It’s become a meme by now that Xbox fans are accustomed to hearing “wait for next year” or the next event. With 2023 on the horizon, this has to be the year Xbox delivers to its customers and begins fulfilling its promise of releasing a AAA title every quarter. I do believe we will start to see this promise begin to partially unfold this year. Here’s our take on the state of Xbox going into 2023.
Regulators Finally Approve Microsoft’s Acquisition of Activision-Blizzard-King
The biggest acquisition in tech will finally come to a close. To say that the Activision acquisition took over 2022 headlines would be an understatement. The news first broke out in January that Microsoft seeks to acquire the controversial and beleaguered Activision-Blizzard-King (ABK) and it never ceased to drop off from the spotlight.
The fact that Xbox is already making deals to bring Call of Duty to new platforms speaks volumes about their confidence in getting the deal approved. There will likely be some concessions that Microsoft is happy to provide such as keeping Call of Duty multi-platform for numerous years. Perhaps also freezing Game Pass subscription fees for a certain period.
The deal will likely close within the range Microsoft first predicted which is by August 2023. Expect a showcase similar to when Microsoft acquired ZeniMax and announce a slew of Activision games immediately hitting Game Pass during the event.
State of Xbox – Delayed Games Making 2023 a Packed Year
Undoubtedly, COVID-19 wreaked havoc on almost every aspect of life, including game development. Now, with the pandemic increasingly being shown in the rear-view mirror, developers and publishers have jam-packed 2023 with titles with delayed titles.
Most notably, Starfield and Redfall claimed top spots for the platform’s most anticipated list of delayed games. As promised from the Xbox Games Showcase 2022, these games are expected to hit in the first half of 2023. This also includes Forza Motorsport and Minecraft Legends. Ghost Wire Tokyo‘s one-year anniversary is coming up in March 2023, and will likely release on the Xbox ecosystem. And if the ABK acquisition goes through, you can add Diablo 4 to the mix as well.
Third-Party and Indie Titles will Continue to Carry Game Pass
Despite some strong first-party games to release in 2023, I still expect third-party and indie deals to do most of Game Pass’s heavy lifting. Already the first quarter of the year is packed with satiating titles. This includes Persona 3, Persona 4, Monster Hunter Rise, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, Atomic Hearts, and many more.
And these are only the confirmed games for Q1, there are still many more titles like Lies of P, Replaced, perhaps S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 (but we shouldn’t rush it), Ark 2, Flintlock: Siege of Dawn, Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Hero, and other titles that are slated to hit Game Pass day one in 2023.
Xbox will Pivot to Multiple Shows During the Year
With over 20 studios pre-Activision acquisition, Xbox will need to spread out announcements throughout the year. No longer saving everything for the traditional summer/E3 period will suffice anymore. ZeniMax already provides well QuakeCon as a potential event that could bring Xbox branding to it. Additionally, BlizzCon is another venue that could be used by Xbox once the acquisition is approved.
There are rumors that Xbox is planning an event in January. This could potentially be why they were a no-show during this year’s The Game Awards show. Regardless, Xbox will have more options than ever to expand its marketing and communications with its customers.
Xbox Tries its Luck to Break the Android and Apple App Store Duopoly
Microsoft admitted that King was the primary motivator behind the Activision acquisition. Once the deal is approved, Microsoft will likely put all ZeniMax, Blizzard, and Activision mobile titles into one app store. The ultimate goal of this is to take on Google and Apple.
Having titles such as Candy Crush, Call of Duty mobile, Fallout Shelter, Hearthstone, Diablo Immortal, Warcraft Arclight, and Elder Scrolls: Blade already provides a slew of heavy hitters in the prospective app store.
Microsoft will also likely leverage its previous dealings with Riot and Epic to include their mobile games in their app store. This will likely create some tremors in the mobile space.
PC Game Pass will Become its Own Beast
A lot of Xbox fans were not happy that some games launched first on PC like Gears Tactics and Age of Empires IV. I expect this gulf to be further widened in 2023. Microsoft themselves admitted that console Game Pass subscriptions were beginning to plateau. That likely means that Xbox will push harder to acquire new PC Game Pass subscribers.
We’re already seeing glimpses of this today. Warhammer 40,000: Darktide launched first on PC. In addition, the Riot Games deal looks like it will entice a lot of people to sign up for a PC Game Pass. Expect PC Game Pass to become its own beast and likely provide more-platform centric offerings.
Final Thoughts on the State of Xbox 2023
Despite the memes, 2023 is going to be a phenomenal year for Xbox. It will set a precedent going forward, in terms of a regular stream of game releases. However, a lot is riding on the ABK deal. If/once it gets approved and goes through, Xbox fans will start to see a change in how the Xbox ecosystem develops, especially on the mobile front.
Still, there are questions on how Battle net will be integrated into the Xbox ecosystem. What will happen with World of Warcraft subscribers and future expansions? Does WoW eventually make its way onto Xbox Series X/S consoles? Will Activision studios begin developing games other than Call of Duty and Warzone? Will Game Pass receive a price hike in 2023 similar to Xbox first-party games? In time, all of these questions and more will be answered. But until then, the fans should look forward to 2023 and what will be a promising year for team green.