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Xbox execs explain why 2024 will be a strong year for the console

Phil Spencer, Sarah Bond, Matt Booty, and Todd Howard take a look at the year ahead for Microsoft, Xbox, and the company's newly acquired studios.

George Yang, Contributor

June 12, 2023

5 Min Read

The 2023 Xbox Games Showcase had a strong showing as Xbox Game Studios revealed its lineup of new titles coming later this year and beyond. During a roundtable after the showcase, titled “What’s Next for Xbox,” four Microsoft executives discussed the future of the Xbox platform: Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer, corporate vice president Sarah Bond, head of Xbox Studios Matt Booty, and Bethesda executive producer Todd Howard.

Booty touted the output of Xbox Games Studios’ recent output over the last few years, including Forza Horizon 5, Psychonauts 2, and Pentiment, which were some of the most critically acclaimed titles of the current generation.

“We had some gaps last year, but I think we've turned the corner coming into 2023, [and] feeling very good about launching Hi-Fi Rush,” says Booty. “We've got Minecraft Legends out there, which is doing well. We've had Age of Empires continuing to come to consoles.”

The Xbox Games Showcase placed an October 10 release date for Forza Motorsport and presented a deep dive into the upcoming Starfield. Additionally, both Ninja Theory’s Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II and Obsidian Entertainment’s Avowed, as well as Stoic Studio’s Towerborne and a new Microsoft Flight Simulator are all slated to launch in 2024.

Booty exclaims that 2024 is the year Xbox really kicks things into high gear.

Xbox’s acquired studios are finally unveiling their games

Two new games were also revealed: inExile’s Clockwork Revolution and Compulsion Games’ South of Midnight. Booty says that they’re both the respective studios’ first games under the Xbox banner and that they’ve started post-acquisition.

“All of that is really part of our goal to get to at least four games a year,” Booty explains. “It’s those games that sit on top of the games that we've already got such big communities around our service games, like Minecraft games, like Elder Scrolls, games that continue to build communities.”

These first-party games are expected to launch on Xbox Game Pass the same day as their normal release dates. Bond mentioned working with developers, both first-party and third-party, about how they monetize their games.

A screenshot from South of Midnight.

She doesn’t want creators to be constrained about what they want to make, thinking they have to make something free-to-play or live-service. However, the existence of Game Pass allows studios to create the experience they want while also being part of a curated discovery program.

Bond also said that two thirds of developers who participate in Game Pass have had previous games on the service before. “We have over 5000 developers today across 100 countries developing games for Xbox,” she explains. “That's when I know we got it right. It's something that players love, but it's also something that actually helps creators do what they want to do.”

Microsoft is still experimenting with Xbox pricing, hardware

Microsoft also introduced a new 1 terabyte version of the Xbox Series S in carbon black, retailing at $350. Spencer reiterated the critical importance of the console within the Microsoft ecosystem. For some consumers, the $500 for the Xbox Series X was too high, so the Series S was a way to bring in new customers to the console space. Microsoft also had been listening to feedback that the 500 gigabytes of storage was too little for the Series S, especially for a digital-only console.

Spencer mentioned that the team has heard the feedback about how pricy the Xbox Series expansion cards are as well–Xbox is working on the situation.

“We also wanted to make a console that had one terabyte inside. And we continue to take feedback on our console, we continue to build out the roadmap of where the console is today, where it'll be tomorrow, and frankly, where it'll be in the future for Xbox,” he explains. “We remain very committed to that style of play, the creators who are building for that space, and the pillar that it is for our brand.”

Bethesda’s Starfield is Xbox’s biggest game for 2023, and Howard described how the studio had a long and fruitful partnership even all the way back to the original Xbox days with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. He said that through every new hardware generation, people typically look at shinier graphics. However, the Xbox Series consoles offer more than that.

“I think that's different this time with the Series X and S is it gives us flexibility to do a game like Starfield. It's not just about graphics, but it's about simulating planets and spaceships where anything can happen,” Todd explained. “And so that flexibility allows creators to take those risks on a technical level.”

The flexibility allows players to play games wherever they choose, whether it's on console, PC, or cloud. Bond also revealed that PC Game Pass would be coming to GeForce Now, allowing players to play their catalog through devices that support the streaming service.

Despite challenges, the Xbox business model appears strong

The pending Activision Blizzard acquisition was briefly brought up and Spencer said that it was a learning experience. Over 40 countries have approved the merger while The CMA has blocked the acquisition and the FTC appears ready to file an injunction that would do the same.

“We think there's a real capability that Activision Blizzard King has specifically in mobile, and PC and just growing our portfolio that will help us find more players and reach more players”, he explains. “The work is ongoing, but we remain confident when we think about the work. We're out there to find solutions with the regulators that have questions.”

Even without Activision Blizzard’s playerbase, Spencer notes that Xbox has never had more players than right now.

“We're going to do over a billion dollars in PC revenue this year for the first time ever for us at Microsoft. So when we think about the progress that we're making on console, we're bigger than we've been. We have more players, and the business is significantly bigger,” he explains. “The business for all of us continues to grow and that's our goal.”

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