Just as Shannon put his hopes and dreams to paper in the lead up to Sony’s ‘Future of Gaming’ event, I thought it fitting that I do likewise for Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox Games Showcase. It’s set to air in the early hours of Friday morning and with it confirmed to be an hour-long presentation of wall-to-wall games, expectations are high.
Having spent so much of this generation being kicked around—deservedly so after a less than ideal console launch—it’s a fact that the Xbox brand has course-corrected, the ship now back to the cliff face, heading out into open waters rich with possibility. With their services-focused model, including what it is considered by many to be the best value in gaming in Xbox Game Pass, and their focus on providing value to the consumer, it seems a lot has fallen into place under the stoic leadership of Phil Spencer.
The last piece of the puzzle for Xbox, and arguably the most important for a videogame console, rests with the games.
After enduring a generation of watching Sony deal out first-party smash hits like The Last of Us, God of War and Horizon: Zero Dawn, Xbox have done a wonderful job at bolstering their first-party stocks, acquiring several studios at the backend of the generation. After having had a lot of time to eat soil, it’s about time for these trees to bear fruit.
Here are the games I want to see at the Xbox Games Showcase, ranging from the likely to pipe-dream absurd.
File this under the ‘very likely’ tab, the Fable reboot has been long-rumoured and talked about, to the point where you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s been announced already.
Though it won’t be Lionhead at the helm, having sadly shuttered after the franchise lost its lustre after Fable III didn’t reach great heights and the Kinect title, Fable: The Journey, was the death blow for the once groundbreaking franchise that carved out a niche for role-playing games to explore morality and give players the option to play a noble hero or a wicked villain.
With Playground Games the expected heir to the Fable franchise, I just hope the franchise’s Pythonic humour bleeds through and that the developer, British like Lionhead before them, takes the franchise in an exciting new direction without sacrificing one of the things that made Fable such a joy.
Admittedly a long shot, I figure the more I say its name I might will it into existence, let’s think of it as a videogame Candyman. If by some miracle Microsoft has given up flat out disregarding this treasured franchise, it’s not likely that we’d see Rare at the helm, given their continued work on Sea of Thieves as well as the upcoming Everwild, which is still somewhat of a mystery.
There have been murmurings—which have been flat out denied as you’d expect, but let’s dare to dream—that Double Fine, acquired by Microsoft last year, might have been given the keys to Banjo-Kazooie’s revival and I couldn’t think of a better company for the job with a wicked sense of humour and an undeniable pedigree for top-shelf game development.
Forget the pinch, this one needs a fistful of salt.
The Initiative’s Perfect Dark
Another pretty substantial rumour that has made it to the mill and back is that The Initiative’s debut game is set to be a reboot of the Perfect Dark franchise. Of course, we’d love to see Joanna back on our screens after the unfortunate misfire that was Perfect Dark Zero.
There is a lot of evidence that lends credence to these rumours including the departure of The Initiative’s Christopher Ng and his LinkedIn account which notes he played a part in designing and scripting gadgets, weapons and a camera surveillance system for an unannounced project. While I wouldn’t be at all mad if it turned out that Microsoft was working on a brand new IP focused around worldwide espionage, although Perfect Dark has been dormant for some time now and a lot of Ng’s achievements during his time at the developer speaks to the possibility of a reboot.
Given that The Initiative is still likely very early in development for what has been billed as an ‘AAAA’ title and that industry figure Jeff Grubb has specifically stated that they won’t be there, the best we might hope for at the showcase is a title card or some fleeting confirmation of what it is they’re cooking up over there.
A Halo Battle Royale
When you look at the successes of Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Warzone and, of course, Fortnite, Microsoft would be raving mad not to capitalise on the hype surrounding the battle royale scene and introduce what’d be the natural successor to Halo’s pre-existing Warzone mode, an already large scale event that pits two teams of twelve against one another.
An interesting blend of the two would be super cool and unique, having A.I. on the field to act as fodder in the middle of a huge battle would only serve to heighten the drama. I feel as though Halo is such a storied franchise, rich with material to draw on, that you could incorporate a lot of cool in-universe stuff into a branded battle royale to set it apart from the crowd. Once you add the final ingredient, a plethora of Halo vehicles from Warthogs to Scarabs, you’d be looking at one of the genre’s more chaotic entries.
Though it’d likely muddy the waters a tad, I’d love it if they decided to use the Firefight branding for an idea like this to keep it Halo through and through. It feels as though it’s an inevitability that a Halo battle royale will surface at some stage, it’s just a matter of when.
It’s starting to become apparent that what I want most is a return to form for beloved Rare franchises, even if they’re not the ones driving. After the absolute whirlwind success of Animal Crossing, it’d make a lot of sense to keep those gardening gloves on and dive back into the adorable, candy-filled world of Viva Pinata.
I spent a lot of time playing the first game and although I bounced off of Trouble in Paradise all too quickly, I’d love to see Horstachio and the evil Professor Pester return to turn my thumbs green all over again.
Obsidian’s Next RPG
Rumours have circulated that Obsidian has been nose to the grindstone working on a new fantasy-setting role-playing game, so it’s entirely possible that we’ll get a first look at what they’ve all been working on. It’s said that most of the team has been dedicated to this new project, while a smaller team has been working on new content for The Outer Worlds, which we could also see on Friday.
For their next outing to be a Skyrim-like feels a bit odd given it is already pretty much canon at this point that we’re also getting a Fable reboot but given their body of work, Obsidian is far and away the best team to be tasked with creating an Elder Scrolls that Microsoft could call their own.
Hellblade II: Senua’s Saga
Ninja Theory, for mine, is one of the better studio acquisitions made by Microsoft during their ‘takeover year’. Without even considering the breadth of exceptional titles that came before, to snatch up the studio responsible for Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice spoke volumes of Xbox’s hopes to deliver story-driven hits like those under PlayStation’s banner.
After a spirited debut at last year’s Game Awards, we’re eagerly awaiting more Hellblade with Senua’s Saga under development. What’s impossible to know is how far along the game’s development even is. A short few years hardly seems like ample time to craft another game in this universe, though their processes for performance capture—an insanely cool technique they call ‘real-time cinematography’—could see the game already near completion.
While I hope to see Senua’s Saga in-engine and running on a Series X, flexing the new Unreal Engine that debuted recently, I’d definitely settle for a trailer that sheds some light on what’s in store for our troubled heroine.
The Xbox Games Showcase is taking place at 2am on Friday morning.