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With Starfield delayed, 2022 is the ultimate test for Xbox

This was supposed to be an important year for Xbox. And it still is, just not in the way Microsoft was hoping.

Hot off the successful launches of Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite, Microsoft was set to flex its newfound (i.e., newly bought) muscles in 2022. We were finally going to see how much its expensive Bethesda acquisition would pay off for the company as it broadened its arsenal of exclusives. With Zelda delayed, Starfield would be the biggest game of the holiday season — and it would also launch on Xbox Game Pass on day one.

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But you know what they say about making God (or Todd, in this case) laugh. Microsoft’s carefully laid plans dissolved this morning as Bethesda delayed both Starfield and its other big 2022 Xbox exclusive, Redfall, into 2023. While we’re likely to get some new reveals at Microsoft’s big not-E3 showcase in a month, Xbox could go the entire year without launching a single big-budget exclusive.

As a result, 2022 is now the ultimate test of Microsoft’s grand Xbox experiment. It’ll definitively prove if Game Pass is a strong enough value on its own that Microsoft no longer needs to lean on pricey first-party games to sell consoles.

The Game Pass approach

The Xbox Series X/S’ short life cycle has never really mirrored that of a traditional console. When the devices launched in November 2020, there was no big console-moving exclusive to entice players. While PS5 owners would get Demon’s Souls, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and more on day one, those who picked up an Xbox Series console just got a next-gen upgrade for Gears Tactics and a multiplayer-enabled rerelease of Tetris Effect. Halo Infinite was famously supposed to be a launch title for the new wave of Xboxes, but the game was delayed a full year just months before release day.

A character in Starfield.

In our initial review of the Xbox Series X, we called it “a sports car with no gas.” Microsoft had created a powerhouse device, but there was simply nothing to test its potential.

That became much less of a problem as Microsoft’s ultimate plan came into focus. The company began loading Xbox Game Pass up with new releases, solidifying it as the “best deal in gaming.” Third-party games became the Xbox’s secret weapon as titles like Outriders and even Sony’s MLB The Show 21 were available on Game Pass at launch.

Despite my initial bewilderment with Xbox’s lack of exclusives, I quickly found myself recommending the Series X to my friends more frequently than the PS5 — though with the caveat that they’d need to subscribe to Game Pass or it wasn’t worth it. Microsoft had successfully found a new way to sell Xboxes that flipped our understanding of a traditional console cycle. It was about buying into an ecosystem more than picking up a few hit games.

An update on Redfall and Starfield.

— Bethesda (@bethesda) May 12, 2022

However, there was always the promise of more exclusives right around the corner. Halo Infinite was coming and it would launch day and date on Game Pass when it did. With Starfield and Redfall moving into 2023, however, Xbox’s immediate future is much blurrier. Those looking for a tentpole Xbox game this year will be hard-pressed to find one. Instead, they’ll have to have faith that Microsoft is going to load up Game Pass with enough intriguing indies and big third-party nabs to justify the monthly subscription price.

It’s hard to overstate how unprecedented Microsoft’s current position is. Even late in a console’s life cycle, it’s rare to go a full year without a few major exclusives to sweeten the pot for buyers. Xbox has had slow years in the past, but even dry spells like 2018 brought Forza Horizon 4, State of Decay 2, and Sea of Thieves. This year’s Microsoft + Bethesda Showcase would need to pull some genuine surprises out of thin air to give the console any semblance of a holiday software lineup.

The burning question heading into the rest of the year will be whether or not Microsoft has earned players’ trust enough to thrive despite an empty release calendar. Will players be as eager to buy into the Xbox ecosystem this year based simply on Game Pass’ previous track record? If that’s the case, then Microsoft will have proved that Xbox Game Pass is the only exclusive that actually matters.

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Redfall’s May 2 release date revealed during Developer_Direct
A screen capture from the Redfall gameplay reveal.

Arkane Studios and Bethesda finally confirmed a release date for Redfall during today's Developer_Direct showcase. The cooperative open-world, vampiric first-person shooter will come out  May 2.
The Developer_Direct showcase spent quite a bit of time on Redfall, highlighting both its single-player and multiplayer content. Its part of the show started with a look at various combat zones and safe areas on Redfall Island, where the game takes place. We then learned more about some of the enemy types players encounter, weapons they can use, and each character's special abilities, as Arkane showed off gameplay snippets from multiple missions. If you're a fan of looter shooters and vampires, Arkane looks to be fully delivering on that concept based on this gameplay snippet.  
Redfall has been a highly anticipated first-party Xbox game ever since its reveal in 2021, but its delays have also been quite infamous. Originally intended to be released in summer 2022, it and Starfield's delay into 2023 really significantly impacted the dearth of content that plagued Xbox platforms last year. That's why having a concrete release date for Redfall is quite a relief; it provides hope that Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda will get back in the swing of having a consistent string of first-party releases. It will also be one of the first Xbox-exclusive games to sport a $70 price tag. 
Redfall launches for PC and Xbox Series X/S on May 2. If you don't want to spend $70 on this game, it will also be on Xbox Game Pass on day one like all first-party Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda games. 

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Goldeneye 007 comes to Game Pass and Nintendo Switch later this week
goldeneye 007 switch xbox release date january 27

Rare, Nintendo, and Xbox Game Studios confirmed that their remaster of classic Nintendo 64 FPS Goldeneye 007 will launch on January 27 across Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
GoldenEye 007 – Xbox Game Pass Date Reveal Trailer
For most, this long-awaited enhanced re-release will be locked behind a subscription service. On Nintendo Switch, the only way to play Goldeneye 007 is with a Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pass subscription, which grants players access to a variety of Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis, NES, and SNES games alongside the DLC to some first-party Nintendo titles. That said, Microsoft has confirmed that the Nintendo Switch version of Goldeneye 007 will be the only one to feature online multiplayer, although it'll still be displayed in split-screen.
Meanwhile, the Xbox versions of Goldeneye 007 don't have online multiplayer but benefit from the addition of achievements and an upgraded 16:9 4K resolution. To play the game on Xbox, you'll need to either have an Xbox Game Pass subscription or own the gaming compilation Rare Replay that was released in 2015. Still, fans are probably happy that they'll just be able to experience this classic on a modern controller.
While it has aged quite a bit, Goldeneye 007 is a highly influential FPS game that also became an iconic Nintendo 64 release thanks to its fun multiplayer. Unfortunately, the license it's attached to likely prevented the game from getting a proper re-release until now. It was one of the best announcements in September's Nintendo Direct, and its launch will also technically mark the first Xbox first-party game released in 2022. 
Goldeneye 007 releases for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X on January 27. 

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Xbox and Bethesda’s Developer_Direct: how to watch and what to expect
Redfall Cover

Microsoft has confirmed rumors that it will be holding a game showcase later this month. Called a Developer_Direct, this livestream will take place later today and feature updates on Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda games launching over the next few months, like Redfall.  Xbox doesn't typically do that many games showcases outside of events like E3, so this Developer_Direct seems like Microsoft's own take on the Nintendo Direct or State of Play formula.
That said, it's being a bit more transparent that it will be a bit slower-paced than Nintendo or PlayStation's shows typically are. For those planning to watch the show live today, this is how to watch Xbox's Developer_Direct Showcase as well as what you can expect from games like Redfall, Forza Motorsport, Minecraft Legends, and The Elder Scrolls Online at the event. 
When is Xbox and Bethesda's Developer_Direct? 
Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda's first-ever Developer_Direct will air live and for free later today, January 25, at 3 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. PT. 

How to watch Xbox and Bethesda's Developer_Direct
The Developer_Direct showcase will be officially livestreamed by Bethesda and Microsoft in the following four places: 

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