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Xbox Developer Direct: things on the up for 2023?

Some quick notes from the Developer Direct:

  • Release date for Forza Motorsport reboot isn’t concrete beyond “2023”, but the gameplay looked phenomenal
  • Hi-Fi rush was dropped after the Developer Direct, and looks like the perfect addition to the Xbox library
  • Things look business as usual for Elder Scrolls Online – a new expansion is due in the summer
  • Redfall gameplay looked similar to what we’ve seen, and its gotten a release date of 5/2/23
  • Minecraft Legends, releasing 4/3/23, looks like it has the potential to have a real hook with some of the details of its strategy focused gameplay still up in the air
  • An IGN interview with Phil Spencer on 1/27/23 evokes a sense of modest optimism for Xbox’s output for 2023 (well worth a read)

The Xbox Developer Direct came and went a couple of days ago, and I have to say, it was refreshing. There weren’t any bombshells. Some information is still left up in the air (Forza Motorsport when?). But overall, it was nice to see a show that got right to it, and I’m hoping Xbox can continue the format on a semi-regular basis.

I think that Minecraft Legends has some serious potential. It looks to bring about all of the possibility of strategy mixed with frenetic fun. I’m still not quite sure how the loop works, but there’s still an intriguing thread there. We also know that it will be releasing soon in April.

The Xbox Developer Direct was…oddly refreshing for an Xbox event

Redfall, to me, looked like more of the same. But Prey is one of my favorite games of all time, and everything shown looks like there could be some great fun inside (especially in co-op). The only thing that worries me about Redfall is the gunplay. Prey’s shooting was almost incidental, and I’m positive I’ve heard that Arkane’s latest game, Deathloop, didn’t fair much better.

Hi-Fi rush was probably the standout of the show for me. I haven’t touched it yet, but it looks like the perfect addition to Xbox. It was cool as hell to see it dropped that day on Game Pass. I imagine it’s infinitely hard to pull off, but it’s something that Xbox could use a lot more of sprinkled into their calendar year of releases.

The showing for Elder Scrolls Online and Forza Motorsport are the ones I feel a bit mixed on. I think that at this point in its life cycle it would only make sense to free up at least some expansions for Game Pass subscribers. Is it financially feasible? I’m going to lean towards no since it hasn’t happened. It’d just be nice for some better perks to be rolled up for Game Pass Ultimate subscribers at the very least. I don’t think these time limited free trial periods are going to do much for garnering a bigger base at this point.

A new Forza Motorsport is something I’ve been looking forward to for a while, especially as I’ve gotten a wheel (please put more focus into wheel support Turn 10!). Everything looked fantastic. Admittedly, the Forza Motorsport section was basically about how awesome their game is. We weren’t given a deep dive into the game itself, it was more so about the edges surrounding – tech, physics, graphics, and audio. But what hurt most is that we still don’t have a firm date.

There’s a part of me that worries that it will ultimately be pushed into 2024. The question is – when will Starfield release? Fall 2023 seems like it’s the most likely, and if it does, I wonder if Xbox would push it out alongside of Forza. I’m hoping that it’s ultimately squeezed between Redfall and Starfield. The good news is that Turn 10 seems to be very far along in the development process. I only hope that it can get the showing it deserves.

Apart from this, an excellent interview with Phil Spencer was published on IGN today (1/27/23). There’s a controlled optimism to his voice about 2023. He seems to be aware that Xbox desperately needs games and, more importantly, aware that fans are getting sick of regular releases being just around the corner. It’s great to hear his confidence in 343 Industries – to be conscious of a need for greater output – but Halo Infinite’s situation is one that has often seemed messy. It’s also one that needs to consistently show direct output. Much like Xbox’s overall output, it isn’t quite enough to talk about potential to be realized – the impact grows cold after a while.

Things, overall, are looking good for Xbox this year. I don’t doubt that things will get messy in terms of games missing their release dates, but I also think that it will be one of the strongest years for Xbox in quite some time. What Xbox has needed for a long time now is something big, and Starfield looks to be it for 2023. According to Jez Corden (the Xbox Two Podcast is a great listen if you’re an Xbox fan), the game is in excellent shape. This year could potentially be a feast, and I know I haven’t been this excited as an Xbox player in quite some time.

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