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Xbox Games Showcase: 6 highlights from Microsoft’s E3 follow-up

With E3 behind us, Microsoft decided to delve deeper into its recently announced updates and titles at a post-event Xbox Games Showcase.

Not only did we see more gameplay from upcoming Xbox games, but we also got more information on the decisions and work behind the scenes on certain titles, along with a few release date reminders and some surprises. Microsoft also went into more depth on games like Microsoft Flight Simulator, Battlefield 2042, and more. Here are six highlights from the broadcast.

Forza Horizon 5 early access

Forza Horizon 5 - Game Overview | Xbox Games Showcase

Forza Horizon 5 is already a must-have for racing game fans and now they can get early access if they so choose. By purchasing the premium edition or the premium edition add-ons, players will be able to play the new Forza days before its November 9 holiday season release.

Relaunch of Xbox Design Lab

Xbox Design Lab | Xbox Games Showcase 2021

The Xbox Design Lab was a great asset to Xbox One owners who wanted to create their own customized controller. After the program went on a slight pause in 2020 to bring in a few updates, it returns today and gives fans the ability to customize the next-gen Xbox Series X|S controller. Players can also now add a custom engraving to their controller for an additional $10.

A closer look at Psychonauts 2

Psychonauts 2 Developer Showcase | Xbox Games Showcase 2021

Psychonauts 2‘s gameplay was explored even more, showcasing new abilities and environments that players will come across when the game finally releases. As fans of the original expected, they will be playing as protagonist Razputin Aquato, and will travel into the psyche of different characters to help them in various ways.

Old enemies like the Censors are returning, along with new ones such as Doubts, Bad Ideas, and Regrets. The showcase also went over Razputin’s abilities. including his psychic punch, blast, pyrokinesis, and levitation, along with plot details and tons of different environments.

New details on The Anacrusis

The Anacrusis Developer Showcase | Xbox Games Showcase 2021

The Anacrusis, a four-player co-op shooter, also made an appearance at the show, providing more details on the upcoming sci-fi title. The game is being called “infinitely replayable” and the systems that contribute to this were shared.

The “A.I. driver” is the main component that brings this roguelike system together. It is said to be what drives everything that happens in the game, including item placement, creatures, health kits, and perks. This allows the game to be a different experience from playthrough to playthrough.

It’s also an adaptive system, so it will analyze you and your group’s playstyles and abilities and changes the game accordingly.

New Plague Tale ports and free updates

A Plague Tale: Innocence - Xbox Series X 4K UHD Reveal Trailer

A Plague Tale fans and newcomers alike don’t only have the sequel, A Plague Tale: Requiem, to look forward to, but a free update as well. The original A Plague Tale: Innocence is not only making its way to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S, but also the Nintendo Switch as well via a cloud version. A free next-gen update is available for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners.

Age of Empires expansions and announcements

Age of Empires 4 - Game Overview | Xbox Games Showcase

While everyone is looking forward to the new Age of Empires 4, the team is still looking out for players of the older titles as well. Age of Empires 2 is receiving an update that adds two more civilizations, the Bohemians and the Pulse, and three new campaigns. This expansion can be paid for separately, but it also comes free to those who pre-order Age of Empires 4.

Age of Empires 3 will also receive an expansion of the future featuring new civilizations and campaigns, though they aren’t ready to be detailed just yet.

Age of Empires 4 also revealed its remaining launch civilizations, the Holy Roman Empire and the Rus, as well as its campaigns, “The Rise of Moscow” and “The Mongol Empire.” This gives the title a total of eight civilizations and four campaigns on launch.

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DeAngelo Epps
De'Angelo Epps is a gaming writer passionate about the culture, communities, and industry surrounding gaming. His work ranges…
Everything announced at Xbox Games Showcase Extended
Fall Guys parodies Halo's believe trailer.

Microsoft held the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase on June 12, giving a first look at gameplay for Redfall and Starfield and revealing brand-new games like Pentiment and Minecraft Legends. As that showcase was focused on reveals, it had a very fast pace outside of the extended looks at Redfall and Starfield. Microsoft changed that with a slower-paced Xbox Games Showcase Extended presentation on June 14.During it, we learned more about some of the games that we saw on Sunday, and even got some news about games that weren't featured, such as Valheim and Slime Rancher 2. This livestream was definitely much slower-paced and less reveal-heavy than Sunday's showcase, but those who want a more in-depth look at Xbox's upcoming lineup of games will enjoy watching it (below). We've rounded up everything that was announced and discussed during Xbox Games Showcase Extended.
Xbox Games Showcase Extended
Valheim is coming to Xbox Game Pass as a console exclusive
Valheim coming to Game Pass - Xbox Games Showcase Extended 2022
The first real announcement of the Xbox Games Showcase Extended was that Valheim is coming to Xbox Game Pass. The PC version of the game will arrive on Xbox Game Pass this fall. It will then come to Xbox consoles and that version of Xbox Game Pass in spring 2023 as a console exclusive.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre game is coming to Xbox Game Pass
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre - Unrated Gameplay Trailer [4K]
A new trailer was released for the multiplayer horror game based on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which will be on Xbox Game Pass at launch. We also learned that the game will be a console launch exclusive on Xbox One and Xbox Series X in 2023 for a bit before coming to PS4 and PS5 later in the year. 
Slime Rancher 2 is still coming this year
Slime Rancher 2 Gameplay | Xbox Games Showcase Extended 2022
After skipping out on the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase, console-exclusive Slime Rancher 2 popped up here with a new trailer showing The Conservatory, the player's base of operations, exploration gameplay, and more. It will be released in fall 2022 and be on Xbox Game Pass on day one. 
Fall Guys pays homage to an iconic Halo trailer
Fall Guys 'Spartan Showdown' Trailer - Xbox Games Showcase Extended 2022
Mediatonic and Epic Games revealed that a Halo collaboration is coming to the Xbox versions of Fall Guys on June 30. They made the reveal through a trailer that parodies Halo 3's iconic Believe trailer, as we see a lot of beans frozen in the middle of a battle. This collaboration is called "Spartan Showdown," and players will be able to earn Halo-themed cosmetics by completing challenges while the event is live. 
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 devs urge players to support Ukraine
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl | Xbox Extended Showcase Trailer
Xbox's Sarah Bond and GSC Game World highlighted the S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2 team's experience as a Ukrainian game developer following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in an emotional interview and video. GSC Game World then showed a new cinematic trailer that confirms S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 will now release in 2023. 
Everything Else

Bethesda's Pete Hines defended the delays of Redfall and Starfield, discussed how Redfall was distinct from previous Arkane and cooperative shooter games, referenced The Elder Scrolls Online and Fallout 76's expansions, and emphasized how players have lots of freedom to do what they want in Starfield in an interview.
Naraka: Bladepoint's developers gave an overview of the game's characters, gameplay, and the campaign ahead of its release on Xbox Series X|S consoles next week. NetEase Games also confirmed that it would come to Xbox One later this year. 
We got to see some brief gameplay footage from Ara: Stories Untold as the developers discussed how this grand strategy game supports player agency and reflects player choice. They also confirmed that its technical alpha begins later this summer.
The developers of Grounded reflected on the survival game's development and teased how the 1.0 launch this September will resolve the story and introduce a new Praying Mantis boss. 
Microsoft Flight Simulator and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's collaboration was discussed in a video featuring Gamertag Radio's Parris Lilly. 
High On Life's Justin Roiland discussed the formation of Squanch Games and his quirky new sci-fi Metroidvania shooter where players take down the leaders of a cartel with talking guns.
A dev diary for Pentiment revealed more details about the story, characters, and setting of Josh Sawyer's new medieval narrative adventure game.
As Dusk Falls got a new developer diary showing how its choice-based gameplay works and discussing its themes and narrative ahead of its July 19 launch. 
We saw some new gameplay from the Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels expansion, showing just how these toys have been incorporated into four new Mexican biomes.
Mojang Executive Producer Dennis Ries revealed that Mojang first teased Minecraft Legends at Minecon 2018 with a T-shirt and explained why Mojang is making an action-strategy game with Blackbird Interactive's help. 
An ID@Xbox trailer highlighted upcoming indie games like Tinykin, Togges, Coral Island, and Hollow Knight: Silksong.
Bond teased Project Moorcroft, a Game Pass feature that will let developers put demos of their unreleased games in Game Pass to get feedback from players.

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Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase 2022: How to watch, what to expect
Three spartans standing together in Halo Infinite.

E3 isn't happening, but that's not stopping Microsoft from holding a press conference-style event titled the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase. This event is set to stream this Sunday following the upcoming Summer Game Fest from Geoff Keighly.

As the title of the conference indicates, first-party titles from both Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda are set to make appearances along with a few undisclosed partners. Here's how to watch it and what to expect.

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2022’s Xbox and Bethesda Showcase is vital for Microsoft
Senua stares ahead wearing war paint.

On June 12, Microsoft will hold its second annual Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase. Following a series of delays and reports about development issues at Xbox studios, it is shaping up to be one of the most pivotal shows for Xbox ever.
Xbox had a strong showing in 2021 with critically acclaimed games like Forza Horizon 5, Age of Empires IV, and Halo Infinite, but has lost that positive momentum in the first half of this year. As debates rage over just how compelling Xbox’s 2022 lineup is now that Bethesda’s heavy hitters Starfield and Redfall have been delayed until 2023, Microsoft needs to prove why gamers should care about its platforms and services this year, and the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase is the right place to do that.
First-party woes
The back half of 2022 is looking pretty dire for Microsoft in terms of first-party games it's directly developing or publishing. Originally, it seemed like Microsoft was relying on Bethesda to provide it with two blockbuster titles, but that strategy went out the window when those games were delayed. While Microsoft has announced plenty of games since the Xbox Series X's reveal in 2020, none of them are publicly dated to release this year. It's relying on third-party exclusives like Warhammer 40K: Darktide and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, the latter of which could have its release date impacted further by Russia's war on Ukraine.

This isn't a good situation for Xbox, so the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase is the best place for the companies to reassure fans that first-party games are actually coming. So, what could possibly be in store? We know for sure that Redfall, Starfield, and Contraband won't release this year. State of Decay 3 and Perfect Dark also seems unlikely due to the reported development trouble both titles are facing. That said, other Microsoft titles could sneak in a 2022 release. To start, Grounded will likely leave early access this year. 
When you consider that Forza Horizon 5 wasn’t revealed until E3 2021 and managed to be one of the best games of the year, it seems likely, if unconfirmed, that Microsoft will put out the next mainline Forza Motorsport this year. The next entry in the series has been in development at Turn 10 for some time and is rumored to be beta testing.
As for its other first-party studios, it's possible that Senua's Sacrifice: Hellblade 2 or Avowed will actually manage to come out this year and fill the void left by Redfall and Starfield. Age of Empires IV and Deathloop could also strengthen the lineup if ported to Xbox consoles this year.
It's also possible that there are announced first-party games slated for this year, like the rumored non-combat RPG from Obsidian's Josh Sawyer, the leaked remaster of Goldeneye 007, or one of the many Xbox Game Studios Projects that were exposed via the Nvidia GeForce Now Leak last year. Xbox Game Studios Publishing could also help bolster the 2022 lineup if As Dusk Falls launches this year and they release some other unannounced games from second-party partners. If any of those guesses are true, this Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase is the place to confirm it. Microsoft can't afford to wait any longer to show us what's in store from them this year if it has anything at all.
Forza Motorsport - Official Announce Trailer
Other parties
If Microsoft is truly unable to provide that many compelling first-party exclusives this year -- which is a very real possibility -- then it will need to add some extremely noteworthy heavy-hitters to Xbox Game Pass on day one in the back half of 2022. In the 2021 conference, all but two games featured were to be included in Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft needs to repeat that this year, and it would certainly help if many of those games are launching in 2022. Managing to net some of this fall’s big titles like Saints Row, Sonic Frontiers, Gotham Knights, or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 to be on the service day one would make the lack of exclusives and first-party games would sting less for Xbox fans.
The worst-case scenario for Microsoft here is having no compelling AAA games launch day one on Xbox Game Pass this fall, first-party or not. It might be able to fall back on Xbox Game Studios Publishing, which has partnered with developers outside of Xbox Game Studios to create Xbox-exclusive titles. If Microsoft is not able to provide anything compelling for this year across the board, 2022 could be one of the most disappointing first-party years for Microsoft since 2017.
Gotham Knights would be a very compelling Xbox Game Pass title in 2022. Image used with permission by copyright holder
Whether it’s with secret first- and second-party exclusives or some compelling Xbox Game Pass deals, this is a very important showcase for Xbox. It has spent years acquiring studios to bolster its exclusive lineup but still doesn’t have much in the way of palpable results to show for it. In a tweet after Redfall and Starfield's delay, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer tweeted "These decisions are hard on teams making the games & our fans. While I fully support giving teams time to release these great games when they are ready, we hear the feedback. Delivering quality & consistency is expected, we will continue to work to better meet those expectations." 
While Microsoft having that mindset in the future is appreciated, it could come at a real cost of there not being that many compelling games on the system this year. And if it’s bad, the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase will leave us questioning if we can ever expect consistent results from Xbox. As such, Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda both need to come out strong during this showcase with lots of games. Not just ones for years to come, but for 2022 as well. 

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