Microsoft Returns Fire With the Xbox Games Showcase

by Eduard Gafton

The Future is (Xbox) Green


After the lacklustre Inside Xbox event back in May, which was focused mainly on third-party games, and having seen the incredible list of games Sony showed off at its PlayStation 5 reveal, the pressure was on Microsoft to finally show more of its first-party offerings and better convince customers to buy its next-gen machine, the Xbox Series X, when it launches this holiday season. Enter the Xbox Games Showcase, an hour-long show that did exactly what it says on the tin.

As we were for the PlayStation 5 reveal event, we’re back here again to give you a comprehensive rundown of everything we saw so far. Enjoy the read! 


Microsoft was all about the games:

Even before the showcase began, Microsoft stepped in to announce that the presentation will include no ‘...business, no devices or similar news, just games.’ This ended up being absolutely true as there was no indication of a release date or price for the Xbox Series X and we are still very much in the dark as to whether Lockhart, the long-rumoured lower-specced alternative model to the Series X, even exists. Microsoft still didn’t show too much gameplay at the event — outside of the Halo Infinite demo that we’ll touch on shortly) — but it did offer ten world premieres and 22 games set to launch exclusively on Xbox consoles, projects from nine out of its 15 Xbox Game Studios and a number of third-party partners. We’ll talk about 11 of those titles in depth, and then in the interest of (relative) brevity we’ll send you over to YouTube for the rest.  

Halo Infinite:

Despite its largely positive critical reception, Halo 5: Guardians, hasn’t found enduring success within the fanbase, and 343 Industries is positioning Halo Infinite as a “platform for the future”, one that it hopes will grow over time. Now, we’ve known about Halo Infinite for quite some time, especially as it is the centerpiece for how Microsoft is marketing next-gen, but we’ve finally seen some of the single-player in action and… we’re not that impressed. This is not to say that Halo: Infinite won’t be good when it launches with the Xbox Series X this holiday season — we definitely appreciate its attempt to return to Halo’s original feel and its addition of a grappling hook for Master Chief to use on environments and enemies alike — but rather that we still need to see more before we’re sold. However, who knows, maybe when Microsoft shows some multiplayer we’re going to be absolutely blown away.

Fable:

That’s amazing news, but we don’t know much information other than the fact that Britain-based Playground Games (Forza Horizon) is developing it. Of course, this was long rumoured — Eurogamer published a report way back in January 2018 that Playground was planning Fable as a story and character focused open-world action RPG — so the reveal is not that much of a surprise, but we’re excited for more Fable even though the short teaser gave us absolutely no gameplay footage, suggesting that the release window is still quite a way off. 

Forza Motorsport:

Speaking of Forza, Microsoft also announced and revealed a new entry in its flagship racing simulator. We did see some in-game cutscenes of Forza Motorsport (8?), with some cars looking real nice in 4k and 60 frames per second, but yet again we didn’t see any gameplay footage, which suggests that we may not see Forza launching alongside the Series X. Also, with no Forza Horizon on the horizon (heh, I had to), it’ll be interesting to see whether Sony will capitalise on Microsoft’s lack of a racing sim at launch and release Gran Turismo 7 first. Time will tell.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps:

Ori and the Will of the Wisps, one of the best games of the year so far, will be playable in 4k and 120 frames per second on Series X following an update that is due sometime this holiday season. It looks soooooo goooood.

Obsidian Entertainment is hitting the Xbox Series X with a bang:

Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity developer Obsidian Entertainment has been hard at work since Microsoft acquired it back in 2018, and it’s going to have a major footprint on the Xbox Series X’s launch! Firstly, the California-based studio showed off a huge expansion to The Outer Worlds called The Perils of Gorgon, which introduces a new planet, three new weapons and a wealth of characters for players to interact with. The Outer Worlds: The Perils of Gorgon is set to bring about 6-8 hours of content to PC, Xbox and (surprisingly) PlayStation 4 on September 9. 

Obsidian then showed off Grounded, a survival game that looks like it’s based on the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. It’s out now as an early access title on both Windows PC and Xbox; it looks joyous and fun, and we’re excited to have a play through it despite the (game) bugs we’re likely to encounter.

Set in the Pillars of Eternity universe, Obsidian’s final reveal was its next major RPG, Avowed. Judging by the cinematic trailer, which features the tiniest glimpse of gameplay, Avowed looks like it will be a better Elder Scrolls game than Elder Scrolls VI probably will be. Obsidian has not said anything about the release date, but judging by its portfolio, this is definitely one to look out for.

State of Decay 3:

Undead Labs revealed its third entry into the State of Decay franchise, State of Decay 3. We don’t know much more other than, as suggested by the CGI trailer, the game will feature zombified animals.

Psychonauts 2 has been delayed:

Tim Schafer and Double Fine Productions showed more footage of Psychonauts 2 and announced that the game will now release in 2021. Since Microsoft acquired Double Fine last year, it’s likely that this delay owes its existence to the influx of new resources available to Schafer’s studio and the potential it has to make the game even better. We totally welcome the delay, especially since the game looks incredible and appears to have more content than before. The best part of this showing, however, was the revelation that Double Fine has worked with Jack Black again, delivering a slick, psychedelic tune that is a perfect fit for a game like this. 

Tell Me Why:

Coming off the heart-wrenching Life is Strange 2, Tell Me Why is the next adventure game from France-based studio DONTNOD Entertainment. The game, which aims to tell a transgender story that is not “rooted in pain or trauma”, will release in three episodes across mid-2020. It looks like another game that will pull at our heart strings and we cannot wait to play it when the first episode releases this August exclusively on PC and Xbox. 

Everwild is the Game of the Show:

We still don’t understand what it’s really about, and we have no idea how it plays, but that hasn’t stopped the legendary Rare’s latest project, Everwild, from being our game of the show. The only real information we have about Everwild came from Microsoft’s accompanying blog post, which explains that it’s “inspired by the beauty of the natural world around us” and that players will embody beings called “Eternals” as they explore and build bonds with the world around them. It looks astonishingly gorgeous, and it’s set to come out on PC and Xbox — though neither Microsoft nor Rare divulged exactly when. 


Playing it Smart…?

In-between the cascade of games, Microsoft also shared some interesting details about its services. The most insane announcement and, really, the megaton of the whole show, is that all of its first party games, which are now part of the Xbox Game Studios banner, will come to Game Pass at launch. This is a huge customer-oriented move which tells us that Microsoft is more interested in the Netflix-like subscription model and is banking on Game Pass’s relatively low price of admission. At US$15 per month, there is no doubt that this is the best deal in gaming.

Game Pass becomes even more attractive when opting for Game Pass Ultimate which comes with Xbox Live Gold, a list of myriad third-party games that gets updated monthly, all the Xbox Game Studios games on launch day and all of the games that Microsoft makes available on PC. Of course, as it has already been said, this is a super sweet deal as it offers a tremendous value for money, but it does raise important questions around the longevity and sustainability of Microsoft’s commitment to making all of its Xbox Game Studios releases on Game Pass from day one. 

The latter concern is even more pertinent as even during this show, Microsoft already appears to have changed its mind about cross-generation exclusives. This story is still developing, but as of right now, there is confusion as to whether titles like Everwild and Fable are going to release on Xbox One at all since in both cases, the trailers only listed PC and Xbox Series X as their release platforms.

As for Smart Delivery and xCloud, Microsoft seems to be making all the right decisions. Smart Delivery, a service that will allow owners of select games (like Halo Infinite) on Xbox One to upgrade to the next-gen version for free, seems like it will be around for the long-haul and Microsoft’s very promising streaming service, xCloud, will be added to the Xbox Game Pass in September… for free!

Surprisingly, though, Microsoft didn’t really provide too much incentive for players to rush to the stores and pre-order the Xbox Series X this coming holiday season — in fact, it felt like the company was pushing the Xbox One X harder than it’ll ever push the Series X. As such, we speculate that Microsoft is focusing more on getting customers to buy into the Game Pass subscription model than to invest in the monolithic new console, which makes even more sense when you consider that games like Forza, Halo and potentially even Fable are set to be “living games”, receiving patches not too dissimilar to MMOs and that Microsoft is removing the Xbox Live Gold annual membership entirely.

Time will tell if this perhaps more unorthodox strategy will pay off, but as it stands, it feels as though the Xbox Series X is the product Microsoft is releasing so that the console enthusiast crowd won’t be swayed by the PlayStation 5 or even the Nintendo Switch. As for the product Microsoft really looks like it wants to sell — that’s Game Pass. 


Also coming to Xbox:


The Xbox Games Showcase was, on the whole, a better show than what we are usually used to from Microsoft, despite the fact that the company still needs to convince players that the Xbox Series X is worth the price of admission — which, by the by, is still unknown. As for when the Series X is set to come out, leaks and rumours seem to suggest that the machine will release sometime in November. Until then, Microsoft has confirmed that it will host more presentations later this year, and rumours suggest that Sony will respond to this event with a State of Play event in the beginning of August. 

What did you think was the highlight of the event? Has it convinced you to jump on the pre-order list? Let us know in the comments section down below, or join our community on Facebook (page, group) or Discord to chat about the Xbox Series X — and the rest of the games industry — in real time!


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