We’ve been told that 2023 is a major year for the Xbox brand. On gaming’s biggest night, Xbox was nowhere. We got an early shoutout to Phil Spencer, who was in the audience. After that, nothing.
The lack of awards was expected; Microsoft’s first-party developers are still working on their upcoming titles. Forza Motorsport, Redfall, Starfield, and Avowed are on the way. Still, it would have been nice to see footage or cinematic trailers for these games after the words “World Premiere.” Even a passing mention of their existence outside of a sizzle reel.
Companies like Sony, Nintendo, Activision, Blizzard, and Bandai Namco enjoyed the spotlight. Indie developers, such as Supergiant Games and Extremely OK Games, updated fans as to what they’re working on. Yet on the precipice of their most important year yet, the only Xbox related news we got was about the FTC filing a complaint against the attempted acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
It’s not a good look.
Why Didn’t Xbox Make Any Announcements
On the surface, there’s probably nothing ready to be shown off. While we’ve seen teasers from games like Avowed, Fable, and Perfect Dark, those games are still a couple of years off. Redfall and Starfield, both of which are published under the Bethesda Softworks banner, both saw recent delays. It’s possible that these games aren’t ready for a prime-time spotlight, but putting them on people’s radars would at least be, you know, nice.
We’re supposedly six months from Redfall’s release, and I feel hard-pressed to recall much of anything about the game. The marketing strategy for it has been bizarre, to say the least.
The reboot for Forza Motorsport is set to release next spring. Couldn’t we get a sizzle reel for that? A highlight of some of the incredible games added to Game Pass this year? You just announced the addition of the Riot Games portfolio. Couldn’t you do a hype real for that over just a press release on a website? Silence about the year’s worth of updates to Halo Infinite, almost as if it really doesn’t matter what’s added to the game. You just launched a remake of The Pit map from Halo 3. You added in the Custom Game Browers. Why aren’t they shouting this from the rooftops?
For a company that needs a strong 2023, they’re not setting itself up for success. PlayStation fans took their victory lap last night, and they know more is coming down the road. Even Nintendo fans saw a new game announced with Bayonetta: Cereza and the Lost Demon.
During a night when the best of gaming is celebrated, Xbox fans were instead talking about issues with the Activision Blizzard merger.
Did Microsoft Announce Their Upcoming Games Too Soon
At BlizzCon 2018, Diablo Immortal was revealed during the convention’s opening ceremony. It became clear that this would be the only Diablo related news of the show. Instead of a full-fledged sequel to Diablo 3, it was a mobile-focused free-to-play game that ended up being filled with predatory monetization.
A year later, we got an incredible trailer for Diablo 4 and have been constantly kept in the loop with developer updates. So why didn’t Blizzard just put up an image that said “Diablo 4” on the BlizzCon screen? More than likely, the game’s troubled development meant it wasn’t ready for a reveal.
Why do I bring this up? Because Microsoft has used The Game Awards and other shows to announce new games. Two years ago, during the TGAs, Perfect Dark and Avowed were announced with cinematic trailers. The fable reboot from Playground Games was announced earlier that year during the Xbox Games Showcase. Since then, it’s been mostly radio silence on these highly anticipated games.
Except for the news that Prefect Dark Director Dan Neuburger left the development team, that is.
I understand that these games may be having a difficult time in development or that their original announcement was to help attract talent to work on them. Still, there’s nothing they can do to keep their fans engaged?
This is similar to Nintendo’s marketing pattern: months, if not years, of silence before fully unveiling a game months before release. The only issue is that Nintendo has constantly delivered, especially this year. The Xbox brand has struggled since the Xbox Series X|S launch.
What Can Microsoft Do to Hype up 2023?
Step one is reminding their fans of everything coming in the next year. Putting all their eggs into the basket of acquiring Activision Blizzard is an interesting strategy. Still, it’s also one that’s not even guaranteed to pay off even if the deal is approved.
Next, understand when the right time to display your games is. If you do it too early, like Perfect Dark, you run the risk of people constantly waiting for news. If you don’t utilize the spotlight available, then people are disappointed. Aaron Greenberg, VP of Xbox Marketing, mentioned we wouldn’t have to wait long to see what’s coming next. Phil Spencer is on the record saying that their first party releases are lacking. The Xbox team at Microsoft knows something has to change soon.
Honestly, I’m not sure what they’re waiting for, and people are starting to lose their patience.
The potential is there for a bright future for Xbox. They’ve spent recent years acquiring talent, bringing back beloved IPs, and prepping for a new day of gaming. Now they have to deliver like their biggest competitors.