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GameIndustry.biz: Xbox is the game publisher of 2021

Greggy

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Unpublish if old.


There was a candid quote that Xbox's head of studios Matt Booty gave us back in 2019.

I was fascinated to find out what impact Game Pass might have on Xbox's willingness to cancel or delay games. Because Game Pass needs regular content to keep people happy, and because there is less of a focus on that $60 upfront price tag... could we see Xbox be more forgiving with some of its titles? Could games like Fable Legends and Scalebound -- which Microsoft cancelled during the early days of Xbox One -- have survived in a Game Pass world?

This is what Booty said: "Right now, quality and curation is so important to us. I don't want Game Pass to become the place where half-finished or lower-quality games end up. Given some of the challenges we've had with some things coming out of Xbox Game Studios that may not have been at the quality level that we'd want, I think for the time being we're going to stay very focused on improving our execution and the quality of games that we make."

There's been a lot of focus on Microsoft's recent spending spree and how it will mean more games coming to Xbox than ever before. But 'more' is only one part of the conversation. Xbox also needed to deliver better games.
Xbox One had its fair share of great first-party games. I am very, very fond of Sunset Overdrive, Forza Horizon, Ori and the Blind Forest and Sea of Thieves. And the Rare Replay collection is a retro fan's dream. But Booty's comments acknowledges that there have been a number of misses -- games like Crackdown 3, Halo Wars 2, State of Decay 2... and even regular favourites such as Gears of War weren't quite reaching the critical heights of their forebears.
It was all the more noticeable when its chief competitor, PlayStation, spent the entire generation knocking out 10/10 hits.

It's why I've not got too excited about Xbox's recent acquisitions. It all counts for nothing unless they deliver great games.

As a fan of football, I liken it to your club buying an expensive superstar striker. There's a good chance they'll be incredible, score loads of goals and make a big difference to your team's performance. But they could also struggle under a different manager, they might not fit in with the team, or worse, they could get injured and struggle for form.

I remember back in 2002 when Microsoft bought Rare. Back then, the UK developer was touted as Microsoft's major console studio, and it was working on a string of significant games, including Kameo: Elements of Power and a new Perfect Dark. Both of those games were delayed and neither would go on to be particularly defining releases. It was actually the significantly cheaper Bungie that would prove to be Xbox's star signing (at least in those early days).
So maybe Bethesda will continue its run of delivering excellent games, and Starfield will receive huge acclaim. Or maybe they'll misfire. Maybe it'll be Compulsions Games who will create the next big Xbox exclusive. Or maybe none of them will.
There's no doubt we will be seeing more Xbox exclusives this generation, but it's not certain we'll see better ones. And until they start releasing games, Microsoft's recent acquisitions are just that... acquisitions.
This year was less about Microsoft's new teams and new projects, but rather its classic franchises, developed either by established internal teams, or partner studios. And here we are seeing Matt Booty stay true to that promise of improving the execution and quality of its games.

Microsoft launched the Xbox Series X and S with one of the weakest line-ups of exclusive games we've seen. It may not have mattered a great deal considering the stock situation, but it certainly didn't look great stacked up against what PlayStation had to offer.

Halo: Infinite's delay felt like a real shame at the launch of new consoles, but 12 months on it simply looks like Booty doing what he said he would. From Microsoft Flight Simulator to Psychonauts 2 to Age of Empires 4 to Forza Horizon 5 to Halo: Infinite, Xbox has finished 2021 as the year's top games publisher, and made Game Pass look even more irresistible in the process.

Most of these games have 85+ Metacritic scores, and that's without counting Deathtloop, which was made by a Microsoft-owned studio, albeit as a PlayStation console exclusive.

Sticking with the football metaphor, there's an old soccer adage that gets mentioned a lot: 'Form is temporary, class is permanent'. Microsoft has been the top performer in a quiet year for video games, but 2022 promises so much more from everyone.


Sony has a new God of War, Horizon and Gran Turismo in their final stages of development, while Nintendo is teasing more Splatoon, Kirby and Zelda. For fans of exclusive games, 2022 is shaping up very nicely (at least until the delays get here).
And we know about plenty coming from Microsoft. Not all of these are likely to release in 2022, but Xbox's many studios are already hard at work on Fable, Perfect Dark, Everwild, Forza Motorsport, State of Decay 3, Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2, Red Fall (currently planned for 2022), plus Obsidian's double whammy of The Outer Worlds 2 and new fantasy IP Avowed. And there's Bethesda's hotly-anticipated Starfield, confidently announced for November 11.

So the job for Microsoft's studios now is to continue this run of form. To stand toe-to-toe with some of these big sequels, and for its new acquisitions to deliver on their potential.

It may have taken a few months to get going, but Xbox is starting to deliver on the promises it's been making.

Mods, please fix typo in the topic. thanks
 
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GymWolf

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Glad xbox finally got its footing again.

I’m personally not interested in any of their announced games other than starfield and maybe fable.
 
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Next year will be one of the greatest years in gaming. I just hope the third parties can match the quality the first parties are currently putting out...Nintendo, Sony and Xbox are all at the top of their game while EA, Acti, Ubi etc are all faltering...if they can step it up we will enter a new golden age of gaming.
 

Topher

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Can't argue with that. Halo Infinite, despite the year of doubts, was met with great reviews. Forza Horizon was its usual top notch quality. Psychonauts 2 was a surprise hit for me personally. Then Age of Empires IV on PC also had great reviews.

Fantastic year for Microsoft. Sony wasn't far behind, but for me, they are definitely in second place this year.
 

Clear

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Bullshit, and I say this with a brand new Series S sat waiting to get plugged in.

Flight Sim was 2020, Halo should've been 2020 but they failed to hit the date, Psychonauts and Deathloop were started pre-acquisition, which basically leaves this years iteration of Forza Horizon as their sole major first-party release.
 

Topher

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Bullshit, and I say this with a brand new Series S sat waiting to get plugged in.

Flight Sim was 2020, Halo should've been 2020 but they failed to hit the date, Psychonauts and Deathloop were started pre-acquisition, which basically leaves this years iteration of Forza Horizon as their sole major first-party release.
No Way Reaction GIF
 

Stuart360

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Bullshit, and I say this with a brand new Series S sat waiting to get plugged in.

Flight Sim was 2020, Halo should've been 2020 but they failed to hit the date, Psychonauts and Deathloop were started pre-acquisition, which basically leaves this years iteration of Forza Horizon as their sole major first-party release.
What difference does that make?, games get delayed all the time, its still releasing this year.
And Microsoft funded Phychonauhts after the aqqusition, even the director said that and how the scope changed after being bought. Age of Empires is a big franchise on PC, and Flight Sim launched this year for consoles. We are talking about best publisher here, not GOTY, it doesnt matter if FS launched last year for PC, the Xbox versions were published this year.
 
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Clear

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Captain Toad

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Glad xbox finally got its footing again.

I’m personally not interested in any of their announced games other than starfield and maybe fable.
I hope the new Fable is good.

I love RPGs, especially fantasy ones. But, I've played Fable 1 and 2 all the way through and hated both. They're not good. And I'm surprised they have a following at all.

But, Playground Games IS good. They are capable of making a great RPG, I believe. I just really hope they don't try and duplicate the previous games too much, because they feel tied to it. Get rid of the horrible British bathroom humor. Make actual characters I can get invested in. And please add some depth to the character building, world exploration and gameplay.

Fable could become a great action RPG under the new development team - but if it's more of Fable 1 and 2 (and from what I've seen, 3), count me out.
 

Topher

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Not sure what point you are trying to make. Delays happen to a lot of games. The fact this one was longer than most doesn't really mean a thing. TLOU 2 was delayed three times, IIRC. And? Should we strip it of all its GOTY awards solely based on failing to "hit the date"?

Take the fanboy goggles off.

What's this nonsense? We disagree and so now I have "fanboy googles" on?

Come On What GIF by MOODMAN
 
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Max_Po

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I hope the new Fable is good.

I love RPGs, especially fantasy ones. But, I've played Fable 1 and 2 all the way through and hated both. They're not good. And I'm surprised they have a following at all.

But, Playground Games IS good. They are capable of making a great RPG, I believe. I just really hope they don't try and duplicate the previous games too much, because they feel tied to it. Get rid of the horrible British bathroom humor. Make actual characters I can get invested in. And please add some depth to the character building, world exploration and gameplay.

Fable could become a great action RPG under the new development team - but if it's more of Fable 1 and 2 (and from what I've seen, 3), count me out.

Apart from amazing art style and the old English village setting... the games are less than 5 out of 10. They are beyond garbage. I finished both Fable 1 and 2 and could not stand 3.

I have high hopes from PG....
 
Oct 25, 2021
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I hope the new Fable is good.

I love RPGs, especially fantasy ones. But, I've played Fable 1 and 2 all the way through and hated both. They're not good. And I'm surprised they have a following at all.

But, Playground Games IS good. They are capable of making a great RPG, I believe. I just really hope they don't try and duplicate the previous games too much, because they feel tied to it. Get rid of the horrible British bathroom humor. Make actual characters I can get invested in. And please add some depth to the character building, world exploration and gameplay.

Fable could become a great action RPG under the new development team - but if it's more of Fable 1 and 2 (and from what I've seen, 3), count me out.

They were great at the time, and very innovative. There wasn’t a rpg at the time that had so much player choice and effect on the world around you. I’m not really sure what the catch for teh new one will be as lot of that stuff is kind of standard these days.

I guess they will just try to turn all that stuff up even more, with the world changing around your according to your decisions on top of really good graphics. I’m curious to see how playground will do animations and people, thats really the hardest part to get right. You can turn out world class environments pretty easily these days with UE5
 
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M1chl

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I hope the new Fable is good.

I love RPGs, especially fantasy ones. But, I've played Fable 1 and 2 all the way through and hated both. They're not good. And I'm surprised they have a following at all.

But, Playground Games IS good. They are capable of making a great RPG, I believe. I just really hope they don't try and duplicate the previous games too much, because they feel tied to it. Get rid of the horrible British bathroom humor. Make actual characters I can get invested in. And please add some depth to the character building, world exploration and gameplay.

Fable could become a great action RPG under the new development team - but if it's more of Fable 1 and 2 (and from what I've seen, 3), count me out.
Writing from past Fable(s) coupled with Hollywood level writing of FH5 got me seriously worried. I am not afraid of the technical or gameplay side of things, but story and that kind of stuff (in a RPG no less), yeah... worried. I hope they got someone from Obsidian to help them out.
 
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Clear

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Not sure what point you are trying to make. Delays happen to a lot of games. The fact this one was longer than most doesn't really mean a thing. TLOU 2 was delayed three times, IIRC. And? Should we strip it of all its GOTY awards solely based on failing to "hit the date"?

So you're saying that a publisher deserves rewarding for missing launch dates following disastrous reveals? Especially on the latest iteration of a 20 year long flagship franchise!

This isn't about bashing Xbox. Its about performance as a publisher, and the plain fact is they've not done a great job. Even Phil cops to the fact that mistakes were made in that article.
 
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oldergamer

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Bullshit, and I say this with a brand new Series S sat waiting to get plugged in.

Flight Sim was 2020, Halo should've been 2020 but they failed to hit the date, Psychonauts and Deathloop were started pre-acquisition, which basically leaves this years iteration of Forza Horizon as their sole major first-party release.
Its posts like this that made you look horrible. Like, you can agree to disagree, but trying to justify your opinion this way makes you look petty dude. take off the goggles.
 

Riky

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Well deserved, massive world's with huge online portions and incredible bar raising graphics. Flight Simulator, Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite are just top tier.
Then we get the best platformer of the year in Psychonauts 2 as well as the joy that is AOE.

All on Gamepass as well.
 

TGO

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This is for Forza Horizon and Halo?
Did they release anything else? Can't remember 🤔
Anyway good on them, can't really argue with it.
All 3 have been a little lame imo.
 

Stuart360

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So you're saying that a publisher deserves rewarding for missing launch dates following disastrous reveals? Especially on the latest iteration of a 20 year long flagship franchise!

This isn't about bashing Xbox. Its about performance as a publisher, and the plain fact is they've not done a great job. Even Phil cops to the fact that mistakes were made in that article.
All of that is irrelevant though. This is 'best publsher', its soley based on games that launched this year. WHY games launched this year has nothing to do with anything.
 

Topher

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So you're saying that a publisher deserves rewarding for missing launch dates following disastrous reveals? Especially on the latest iteration of a 20 year long flagship franchise!

This isn't about bashing Xbox. Its about performance as a publisher, and the plain fact is they've not done a great job. Even Phil cops to the fact that mistakes were made in that article.

A publisher deserves rewards for the quality of what they publish. If we are going to go down the road of having distain for publishers when they make "mistakes" then we might as well not reward any publisher ever. I think you are holding Microsoft to a much higher standard than anyone does for the rest of the industry. I don't think that's fair, frankly.
 
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Stuart360

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This is for Forza Horizon and Halo?
Did they release anything else? Can't remember 🤔
Anyway good on them, can't really argue with it.
All 3 have been a little lame imo.
Halo Infinte
Forza Horizon 5
Flight Sim on console.
Phychonauts 2
Age of Empires 4.
Deathloop was technically published by Bethesda, but with Microsoft owning Bethesda some sites may include it.

A top year anyway.
 

Fredrik

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Agreed. And congrats! I was so harsh on all they were doing up til half the year had passed, first 7 months after launch was shit tbh, but they really redeemed themselves from mid summer up til now.

Still can’t decide if Xbox or PC is the platform of the year though. I’ve played more on Xbox but that’s mostly because I thought The Ascent played better in the couch and i don’t have the triple screen rig for Forza Horizon anymore.
 

Markio128

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No way. Next year is all about squeezing the last remaining poo (cross gen) out the anus. 2023 is when the new frontier reaches our fingertips. 2022s game reveals will be legendary.
I agree to an extent, but isn’t Starfield exclusive to this gen?
 

mckmas8808

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Next year will be one of the greatest years in gaming. I just hope the third parties can match the quality the first parties are currently putting out...Nintendo, Sony and Xbox are all at the top of their game while EA, Acti, Ubi etc are all faltering...if they can step it up we will enter a new golden age of gaming.

Do you get the feeling that most of these 3rd parties will just go to Unreal 5 and iron these issues out soon?
 

Clear

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Its posts like this that made you look horrible. Like, you can agree to disagree, but trying to justify your opinion this way makes you look petty dude. take off the goggles.

Your perception of me matters not one bit, when I'm entirely correct and entirely reasonable in my arguments.

Just admit you don't like to hear it, that's fine. I'm not looking for validation, my entire post history should demonstrate how little I care about saying things that people find disagreeable. Don't like my truth-bombs; disprove my points with good faith discussion or simply ignore me.
 

Basil King

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kingfey

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So you're saying that a publisher deserves rewarding for missing launch dates following disastrous reveals? Especially on the latest iteration of a 20 year long flagship franchise!

This isn't about bashing Xbox. Its about performance as a publisher, and the plain fact is they've not done a great job. Even Phil cops to the fact that mistakes were made in that article.
Does that mean Playstation won't get this award next year? Since gow and hfw got delayed according to you? Same for the game awards?