If there’s one video game presentation happening over the next week that has the most to prove, it’s the Xbox Games Showcase. Despite a strong start to the year with Hi-Fi Rush and a solid Developer Direct showcase, Microsoft’s gaming branch has floundered in recent months because of struggles with its acquisition of Activision Blizzard and the rocky launch of Redfall. With the Xbox Games Showcase and Starfield Direct Double Feature, Microsoft must reconfirm its commitment to gaming and to releasing high-quality first-party exclusives.
That said, Xbox is in an excellent position to do just that because of Sony’s underwhelming May showcase. As the first major gaming presentation of the summer, Sony had the chance to “win” the whole game reveal season early with its PlayStation Showcase. Ultimately, that live stream proved disappointing because of its focus on CGI reveal trailers and live service games.
If Xbox Games Studios can refocus and mainly highlight its strong upcoming lineup of single-player games while showing a lot of gameplay in its trailers, then we could have a fantastic showcase on our hands. The Xbox Games Showcase succeeding where the PlayStation Showcase failed could be the step in the right direction that Microsoft desperately needs.
When it comes to any publisher presentation, the most important things are the video games featured. If the game lineup isn’t fundamentally compelling, fans won’t latch on and enjoy most of the show. Despite a desolate 2022 and the botched release of Redfall in May, Xbox is uniquely positioned to have an excellent late 2023 and early 2024 game lineup.
Although the quality of titles is varied, Microsoft has gotten better this year by having a more consistent first-party release cadence with titles like Hi-Fi Rush, Minecraft Legends, and Redfall. Looking forward, we have Forza Motorsport and Starfield releasing in the coming months for sure. This Xbox Games Showcase is also the prime spot for Xbox to give us looks at other highly anticipated games like Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Avowed, and Fable, which were all revealed in 2020 but haven’t been seen too much since.
Luckily for Xbox, with the exception of Forza Motorsport, all of those games I mentioned are single-player experiences with a fair bit of hype behind them. It’s an area where Xbox needs to do a lot better, and one the PlayStation Showcase didn’t do a great job at servicing outside of Final Fantasy XVI and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. It’d be wise for Xbox’s showcase to feel like the inverse of Sony’s, where strong single-player first-party games dominate most of the runtime while multiplayer-focused titles are left to third-party studios.
Throw in a couple of surprises and a Starfield Direct that lives up to expectations, and we could have a reveal live stream that positions Xbox platforms and services as the place to be for great single-player games for the next year or two as Sony emphasizes live service titles over that same period. That’s only half the battle though; how they’re presented is just as important.
How game developers decide to show their games during a showcase is almost as important as what is shown. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a shift to fans wanting to see gameplay or in-engine scenes much more than a flashy, mysterious CGI trailer. The July 2020 Xbox Games Showcase contained a lot of great games, but most of them had CGI reveal trailers that didn’t show a glimpse of gameplay.
The recent PlayStation Showcase had a similar problem. New IP like Fairgame$ and Concord fell flat on arrival with announcement trailers that didn’t feature any gameplay, giving little reason to get excited about them. Considering we’ve known about the likes of Hellblade 2, Fable, and Avowed for almost three years at this point, and they’re all making some pretty significant changes from their predecessors, this Xbox Games Showcase feels like the right place for us to learn what these games look and feel like to play moment-to-moment.
This approach would also endear fans to these games, as it shows more transparency about what players are getting than we saw with games like Redfall pre-launch. Thankfully, Xbox does seem aware of this pitfall and is looking to avoid it. “Everything is either in-game footage, in-engine footage, or in-game footage with some cinematics,” VP of Xbox Games Marketing Aaron Greenberg said to a fan on Twitter on Sunday. “Each of our trailers will be labeled so it is hopefully clear for our fans.”
If that is true, then the Xbox Games Showcase should be a very informative, enjoyable look at what is coming next for Xbox and help it bounce back from a rough spring 2023. It could be one of the season’s more honest, single-player-focused showcases, too, giving it a leg up over live streams like May’s PlayStation Showcase. For a company like Microsoft, every gaming showcase is critical, so making the right moves could potentially bolster Xbox when it needs that help the most.
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