Let’s make something clear about Sunday: the Xbox Showcase knocked it out of the park. As they have for the past few years, Microsoft’s Game Department showed us new games, gave release windows, and ended with an hour-long showcase of their upcoming keystone release, Starfield.
All of that said, Xbox’s track record can make viewers hold off on the hype. Some exceptions aside, Xbox has done poorly in 2023. Their Activision/Blizzard merger has hit legal wall after legal wall, Redfall bombed hard, and Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, even admitted that Xbox is not doing okay.
Regardless of Announcements, Xbox Isn’t Doing Great
In an interview with Kinda Funny Games, Spencer admitted a couple of hard truths about the state of Xbox. One, as mentioned above, Redfall bombed hard. Next, Xbox flat-out failed to keep its 12-month release plan promise from their 2022 Showcase. Finally, in Spencer’s own words, “We lost the worst generation to lose in the Xbox One generation where everybody built their digital library of games.”
Those last two points reflect each other. Among the many reasons the Xbox One bombed was a lack of strong exclusives. Now, Xbox has trouble committing to their announced release schedule. To be fair, they have gotten several great games out to the people, but not their supposed platform sellers.
Redfall definitely hurt, especially as an expected platform seller. It was one thing that smaller but better received games don’t do as well, it’s another when a supposed cornerstone bombs hard. That keeps potential players from joining your specific ecosystem. If your main releases can’t bring in players, you’re in trouble.
The Gaming Community Has Seen Disappointment Before
If you follow gaming news, you may be accustomed to some hyped up releases eventually dropping the ball. Redfall, Fallout 76, Cyberpunk 2077 (which also showed off its upcoming DLC, Phantom Liberty, at the showcase) all severely underwhelmed upon release. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet released (and are still) in super buggy states.
Additionally, lengthened production cycles have extended this issue. Developers have commonly stated that production has increased from an average of three or four years to six or seven. That said, it’s still frequently common for games to also have an announced release date that continually gets pushed back.
No matter how commonplace these delays and release issues are, they still hurt. Players don’t want to play underwhelming releases at launch. That is what we got from Xbox’s supposed big release for the first half of 2023.
If Starfield Bombs, Then Xbox Needs a Full Reboot
One final clarification I need to make: I want Starfield to land. If there is any game that can come close my current runaway Game of the Year, Tears of the Kingdom, Starfield looks to have that chance. However, we need to actually see that final release before I can fully include Starfield in that conversation.
Xbox has released some highly praised and nominated video games this generation. Psychonauts 2 won our Game of the Year when it released, A Plague’s Tale: Requiem released to strong reception, and both were nominated for The Game Awards’ Game of the Year. However, neither worked out as platform sellers.
We are in year three of this console generation. The Series X/S have combined to sell half of what the PS5 has. Xbox has made some notable improvements since the last generation. However, they’ve also made some major missteps. This year’s Showcase can’t just be games we get “one day.” These games, especially Starfield, need to land.