With the holiday cheer and rush of record-breaking console launches behind us, it’s time to look forward to the year ahead and what the video game industry has in store for its enthusiasts in 2014.
In this six part feature series, we will take a look at the platform holders, their consoles and the exclusive games expected to arrive on each. We also go in-depth and take a look at each first-party development studio and third-party partner to discern what they’re working on.
- Part 1: Xbox One in 2014: The Exclusives
- Part 2: Xbox One in 2014: Predictions
- Part 3: Wii U in 2014: The Exclusives
- Part 4: Wii U in 2014: Predictions
- Part 5: PlayStation 4 in 2014: The Exclusives
- Part 6: PlayStation 4 in 2014: Predictions
To kick it off, we turn our attention to Microsoft and the Xbox One. It’s been a crazy 2013 for Microsoft, but over the next 12 months it may be poised to host a remarkable comeback. So for now, take a seat, buckle up and let’s talk all things green…
If there’s one thing you need to know about 2014, it’s that it’s possibly the most important year in the new consoles’ lifecycles. While the launch battle between Xbox One and PlayStation 4 was important (at least in the eyes of Sony and Microsoft) in terms of units moved, at the end of the day it was obvious both systems were going to sell out and that supply would never satiate demand, resulting in launches for both systems that couldn’t have been more financially successful for either company unless they had manufactured more units.
However, once the hardcore enthusiasts and console loyalists have the systems in their homes, the next battle begins in 2014. The first full year a console is on store shelves represents 12 months of platform holders doing their best to convince the next big crowd, the gamers, to buy their console over the other. While this audience might not consist of the die-hard enthusiasts that line up on day one, they’re the next sizeable demographic that want to latch onto the latest gaming craze and are willing to drop the necessary money if they see enough games that speak to them.
Just like the Xbox 360 came into its own in its first full year in 2006 selling 10 million units of hardware over thirteen months with titles such as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Fight Night Round 3, Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, Viva Piñata and Gears of War, 2014 needs to be treated in the same way for Xbox One and at first glance it seems Microsoft might be doing just that.
Q1 2014: Microsoft Studios’ Phil Spencer wants no ‘game drought’
Working within the company for more than 25 years, Microsoft Studios head Phil Spencer has helped launch every Xbox console to date and is the man who gives the green light to every game coming to Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows 8 and all other Microsoft platforms.
Speaking with Polygon just before the Xbox One launch in November 2013, Spencer gave a glimpse into his thoughts on Xbox One in 2014 and assuaged concerns that gamers would experience a ‘game drought’ much like the Xbox 360 had in its first full year at retail.
“I look at the next 18 to 24 months, and really on a month by month basis, you’re going to have something you can go out and play”, Spencer said. “It’s not really a portfolio plan that way, but when I look at the way the portfolio is laying out … I think people are going to be happy with the lineup that’s coming.”
When we look at January, February and March, the first exclusive games to kick off the New Year are D4, Below, Super TIME Force and of course Titanfall.
D4 is the next adventure title from Hidetaka Suehiro a.k.a. Swery65, the creative force behind cult-hit Deadly Premonition. An acronym for ‘Dark Dreams Don’t Die’, this new episodic game is a Kinect title that places gamers in the shoes of main protagonist David, who has lost many of his memories but gained the ability to view them by exploring and touching certain objects in the game world. Described as a modern mystery, broad gestures and over-the-top movements won’t be a focus as Suehiro is adamant about giving players the option to sit and eat while experiencing the story using subtle movements and voice commands. The mystery is found in David’s attempt to piece together his wife’s murder while trying to prevent it using his newfound ability. It’s an expectedly confusing premise, yet intriguing at the same time.
Following this we have Super TIME Force and Below from talented developer Capybara Games (affectionately referred to as Capy), the studio that brought us the critically-lauded Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery on iOS.
Originally slated for release on the Xbox Live Arcade in 2013, Super TIME Force is a Contra-like action side-scroller with time manipulation and single player co-op. Throw in skate-boarding dinosaurs and player duplication, it goes without saying that it should deliver brain-meltingly chaotic fun.
Below, a dark, subdued rogue-like action/adventure game, might just be the polar opposite of Super TIME Force. Capy has proven it has the development prowess to create dark and enigmatic worlds players have no choice but to get lost in, and the completely unique art-style and eccentrically foreboding score make the mystery surrounding this Xbox One timed-exclusive all the more seducing.
Speaking of being seduced, one title that hasn’t failed to catch the attention of gamers worldwide since its reveal at Microsoft’s E3 media briefing last year is Titanfall.
Created by many of the talented folks who worked on Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Titanfall will be the first game from newly formed studio Respawn Entertainment. A fast-paced first-person shooter at its core, Titanfall blends single-player cinematic action and narrative with 6 v 6 multiplayer mayhem. Oh, did we mention players can also wall run, jetpack and pilot giant lumbering mechs called Titans? Yeah, there’s that too.
Titanfall will only be available on Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Windows PC and is expected to land on store shelves in March.
Q2 2014: Post-Titanfall and the lead up to E3 2014
Landing in the southern Autumn shortly after Titanfall is Rare’s first Xbox One game, Kinect Sports Rivals. Showcasing impressive Kinect features like recreating yourself as a digital Champion, it looks fun, but besides jet ski-racing, tennis and bowling, the other three sports included – rock-climbing, soccer and target shooting – don’t particularly scream motion-control-friendly. While the Kinect Sports series sold incredibly well on Xbox 360, the franchise is yet to prove that it has the pull behind it to convince its fanbase – the casual crowd – to fork out AUD$599 for a console that features another sequel.
A game that also needs to prove itself is Fantasia: Music Evolved, a Kinect rhythm game from Harmonix. The Cambridge-based studio has a long-standing relationship with Microsoft and a knack for developing games for Kinect as seen in its unsurprisingly successful Dance Central series on Xbox 360.
Coming to both Xbox One and Xbox 360, Fantasia: Music Evolved aims to give players the sensation of creating and altering the composition of popular music tracks from artists such as Queen, Bruno Mars, Kimbra and Avicii using gestures and motion-control. Bearing similarities to games such as Rez and Child of Eden from acclaimed video game designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi, it’s a unique type of interactive experience that we see all too little of in the industry.
While no official release date has been given, it’s safe to say we’ll see Fantasia: Music Evolved on store shelves in Q2 2014.
Another title that is yet to nail down a specific release is Project Spark. A creation tool/game from Microsoft’s brand new Team Dakota studio, Project Spark is currently holding a public beta on Windows with an Xbox One beta arriving in February. Much has been shown of the ambitious project with many exciting features including the ability to use Kinect as a motion-capture device and to implement voice and animation. However, the exact nature of the free-to-play game’s release, whether as a digital-only game or boxed product, is yet to be detailed.
Possibly the most intriguing and most promising exclusive coming to Xbox One in 2014 is Remedy Entertainment’s Quantum Break. The studio behind such hits as Max Payne and Alan Wake has yet to make a bad game, knocking the ball out of the park with every project it creates.
With this distinguished pedigree it’s incredibly exciting to see the team combine its greatest strengths – episodic character-driven storytelling and satisfying third-person action combat – with the mystery of time control and manipulation.
Remaining an even greater mystery is the game’s ties to a TV series set in the same universe. Much like 2012’s Defiance, the TV series is said to influence the game and vice versa, however very few details have surfaced regarding this complimentary content. With Remedy’s previous project Alan Wake releasing in May 2010, it’s quite possible we’ll see Quantum Break and its accompanying television series kick off in May this year before E3 2014.
Q3 2014: Warming up to the holidays
While the excitement of E3 cannot be avoided, it doesn’t mean we won’t see any new games coming to Xbox One during this time. As announced at Gamescom last year, Xbox’s Chris Charla and his team will be rallying many independent games and developers through the ID@Xbox initiative to push content out during a period that would traditionally remain empty. After all, that time of the year would usually be reserved for Microsoft’s always-popular Summer of Arcade (Winter of Arcade for us here in the southern hemisphere).
Following this, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see some exclusive heavy-hitters enter the ring in Q3 2014 such as Sunset Overdrive or Fable Legends.
The former title was announced at Microsoft’s E3 2013 Media Briefing as a “stylised open-world shooter in which the experience can change everyday”.
Insomniac Games, the team behind the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance series, is teaming up with Microsoft Studios to bring the world of Sunset Overdrive to Xbox One. Studio Head Ted Price describes the new IP as “fast-paced, traversal-driven and explosive”. Despite the lack of details about the game since June 2013, it seems to be using the Xbox cloud to power a living, breathing online world. Microsoft will be publishing the title and it has been confirmed for release in 2014.
In the past, Insomniac Games’ titles have seen releases prior to the typical November rush. With Bungie’s next sci-fi epic Destiny coming on September 9, 2014, expect to see Sunset Overdrive land a few weeks later in October but still prior to the other big-budget shooters guaranteed in November.
Regarding Lionhead Studios’ first Xbox One title, it’s much more difficult to predict where the release of Fable Legends will ultimately land. Will Microsoft pull the trigger early for a September launch to fill the early northern Spring gap, or will they partner it with its other mega-franchise in November?
What’s certain is the ambition behind Fable Legends. A 4-v-1-player, cooperative/competitive action RPG with cloud-powered A.I. and SmartGlass integration – it’s the largest project ever undertaken by the 100-person-strong UK developer and is said to grow episodically over many years. Studio Head John Steedman has previously stated that “this is the next big Fable game that is going to be out for five to ten years”, and will continue to evolve as Microsoft games in particular become more service-oriented.
Holiday 2014: Master Chief may have some competition
Though Fable Legends and Sunset Overdrive look like amazing games in their own right, they ultimately cannot compare to the undoubted juggernaut that will be the next instalment in the Halo series.
With next to no details about the fifth chapter in Master Chief’s storyline to hold fans over, all that developer 343 Industries has shown is the ominous teaser trailer from E3 2013 providing a glimpse into John 117’s continuing quest against the Forerunner threat.
It’s a near certainty we will see the first gameplay of the next Halo game at E3 this year. Until then, all we can do is hope that Steven Spielberg’s Halo TV series is awesome enough to satiate our need for more from the seminal franchise.
Besides 343 Industries, another Microsoft-owned studio has been secretly toiling away at a project for some time now. Established in 2011, the studio once known as Microsoft Vancouver – now going by the name Black Tusk Studios – is working on the next big franchise for Xbox that aims to stand alongside the likes of Halo, Fable and Gears of War.
First teased at E3 2013, the team’s as-yet-untitled project looks to be an action shooter with stealth elements, set in the technologically-advanced future. No release date (or even window) has been given and so a 2014 launch, while possible, isn’t guaranteed. As a new IP from an unproven studio, it wouldn’t be the biggest shock if the game was to fill the March 2015 release window, however nothing is concrete at this point.
With or without Black Tusk’s game releasing in 2014, the Xbox One has a surprisingly robust line-up already and it’s off to a strong start with more than 3 million consoles sold in 2013 alone. The portfolio is broad, spanning many genres and it has a healthy mix of sequels and new IP.
Now all that remains to be seen is whether it will all be enough to give the Xbox One the boost it needs. With a higher price point than the PS4, gamers looking for a console will be asking themselves what the extra bit of cash gets them. Will Titanfall blow everyone away? Are Sunset Overdrive and Fable Legends too ambitious for their own good? Can 343 Industries push out a quality Halo game within a two year development cycle? Whatever the outcome, it’s going to be a rollercoaster year for video games and the Xbox One as well.
What do you think of the Xbox One line-up for 2014? Which game are you anticipating the most? Does it stand a chance against the less expensive PlayStation 4? Tell us what you think on our official forum.
That concludes our look at the Xbox One’s exclusive games in 2014. Don’t forget to come back soon when we analyse each Microsoft developer whose current project/s are unknown or unannounced and predict what will be revealed and perhaps released this year and in 2015. Will there be a Forza Horizon 2? What does the future hold for Gears of War? Find out right here on Doublejump.