Saying that Microsoft’s first party has improved greatly would be underselling the massive strides it’s made in the last few years. Where once, not too long ago, Xbox had the weaker first party in the industry by far, now it’s threatening to stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Nintendo and Sony. Microsoft the Xbox Game Studios umbrella is only going to keep on expanding, but even in its current state, with nearly two dozen studios and a whole host of exciting games in development across all of them, there’s a ridiculous amount of things to look forward to. And here, we’re going to talk about all the games that are confirmed or rumoured to be in development across all Microsoft first party studios.
Let’s start with the big one. Halo may not be what it used to be, but 343 Industries and Microsoft are hoping that the upcoming Halo Infinite is going to be a much-needed shot in the arm for the series. With a semi open-world campaign and free-to-play multiplayer, the game is making some interesting changes, and while there’s still some skepticism about how it’s shaping up (especially the campaign), we’re hoping that the additional year of development Halo Infinite was afforded will have been enough for 343 Industries to make the improvements they needed to. Meanwhile, while Halo Infinite is going to be sticking around for many years after its launch, job listings last year suggested that 343 Industries is working on additional Halo projects as well- hopefully it’s Halo Wars 3, but at this point, all we can do is speculate.
The Coalition recently confirmed that they were switching their development pipelines to migrate fully to Unreal Engine 5, which means that at least for the foreseeable future, the developer is going to be focused fully on learning the ins and outs of the engine. While this means we’re not going to see much from them in the immediate future, there are still rumours about their planned projects. Apparently, their next game is going to be a smaller and experimental new IP, and they’re allegedly using its development as a means to get familiarized with Unreal Engine 5, following which they’re going to shift their full attention to Gears 6. There’s the possibility that The Coalition is also going to partner with other developers to make something like Gears Tactics, but that’s more wishful thinking than a rumour or leak.
TURN 10 STUDIOS
Turn 10 Studios have been focused solely and exclusively on Forza Motorspot for as long as they have existed, and that obviously isn’t changing any time soon (though they do often provide development support for Playground Games’ projects as well, and vice versa). Turn 10’s next game is, of course, the next Forza Motorsport, which currently has no release date, but is still shaping up to be an interesting prospect. And interesting not just because it’s a new Forza game- no, apparently, the next game in the series, titled simply Forza Motorsport, is a reboot of the racing sim franchise, and will be rethinking a lot of things from the ground-up. It should be interesting to see what shape that takes.
Playground Games have emerged as one of Microsoft’s best and most consistent developers in the last few years, and the coming years have the potential to take them to even greater heights. In November, they’re coming out with another Forza game, and Forza Horizon 5 might just be the best game in the series yet. It certainly looks that good so far. Meanwhile, beyond that, they’re also working on a Fable reboot. On that front, we know very little. Fable has always had a very particular style and tone as a series, and Playground Games’ take on it is obviously going to stick with that, but given the absence of information on the game, we don’t have too much to go on. Either way, it’s an exciting project, and hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of it soon.
The Initiative was established around the same time that the likes of Ninja Theory and Playground Games were purchased by Xbox, but even though they’re Microsoft’s youngest studio, they still have a whole lot of eyes on them. And that’s because they’re working on Perfect Dark. Rare’s beloved franchise has been dormant for a long, long time, and arguably has never quite lived up to its full potential. With The Initiative’s series revival, hopefully it’ll be back on top of the industry and end up delivering a game that sets the stage for a rich and successful future for it.
Speaking of Rare- they’re quite busy as well. Sea of Thieves is, of course, going stronger than ever. What once started out as a disappointing case of squandered potential has turned the ship around and ended up being one of the best live service games currently on the market, and Rare is obviously going to keep on supporting it with new updates and content for some time to come. Beyond that, the developer is also working on Everwild… which is a bit of a mystery. There’s a great deal we don’t know about the game, and as good as it looks from what little we’ve seen of it, the reports speaking about the game’s troubled development have certainly got us a little worried. Either way, it looks like this isn’t going to be out for quite some time yet, so hopefully, Rare will get the time they need to resolve this situation.
Undead Labs’ State of Decay games have never really wowed anybody- they’ve been enjoyable yet middling up until now, and crippled by issues that have been hard to ignore (especially at launch). The hope, however, is that State of Decay 3 will be much better, especially with the full development support that Undead Labs will now be benefiting from as an Xbox-owned studio. Granted, we’ve only seen a CG trailer of the game till now, but hopefully, with additional resources, finances, and development time, State of Decay 3 will be able to touch heights that its predecessors never could. Given that it was in early pre-production when it was announced though, we probably won’t be seeing this one for a while.
Microsoft is doing some exciting things outside of the console space as well, of course, and there is no better example of that than the upcoming Age of Empires 4. Due out this October, Age of Empires 4 is bringing back the real-time strategy series in what’s looking like appropriately excellent fashion. Relic Entertainment and World’s Edge are crafting what’s looking like an exciting comeback for the beloved series, and if what we’ve seen of it so far is any indication, it’s going to be worth the wait.
Obsidian Entertainment is keeping quite busy, and the future looks packed for the studio. Grounded – an excellent survival game from a studio that has no experience with the genre whatsoever – entered early access last year, and will be receiving its full launch at some point in the future. Meanwhile, fantasy RPG Avowed is also in the works, which we know very little about. Reports suggest it’s releasing in 2023 (along with the likes of Fable and Perfect Dark), but hopefully, we’ll see gameplay in the near future. And of course, there’s The Outer Worlds 2 as well, which is probably quite far away. The game’s hilariously self-aware reveal trailer made it abundantly clear that we shouldn’t expect it any time soon- whenever it arrives though, its sure to turn heads.
Wasteland 3 is going to be receiving a second expansion at some point in the future, but beyond that, what else is inXile Entertainment working on? Apparently, they’ve got multiple RPGs in the works, and though one of these is in early pre-production, we’ve got some interesting details on the one that’s next in line for launch. It’s going to be built on Unreal Engine 5, and apparently, it’s going to be an FPS RPG similar to Fallout. The Wasteland games are already very similar to classic Fallout, of course, so that shift in direction makes a lot of sense for the studio. The developer has warned us, however, that we won’t be hearing much about their future projects for a while, which means they’re probably very early in development.
Compulsion Games’ future is shrouded in mystery, and has been for quite some time. We Happy Few was a strange game, one that hinted at having potential, but fell short of living up to it in significant ways, but there are many who feel that with the full financial backing of Microsoft, they’re going to be much likelier to deliver a game that can do justice to its ambitions. That they have something new in development is obvious, of course – Microsoft didn’t acquire them to just let them sit around – but that that “something new” is is a complete mystery right now.
Probably one of Microsoft’s biggest and most exciting studios right now. Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 is obviously their flagship upcoming game, and even though it’s probably at least a couple of years away and has shown absolutely no gameplay, it’s hard not to be excited about it (especially in terms of what Ninja Theory will be able to achieve from a visuals and storytelling perspective). Beyond that, the developer is also working on the smaller and much more experimental Project Mara, which seems to be shaping up nicely. We’re very curious to learn more about that and learn exactly what it is.
BETHESDA GAME STUDIOS
Microsoft’s first party was looking quite strong already, but when they purchased ZeniMax Media, they bolstered the Xbox Game Studios lineup with some of the best and biggest names in the entire industry. And the fact that they’ve got the people who make The Elder Scrolls and Fallout as a first party developer still feels a little surreal. Bethesda Game Studios’ Starfield is launching next year, and though we’d certainly like to see some actual gameplay, everything that’s being said about it so far makes us optimistic about how it’s shaping up. Probably many, many years after that, we’re also going to get The Elder Scrolls 6. And of course, Fallout 76 is continuing to receive new content on a regular basis, and in spite of how things started out for that game, Bethesda’s efforts to turn things around for it have been admirable (and surprisingly effective).
When Arkane Studios makes something, you can’t not pay attention. From Dishonored and its sequels to Prey, they’ve only ever put out masterpieces, so of course, it goes without saying that we’re excited about their upcoming games. Curiously enough, their next game, Deathloop, is a PS5 console exclusive. Beyond that, they’ve got Redfall in the works, which is promising to expand the Arkane style of game design and take it into an open world with co-op gameplay, which sounds incredibly exciting. It’s due out in 2022, and hopefully, a gameplay debut is not far away.
Arguably the best first person shooter developer in the industry right now, id Software was a huge get for Microsoft. DOOM Eternal has received its two expansions by now, and more support is on the way as well, in the form of a new horde mode, but what else has the studio got in the works? Reports have suggested that they’re working on a Quake reboot, which, honestly, sounds perfect- the last time id brought back one of its legendary shooter franchises with a reboot, things turned out alright. Of course, this is still just speculation- but we really hope it’s true.
Speaking of legendary id Software shooter franchises- what’s going on with Wolfenstein? It’s been four years since we got Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, and sure, there was Youngblood in 2019, but that’s still a pretty long wait for the next mainline game in the series. While Bethesda and Microsoft are remaining tight-lipped on Wolfenstein 3, they have suggested that fans need not be worried about the series’ future, so hopefully that announcement isn’t far away. Meanwhile, the MachineGames title that has been officially confirmed is Indiana Jones– which we know nothing about. Of course, a big budget AAA Indiana Jones game is exciting, but the game’s in very early pre-production right now, which means we’re going to be waiting for it a long time.
Funnily enough, this Xbox-owned first party studio’s only officially announced game right now is a PS5 console exclusive. GhostWire: Tokyo certainly looks like an intriguing prospect, but we know very little about it right now, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that it’s not going to hit its initially confirmed 2021 launch window. Beyond that though, what can we expect from Tango? The Evil Within 3? We certainly hope so. The Evil Within 2 was a commercial failure (in spite of how great it was), but maybe Microsoft will give the series another shot.
ZENIMAX ONLINE STUDIOS
ZeniMax Online Studios has done an admirable job managing The Elder Scrolls Online since it launched in April 2014. No, it’s no World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy 14, but the game’s got a sizeable and dedicated player base that keeps coming back and growing owing to a steady stream of content. Obvously, ZeniMax Online is going to keep working on TES Online. On top of that, however, they’ve also set up a new studio in San Diego that’s currently working on a new unannounced IP. We know absolutely nothing about it, other than the fact that it exists, but we’re going to be keeping an eye on their progress for sure.
Finally, the Xbox Game Studios Publishing arm is also working with several external, non-Xbox owned studios to make Xbox-exclusive games. The one that we know about for a fact is Contraband, the co-op open world smuggling shooter from Just Cause developers Avalanche Studios. Meanwhile, leaks claim that Hitman studio IO Interactive is working with Xbox on a fantasy action RPG set in a connected open world, currently being called Project Dragon. And of course, there’s Hideo Kojima, who is allegedly on the verge of signing a deal with Microsoft for an Xbox-exclusive game that will apparently be focused on cloud technology. It should be interesting to see how that shapes up.