Xbox Games Showcase: What to expect from the July event
Microsoft finally announced the date for its upcoming Xbox Series X first-party game showcase. The event will broadcast at 9 a.m. Pacific on July 23. This is the first opportunity for the Xbox Game Studios teams to show off their next-generation projects. Developer 343 Industries has already confirmed that it will show up with Halo: Infinite, but what else does Xbox boss Phil Spencer have to win you over? Let’s try to figure it out.
First, let’s put the Xbox showcase into context. This is part of the monthly Xbox 20/20 events, which started back in May with Microsoft’s smaller third-party-focused Inside Xbox. (Xbox ended up skipping June because it pushed its Xbox Series S/Lockhart reveal to August). But it is all part of what Microsoft would have originally debuted at E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo) before organizers canceled that trade show.
Microsoft has spent years building up to this point with studio acquisitions, all while growing its offerings on Xbox Game Pass. With the big blowout reveal for the Xbox Series X, it’s time for the company to prove it believes in making games.
So let’s get to what that might look like.
What to expect at the Xbox Games Showcase
Microsoft continues to emphasize that it has 15 studios working on games. While all of them are working on projects, developers like Mojang are likely not going to have anything new. But you should still expect to see a majority of these teams show up in one form or another.
The most exciting games are the unknown, blockbuster-level projects from Microsoft’s biggest teams. Let’s run through those.
Is Playground making a Fable?
Rumors continue to suggest that Playground Games is working on a Fable reboot. Playground is best known for producing the Forza Horizon games with Turn 10 Studios. But now Microsoft fully owns the company, and it paid to open a second Playground Games studio that is working on an open-world adventure.
Whether this is Fable or not doesn’t really matter to me. Even if it is, I expect it to act as a clean reboot. What matters to me is Playground Games. That studio has continually crushed the Forza Horizon games, and I’m ready to see the studio take on an open-world on foot.
This is the game I’m most looking forward to from the Xbox Games Showcase.
The Initiative is not going to bring its game to this event
In addition to acquiring existing studios, Microsoft also started a new team in Santa Monica called The Initiative. The company built this studio specifically to bring in talent to create marquee games with massive budgets.
But don’t expect to see the fruits of that just yet.
I know some rumors suggest The Initiative’s game is going to debut at the Xbox Games Showcase, but that’s not the case. Microsoft is holding it back.
It might seem like a mistake to hold anything back when you’re launching a new console, but it seems unlikely that the game is ready. The Initiative only got started in 2018. It was hiring its staff throughout 2019. If this team really is working on a next-gen blockbuster, that’s the kind of thing that can take four or five years before it’s ready to ship. And Microsoft is probably feeling like it has enough games to get through the launch of the Xbox Series X.
As for what The Initiative is working on, the rumors claim it’s a Perfect Dark reboot. And I hope that’s true. I love the idea of Microsoft digging into its weird backlog of properties and finding unique ways to update them for modern audiences.
What are the other Xbox Game Studios teams working on?
Let’s quickly run down some of the other Xbox studios.
Halo: Infinite is launching with the Xbox Series X, so it’s likely going to take up a significant portion of the event. We know that World’s Edge is working on Age of Empires IV.
Double Fine is sprucing up Psychonauts 2 with all of its Microsoft money. InXile is doing the same thing for Wasteland 3, which releases August 28. But InXile is also working on a bigger-budget game in the Unreal 5 engine.
Ninja Theory will definitely show more from Hellblade 2. Turn 10 could have a Forza game because you can’t launch a console without cars. And Rare may have something new in the works as well. But don’t expect anything from The Coalition, which just released Gears 5 in 2019.
What about Xbox Lockhart, services, and third-party?
I’m expecting the Xbox Games Showcase to live up to that title. Microsoft is going to primarily focus on games. But that doesn’t mean only first-party games, as it’s also bringing in third-party partners. That probably doesn’t mean Final Fantasy XVI from Square Enix, though (Sony is probably trying to lock that one down like Final Fantasy VII Remake).
When it comes to third-party reveals, maybe this is where Activision finally shows off the next Call of Duty. Maybe Rockstar brings Red Dead Redemption 2 here like it brought GTA V to the PlayStation event.
Or maybe Microsoft announces that it is buying all of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
When it comes to hardware, don’t expect to hear anything about Lockhart. Microsoft is saving that for August. The Xbox Series S could confuse Microsoft’s messaging, so the company is going to explain that one on its own next month.
But I would expect Microsoft to emphasize its services. It’s going to talk about Xbox Game Pass a lot. Of course, every Xbox Games Studio release is going to hit that subscription service.
But this is where Microsoft’s third-party strategy could come into play. Expect Microsoft to try to make a big splash by announcing an anticipated third-party game hitting Game Pass soon after release. Cyberpunk 2077 seems like a prime candidate.
It also seems like the right time for Microsoft to talk about the future of Xbox Gold. That service is starting to feel a bit outdated. Maybe it’s time to phase it out.
Xbox Series X price and release date
In June 2013, Microsoft and Sony revealed the price and release date for their upcoming systems. We are already well into July without that info for the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5. And I don’t expect that to change.
Microsoft is unlikely to share those details at this showcase — the timing for that is almost certainly when it unveils Lockhart in August. That’s when Spencer and his team will lay out the final details of their strategy. Until then, save your money for the preorders.