Xbox is the games publisher of 2021 | Opinion

There was a candid quote Xbox Studios chief Matt Booty gave us back in 2019.

I was fascinated to find out the impact Game Pass could have on Xbox’s willingness to cancel or delay games. Because Game Pass needs regular content to keep people happy, and because there’s less emphasis on that initial $60 price tag…could we see Xbox being more lenient with some of its titles? Could games like Fable Legends and Scalebound – which Microsoft canceled at the start of Xbox One – have survived in a Game Pass world?

Here’s what Booty said, “Right now, quality and curation are so important to us. I don’t want Game Pass to become the place where half-finished or substandard games end up. Given some of the challenges we’ve had with some things coming out of Xbox Game Studios that maybe weren’t at the level of quality that we’d like, I think for now we’re going to be very focused on improving our execution and the quality of the games we make.”

Much has been focused on Microsoft’s recent spending spree and how that will mean more games on Xbox than ever before. But “more” is only part of the conversation. Xbox also needed to come up with better games.

Microsoft was the best performer in a quiet year for video games, but 2022 promises much more for everyone

Xbox One had its fair share of great first-party games. I really like Sunset Overdrive, Forza Horizon, Ori and the Blind Forest and Sea of ​​Thieves. And the Rare Replay collection is a retro fan’s dream. But Booty’s comments acknowledge that there have been a number of duds – games like Crackdown 3, Halo Wars 2, State of Decay 2… and even regular favorites such as Gears of War didn’t quite reach the critical heights of their ancestors. .

It was all the more visible when its main competitor, PlayStation, spent the whole generation knocking out 10/10 hits.

That’s why I’m not too excited about Xbox’s recent acquisitions. This all counts for nothing unless they deliver great games.

As a football fan, I compare this to your club buying an expensive superstar striker. Chances are they’ll be amazing, score loads of goals and make a big difference in your team’s performance. But they might also struggle under another manager, they might not fit into the team, or worse, they might get injured and struggle for form.

I remember back in 2002 when Microsoft bought Rare. At the time, the British developer was billed as Microsoft’s main console studio and was working on a series of important games, including Kameo: Elements of Power and a new Perfect Dark. Both of these games were delayed, and neither would become a particularly defining release. It was actually the significantly cheaper Bungie that would turn out to be Xbox’s star signing (at least in those early days).

Halo Infinite caps six months of acclaimed releases for Xbox systems

So maybe Bethesda will continue its streak of great games, and Starfield will be a huge hit. Or maybe they will misfire. It may be Compulsions Games that creates the next big Xbox exclusive. Or maybe none of them will.

It may have taken a few months to get going, but Xbox is starting to deliver on the promises it made

There’s no doubt we’ll see more Xbox exclusives this generation, but it’s not certain we’ll see better ones. And until they start releasing games, Microsoft’s recent acquisitions are just that… acquisitions.

This year was less about Microsoft’s new teams and projects, and more about its classic franchises, developed either by established internal teams or partner studios. And here we see Matt Booty staying true to that promise to improve the execution and quality of his games.

Microsoft launched the Xbox Series X and S with one of the weakest lineups of exclusive games we’ve seen. It might not have mattered much given the stock situation, but it certainly didn’t look great compared to what PlayStation had to offer.

Halo: Infinite’s delay has been a real disgrace when it comes to new console launches, but 12 months later it just looks like Booty is doing what he said he would. From Microsoft Flight Simulator to Psychonauts 2 to Age of Empires 4 to Forza Horizon 5 to Halo: Infinite, Xbox finished 2021 as the year’s best game publisher and made Game Pass even more irresistible in the process.

Most of these games have over 85 Metacritic scores, and that’s not counting Deathtloop, which was made by a Microsoft-owned studio, albeit exclusively for the PlayStation console.

To stay true to the football metaphor, there is an old football adage that is often mentioned: “Form is temporary, class is permanent”. Microsoft has been the best performer in a quiet year for video games, but 2022 promises much more for everyone.

Sony has a new God of War, Horizon, and Gran Turismo in their final stages of development, while Nintendo teases more Splatoon, Kirby, and Zelda. For fans of exclusive games, 2022 is looking very good (at least until the delays arrive).

And we know a lot about it from Microsoft. Not all of them are slated for release in 2022, but Xbox’s many studios are already hard at work on Fable, Perfect Dark, Everwild, Forza Motorsport, State of Decay 3, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Red Fall (currently slated for 2022), as well as Obsidian’s double whammy for The Outer Worlds 2 and new fantasy IP Avowed. And there’s Bethesda’s highly anticipated Starfield, confidently announced for November 11th.

The work of Microsoft studios is therefore now to continue this form. To stand shoulder to shoulder with some of these great sequels, and for its new acquisitions to fulfill their potential.

It may have taken a few months to get going, but Xbox is starting to deliver on the promises it made.