Xbox has long struggled with consistency and maintaining a steady stream of exclusives. Some years would be chock-full of exciting new games, while others were barren wastelands outside of a couple of smaller releases. After a turnaround in 2023, Xbox’s 2024 first-party game lineup is looking to be its most compelling in years. That’s thanks to a successful Developer_Direct showcase that set Xbox on the right track this week.
It doesn’t feel like this year is relying too heavily on one studio or genre, and getting in-depth looks at what will likely be Xbox’s four big PC and console exclusive games of 2024 set my expectations in a clear manner. Coming off January 2024’s Developer_Direct, Xbox is poised for a good year … if it can deliver in terms of quality with all these games.
The latest Developer_Direct highlighted four first-party-developed or -published games: Avowed, Hellblade II: Senua’s Saga, Ara: History Untold, and Indiana Jones and the Great Circle. Of those four, I’m personally most excited for Avowed. Obsidian Entertainment has a great track record with RPGs like Pillars of Eternity and The Outer Worlds. Considering we’re probably not getting The Elder Scrolls VI for several more years, I can’t wait to hop into a new fantasy RPG by one of the genre’s best developers.
Meanwhile, Senua’s Sacrifice: Hellblade II looks like the kind of third-person action game that Sony excels at, but Microsoft has struggled to match. Its spatial audio innovations seem like they could have further implications for future Microsoft games too. I’m also impressed with the Civilization talent behind the 4x strategy game Ara: History Untold. Its presence was a clear indication that Microsoft isn’t leaving behind the hardcore PC gaming crowd, while the malleability of its prestige system and lack of wait times between player turns might even be able to draw in newcomers.
The biggest game of the show was Indiana Jones and the Great Circle. While fans seem to be divided over it being a first-person puzzler, it’s exactly what I expected from an Indiana Jones game made by the studio behind recent Wolfensetin games like The New Colossus. It could be Xbox’s answer not just to Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, but to Xbox’s general lack of big-budget, franchise heavy hitters. I hope it really plays up those elements while also adding an immersive sim-type flair to combat and stealth.
Those are four diverse games that were all captivating in their own right. Microsoft was also confident enough to show gameplay and give 2024 release windows — some more specific than others — for all four games, which is a relief as a lot of its showcases this generation have consisted of cinematic trailers for far-out exclusives. While the year is just beginning, Microsoft now has an even clearer first-party slate for the whole year than Nintendo, which seems to be banking on a potential hardware release in the back half of the year, and Sony, which is relying on third-party exclusives like Final Fantasy VII Rebirth and Rise of the Ronin.
It may not even be all the games Microsoft releases this year, according to a comment on an Xbox Wire post recapping January 18’s Developer_Direct. While I don’t want to speculate on any other title, we at least know a new Call of Duty is on the way in the fall. In the future, Microsoft would be smart to keep the Developer_Direct series going at the start of the year so it can continue to kick off each year with this type of momentum. Xbox head Phil Spencer seems to like the format, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it does stick around.
Of course, Xbox isn’t completely out of the woods yet. Public consensus on Starfield is starting to turn sour, and some people are voicing concern about more Xbox games potentially coming to competitor platforms. Xbox needs to maintain the consistency it finally found in 2023. Regardless of where you stand on those issues, or even what you think of games like Avowed and Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, it’s hard to deny that this is the best a year has looked for Xbox from the outset in a long time.
Now that Microsoft finally seems to have solved its game quantity problem, Xbox’s main focus should be on quality. That’s yet another area where the likes of PlayStation and Nintendo have been much more consistent than Xbox’s first-party offerings in the past, and one where Xbox obviously needs to improve in the future. This year really has the potential to be Microsoft’s year in the gaming space, and this Developer_Direct shows it has the tools to accomplish that.
From here, it’s all about execution.