The Xbox One era was a turbulent one for Microsoft and the Xbox brand as a whole. Coming into the console generation, Microsoft almost immediately lost most of the momentum it had gathered with the Xbox 360 over the course of several years, and for the next few years, a string of bad decisions and disappointing games made for a pretty rough first half of its life for the Xbox One. Heading into the Xbox Series X/S era, however, Microsoft has a couple of years of rebuilding under its belt, with Xbox Game Pass, a number of high profile studio acquisitions, and several upcoming big games being announced for the coming years.
The Xbox Series X has been out for a year at this point, and the consensus, I think, is a generally positive one. While it’s clear that there’s still a couple of years left before we see the fruits of Microsoft’s labours where first party acquisitions and projects are concerned, there’s absolutely no doubt that the Xbox Series X has gotten off to a significantly better start than the Xbox One.
A lot of that is down to Microsoft’s new approach to the console market as a whole, honestly. While Sony is still going strong with its traditional model of making powerful consoles capable of delivering AAA experiences, bolstered by third party hits and blockbuster first party exclusives alike, Microsoft is taking a much more holistic approach to gaming as a whole. The actual consoles on the market are just a piece of the puzzle for Microsoft, with cloud and PC gaming serving a similar role, and Game Pass being the thing that the entire ecosystem revolves around.
And if Game Pass is what we judge the Xbox Series X’s first year on, then it’s easy to say that it’s been a solid year. Looking at games published on the console by Xbox Game Studios, we’ve already seen releases for games like Gears Tactics, Psychonauts 2, and Forza Horizon 5, while Halo Infinite is right around the corner as well, and of course, each of those has also been available via Game Pass right at launch. And it’s not just first party studios that have been putting out games on the service at launch. A number of notable third party games have launched day 1 on Game Pass as well, including the likes of MLB The Show 21, Outriders, The Ascent, and Back 4 Blood, to name just a few.
If you have managed to get your hands on an Xbox Series X (which continues to be a tough ask, thanks to persisting stock shortages), and if you’re judging your purchase purely based on the basis of how much content there is available for you to play, chances are you’ve been satisfied with the console thus far. Even if you’re not subscribed to Game Pass, there’s still been so much to play. On top of the games I’ve already mentioned previously, other great titles such as Tales of Arise, Lost Judgment, Scarlet Nexus, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Death’s Door, Hitman 3, and so, so, so many others have come out in the Xbox Series X’s first year.
Meanwhile, though a console’s lineup of games is what ultimately makes or breaks it, just as important is the hardware itself- and there’s not much to complain about here. Microsoft didn’t make as big a deal about the Xbox Series X’s SSD as Sony did, but they had other buzzwords to fall back on (with “Xbox Velocity Architecture” being their favourite)- the long and short of it all was, of course, that they were promising a very powerful console, and it’s fair to say the Series X is living up to that billing. Games on the console have seen significant improvements in everything from performance to resolution to the addition of ray-tracing to drastically reduced load times and more, and as we head deeper into the generation and developers begin dropping support for the older consoles and begin focusing exclusively on the newer ones, things will only get better.
And that’s true for other areas as well. In terms of game releases, 2022 is looking stacked. There’s a ridiculous number of big games that are either confirmed or likely to be releasing next year- Redfall, Starfield, Forza Motorsport, Elden Ring, The Callisto Protocol, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, and so many more. Meanwhile, it looks like 2022 is going to be an even better year for Game Pass. Any and all first party releases will, of course, launch on Game Pass day 1 (which, most importantly, includes Starfield), while a number of promising third party games have also been confirmed to be launching day 1 on the service, including the likes of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl, Replaced, Somverille, A Plague Tale: Requiem, Hello Neighbor 2, The Gunk, Atomic Heart, Recompile, and more.
Meanwhile, beyond 2022, things look even more promising, specifically where Xbox’s first party is concerned. Microsoft says it’s going to keep acquiring new studios, and that it wants to get to a point where it’s releasing at least one new first party game every quarter. How long it’ll take for them to get to that point (or if they do get to that point) remains to be seen, but even if we look ahead to the future based exclusively on their lineup of studios right now and what they have in productions, it’s hard not to get excited. With Fable, The Elder Scrolls 6, Perfect Dark, Avowed, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Everwild, The Outer Worlds 2, and Contraband, Microsoft’s lineup for releases beyond 2022 is looking mighty impressive.
Incessant leaks from sources that are generally reliable also claim there’s plenty more in the works, including a Killer Instinct revival, a Wu-Tang action RPG, a Hideo Kojima game, IO Interactive’s Project Dragon, Stoic Studio’s Project Belfry, inXile Entertainment’s Project Cobalt (which will apparently be an FPS RPG similar to Fallout), and more. Bottom line is, if things go to plan, there won’t be a lack of games to play on the Xbox Series X in the months and years ahead.
Other initiatives by Microsoft have been worthy of praise as well, with something like FPS Boost in particular having been a nice surprise. There is, of course, an argument to be made that support for something like backward compatibility in terms of new games being added to the list of supported games has been a bit lackluster of late, but hopefully, Microsoft will pick up the pace sooner rather than later.
It’s clear by now that though Microsoft does, of course, still want to sell as many consoles as it can, the thing it really wants you to spend money on first and foremost is an Xbox Game Pass subscription- if you’re doing that through a newly purchased Xbox console, that’s basically just a bonus for Microsoft at this point. If you have gone ahead and purchased an Xbox Series X though, it’s great to know that Microsoft’s clearly headed into this new console generation significantly stronger than it did the last one. The Xbox Series X is an impressive piece of hardware, has seen a number of great releases since its launch, offers great value for money thanks to Game Pass, and is promising a very tightly packed and eventful future, full of exciting games. So far, it looks all set for big success, so here’s hoping Microsoft keeps this momentum going, and most importantly, ensures that those upcoming major first party releases live up to all the expectations.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.