For all the complaints of Xbox’s 1st party line up over this generation, one of the biggest issues I had in my opinion was its diversity in games. Honestly I believe that their flagship games, though a bit lacking in comparison to past titles. Still were pretty good games and overall rated as such. Microsoft attempted to bring something different to the table this gen with games like D4, Quantum Break, Sunset Overdrive, Ori and The Blind Forest, Cuphead, Killer Instinct and others. However for whatever reason some of those game did not excel as expected. Things compounded further as the cancellation of Fable Legends & Scalebound was announced, along with the closures of Lionhead & Pressplay studios. Suddenly things looked bleak for the Xbox division and left many of it’s fans with a lot of questions.
In step’s Head of Xbox Phil Spencer as he begins to sort of rebuild the division from the ground up. Expanding 1st party games to include PC as a platform, Introduces gamepass and acquires multiple studios including building a studio from scratch. Which leads us to Ninja Theory one of Microsoft new 1st party studios. The developers of HellBlade have been hard at work as of late. Going from a studio on the verge of closer to an expansion of over 120 employees and a new workspace thanks to the acquisition. The Idea was to allow the studio to be free and creative, something Microsoft isn’t known for allowing. However under new leadership, you can see the changes in place. Many gamers were skeptical initially of Ninja Theory’s direction when they announce Bleeding Edge. A melee brawler which seemed different from the norm of Ninja Theory & something that was right up Xbox’s alley. It initially seem like Xbox hadn’t changed after all, until the big surprise at this year’s game awards with the announcement of HellBlade 2: Senua’s Saga.
Not only were Ninja Theory working on a sequel to one of their most critically acclaimed games but Microsoft also announce their next gen-platform creating a much needed buzz for Xbox. Ninja Theory wasn’t done however as they had a new initiative with a focus on mental health called Project Insight. With the studio growing, they expanded their development to multiple project for multiple teams. The idea of 10 people working on HellBlade shows the talent of the studio, expanding on that has allowed them to now develop Bleeding Edge, HellBlade 2 and the Newly introduce Project: Mara with the 120+ dev’s at the studio. With double the devs on HellBlade 2 and new devs from studios like Sony Santa monica & Rockstar. The thing about it though, is that Microsoft has diversified their library in one fell swoop with only one of its studios. Xbox now has a Brawler, a 3rd person action adventure and Psychological Horror game added to their 1st party portfolio. 2 of those said games seem to be next-gen titles but we’ve also learned the next Xbox is forward compatible.
I personally can’t remember the last xbox exclusive horror game Microsoft has had but the only game that comes to mind is Sega’s Condemned. With them throwing their hat in the arena based brawler ring, Xbox may have something for everyone under the new Xbox Studios. Obsidian released their new IP The Outer Worlds last fall with a possible sequel in the cards & announced a smaller title in Grounded a survival game. Playground Games continues with their successful Forza Horizon franchise while building a 2nd studio heading up an open world rpg. Ori and The Will of The Wisp launches in March & Halo Infinite will launch with The Xbox Series X. With E3 2020 in a couple a month’s Xbox fans are excited for the possibilities of Xbox 1st party once more. Xbox seems to be focusing on narrative driven games this upcoming gen, plus maintaining their strength in quality multiplayer games from their flagships. If they continue on this path, this may be their most diverse & fresh line up since the OG xbox. Which could lead to success as good as the Xbox 360 & Xbox One as the generation that everything changed for the Xbox Division.