active. After the acquisition of Bethesda/ZeniMax, Matt Booty, Phil Spencer and Satya Nadella have all talked unprompted at length about how acquisitions will continue. We’ve also seen the M&A teams for both Xbox Games Studios and ZeniMax have been expanded. As both continue to operate as their own entities, it is likely that both will continue to add resources that they identify as needs which means both are likely to expand inorganically.
If we’re looking at relationships and needs from the ZeniMax teams, they’ve been trying to staff up and figure out how to get more games from their IP library in production. The studios that stick out as a possibilities here are Avalanche Studios and Behavoir Interactive. They have both worked on titles for Bethesda/ZeniMax and have strong relationships. Both studios also have great relationships with Xbox with Avalanche Studios working on a new IP (Contrband) with Xbox Global Publishing and having an extensive library on gamepass and Behavoir Interactive having a very strong history of supporting Xbox titles like Halo and Gears of War. They both also have experience working on and developing new IP and managing multiple projects in different genres, so these are two studios to watch closely.
Meanwhile, over at Xbox Games Studios, Matt Booty has seemingly identified the type of studios that they are actively working to acquire. From Matt Booty’s interview after E3, he shed some light on what Xbox Game Studios is looking for:
“ We will continue to look for studios that can add great people, great teams, and great new ideas to our lineup. Second, we are growing our studios organization through acquisition. We use a filter of ‘people, teams and ideas’ to keep us disciplined. People that we have relationships with, teams who have delivered games through both success and have seen some adversity, and studios that have a proven track record of new idea. And we know that a thriving entertainment service needs a consistent and exciting flow of new content. So our portfolio will continue to grow as our service grows.“
With this in mind, look for teams that have worked successfully with Xbox or are currently working with Xbox. Studios like Asobo, Crytek and IO Interactive seem to fit the bill for what Matt Booty outlined above.
- Over the past few years, Xbox has had a major focus on game preservation by making games playable on current and future Xbox generations. They’ve not only supported backward and future compatability, but also enhanced a large portion of that catalog. Additionally, they’ve worked with developers and publishers to bring games that were never on Xbox previously to Xbox. This has the added benefit for developers and publishers of prolonging the life of the IP, generating added revenue and growing the audience for the IP/franchise.
The backwards compatability team has pretty much exhausted their options to bring existing Xbox titles to the current generation, as issues with licensing are the bottleneck now. As a result, I expect the time and resources that were spent on that initiative will be reallocated to other methods of bringing more games to Xbox. The areas where this makes the most sense is to step up their work with developers and publishers to bring existing franchises and games to the Xbox ecosystem for the first time. Expect the work to really ramp up with teams that they have a strong history working with such as Sega and Paradox Interactive. Sega has a massive back catalogue not on Xbox and they also are actively looking to expand the audience for their IP, so this looks like a promising area of focus. Paradox Interactive has a number of games that have not been brought to console, but have a high level of popularity; they also have an extensive history of working with Xbox on gamepass. Look for those two to partner more to bring more games to Xbox.
I expect focus outside of these partnerships as well. Look for Xbox to work with developers and publishers that are popular for mobile gaming to bring these games to the Xbox ecosystem as examples of how great cloud and mobile gaming can be. Additionally, I expect some surprises from publishers like Konami and Square Enix to bring titles not previously on Xbox to the ecosystem. I am looking at game franchises like Bravely, Dragon Quest, Mana and Suikoden that can help expand both Xbox’s audience as well as the franchises audience and provide a nice payday for the developers and publishers.