The year 2023 has been a landmark year for Microsoft and the Xbox division. Successful releases of games like Starfield, Hi-Fi Rush, and Forza Motorsport, successfully buying Activision Blizzard King after many trials, and having one of their best E3 caliber showings in decades. The major wins for Xbox can’t be stated enough, even if roadblocks like the lackluster release of Redfall were public black eyes. With the year 2024 here, Xbox is set for an even more successful year.
Exciting Roadmap with an Eager First Party
Continuing the momentum from 2023’s line up, 2024 is set to be a packed year for Xbox’s first-party offerings. Potentially kicking things off is the Castle Crashers-esque title Towerborne. The game is looking to be a grand return to the glory days of Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) four-player co-op action.
Following this is the next installment in the Microsoft Flight Simulator series. Promising a wealth of more gamified modes and pushing the hybrid of console/cloud technology, the game is set to be another visually impressive showpiece release from Plague Tale developer Asobo.
The remaining two pillar games set for 2024 are Obsidian’s Avowed and Ninja Theory’s Hellblade 2.
After having a strong showing at the 2023 Xbox Game’s Showcase, Avowed looks to offer another Outer Worlds-like adventure set in the Pillars of Eternity universe. Exciting first-person melee and magic combat, a sizable world to explore and the studio’s prior track record with great Xbox releases like Pentiment and Grounded make this one to keep an eye on for the year.
Being shown many times over the past three years, Hellblade 2 is finally set for release. No doubt the most impressive of the four announced 2024 titles, Ninja Theory is set on offering Xbox’s answer to the AAA releases usually seen on PlayStation ala The Last of Us. Finally showing us some impressive-looking combat at The Game Awards in December and impressive story scenes in the Xbox Showcase. This high-budget action/adventure is set to impress whenever it releases this year.
Welcome to the Family Activision Blizzard King
It is finally done. Activision Blizzard King is now officially a Microsoft-owned entity. And with that, their massive legacy of IP and games are set to be unleashed across Game Pass throughout 2024.
It cannot be understated how much Activision has in its back catalog outside of the obvious 21 years of Call of Duty releases. The entire Crash Bandicoot series, the Spyro series, Prototype, Skylanders, Guitar Hero, Hexxen, nearly two decades of Marvel games… And that’s just off the top of my head. All of these and potentially even more will be part of Game Pass by the end of 2024 and that is a massive injection of quality titles for a platform hungry for more games.
In addition, the mobile money from King will be funding major projects across all sectors of Xbox while also teaching Xbox Game Studios how to make successful mobile games. And in the PC space, Blizzard finally getting its independence back will ensure future releases from the studio are the highest quality.
It cannot also be stated enough that under Xbox, the thousands of developers across Activision can finally breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Bobby Kotick is firmly out of the picture. Expect working conditions to improve in earnest now.
Lastly, the major releases from Activision in 2024 are all likely going to be day one on Game Pass. This will include a potential Crash or Spyro release and possibly the rumored Call of Duty Black Ops: Gulf War.
Growing the Cloud and Ecosystem
Microsoft has made it no secret they plan on expanding Game Pass as a platform. 2023 made efforts in this area, with releases of cloud-focused handhelds like the Logitech G-Cloud and full-on endorsing PC handhelds like the ROG Ally. And I fully expect this to expand even more with Game Pass coming to other platforms.
In fact, Microsoft put Game Pass on VR platforms in December 2023. While none of the Game Pass library are VR titles themselves, if you own a Meta Quest platform it’s now possible to play Game Pass games using a VR Headset.
Partnerships established thanks to the FTC and CMA trials ensured Xbox games will be in more hands than ever before, with most of that going into effect in 2024. In addition, more games from the ABK library will be added to Nvidia’s G-Force Now service.
One platform I fully expect Xbox and Microsoft looking to add to this ever-growing list will be Nintendo. With the heavily rumored Switch 2 inbound for this year and that being an ideal platform thanks to the strong partnership Xbox and Nintendo have fostered over the years.
Lastly, key features many people have been asking the Xbox team for should ideally be happening now, including but not limited to a revamped Achievements system and potentially restarting the Backward Compatibility program. Improvements for Xbow Cloud Gaming would be very welcomed too. Considering their competition offers full 4K streaming for native next-generation games while Xbox Cloud Gaming is still limited to 1080p.
Sailing Forbidden Seas
When you think of Japanese gaming, an Xbox isn’t the first platform that comes to mind. That is something Microsoft has been slowly, but surely, working on changing this generation. And with 2023 making substantial strides with an even stronger partnership with SEGA/Atlus and even repairing the sizable rift with Square Enix, 2024 will show the fruits of those labors.
In 2024 alone, there will be the day-one Game Pass release of Persona 3 Reload, a beautiful-looking remake of the first Persona game that kickstarted the formula that Persona 4 Golden and Persona 5 and its Royal expansion ran with. In addition, Xbox has the marketing rights for the next major Atlus-developed JRPG Metaphor: Refantazio.
This game is set to be Atlus’ answer to Square Enix’s Final Fantasy. The game sports a medieval fantasy setting, a mixture of turn-based and action-combat, impressive visuals, and an all-star cast of Japanese developers from games like Nier Automata and prior Persona releases.
Square Enix having releases on Xbox in 2024 is a substantial step forward. This includes a new installment in the Mana series, Octopath Traveler 2, and the landmark release of Final Fantasy XIV on Xbox for the first time. Time will tell if AAA Final Fantasy games will come to Xbox in the future, but the seemingly frayed relationship is finally mending.