On paper, Microsoft has done what it needs to do in 2023 to improve its system Quiet and somewhat empty 2022. But it has also laid off workers and taken some public beatings in court while trying to get bigger.
In 2022, I said Xbox had a chance to make 2023 a big year if it could launch some games, support Game Pass, and maintain momentum throughout the entire 12 months. With few exceptions, Microsoft did just that in 2023, releasing some big games for its all-important Game Pass subscription service and officially acquiring Activision Blizzard, setting Xbox up for a big year in 2024…although that may come at a cost.
After a quiet 2022, Xbox is coming up with games
Let’s get to the best news for people who own an Xbox and want big new games: Microsoft’s portfolio of brands and studios was finally delivered this year. In 2023 the company was able to ship (in no particular order) redfall, new Forza Motorsport, Starfield, Hi-Fi Rush, Minecraft Legends, a Great modified version of Second earthquake, big Forza Horizon 5 Expand themed pool, large Infinite aura Updates, and a repackaged anniversary edition of the fan-favorite fighter, killing instinct. It also finally managed to bring Bethesda on board Ghostwire: Tokyowhich was previously a PS5 exclusive, is now available on Xbox and Game Pass.
Even if you’re not a huge fan of all these games (looking at you red fall…) There’s no denying that compared to last year’s paltry first-party lineup, 2023 has been a banner year for Microsoft-owned Xbox Games Studios and Bethesda. It’s like all of those Studios owned by Xbox We were finally able to offer new games alongside games made by partners.
This is all a good thing for Microsoft, as one of Game Pass’s big selling points is the constant stream of new games, both big and small. In 2022, it looked like Xbox wasn’t able to meet that demand, relying heavily on third-party games to fill the Game Pass cracks left by the delay. Starfield And Redfall. However, every few months in 2023, a big new game, often a first-party title, will join the large Game Pass library.
Although the influx of first-party exclusives has improved, Microsoft hasn’t stopped cutting deals to get third-party games on Game Pass in 2023. Which brings us to…
Game Pass was (again) the best deal in gaming
When it comes to great day one releases, 2023 could be one of the best years in Game Pass history. Here are some of the games that Xbox was able to disable with the first day launch of the popular subscription service: Sea of Stars, Lies of P, Cocoon, Jusant, Cities Skylines II, Thirsty Suitors, Persona 5 Tactics, Coral Island, Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, Lamplighters League, Venba, And external.
Phew, that’s a lot of games! Again, I’m not a fan of all of these things, but it’s impossible to say that Game Pass hasn’t been constantly updated with new things to play, and many of them have been excellent! I counted at least four games that would be on many people’s Game of the Year lists.
The subscription service has been a huge success for Xbox In 2023, it killed the long-standing Xbox Live brand It replaced it with a new, $1 cheaper tier of Game Pass called Core.
However, with all these big games also came something less desirable: Price increase. In July, Microsoft increased the monthly price of Game Pass from $10 to $11 worldwide, and also raised the cost of Game Pass Ultimate from $15 to $17. (Game Pass PC pricing remains at $10 per month.)
This is a sign that, despite Game Pass’s popularity, it is no longer growing infinitely Xbox CEO Phil Spencer admitted as much earlier this year. So, with the service reaching its limit and unable to grow its user base, the company will look to raise prices to squeeze more of its people. The question will be can Microsoft balance the high prices with enough great games to keep people paying?
The Xbox Series S is still popular, but it could be a problem
Let’s move from one of Xbox’s successful offerings, Game Pass, to another, the Xbox Series S. It’s no secret that the smaller, weaker next-gen console has been a huge seller for Microsoft. In 2023, capitalizing on this success, it released a newer version of its digital mini console that came with a larger internal SSD.
And I’ll be the first to admit that the Xbox Series S is often a great device. I use it a lot when I’m in my living room and don’t want to get up and go play games in my home office. But the popularity of the precision instrument also means that Microsoft is kind of stuck with this thing In 2023, it looked like we saw the first tangible signs that this could be an issue in 2024 and beyond.
Games are starting to struggle to perform on them, as developers have to put in more effort to run games acceptably on the weaker Xbox. A big example of this is in 2023 Baldur’s Gate 3 And the issues it was having with split screen support. And then I look at something like this GTA 6 You wonder how this game will run on Series S without Rockstar backing down on visual fidelity.
To be clear: I don’t think the Series S is a big deal right now or will be soon. For smaller, less graphically impressive games, the Series S will be more than enough. But it’s impossible to ignore that in 2023, the less capable next-gen Xbox model is starting to show the strain, holding things back in a way that makes me worry about the future.
Xbox, Activision, and the future of Game Pass
Without a doubt, the biggest news for Xbox in 2023 was Official acquisition of Activision Blizzard Kingalso known as the company behind it Call of Duty, Warcraft, Candy CrushAnd much more. It took longer than Microsoft wanted and led to a lot of industry secrets being exposed through leaks and court documents, but in the end, Microsoft pulled it off and now controls one of the biggest publishers in the gaming industry.
While some rejoiced, excited for the future Call of duty And Diablo games that will be added to Game Pass, the reality is that this deal will likely lead to more layoffs and other problems in the future. like Fewer and fewer companies own it allThe lack of competition leads to higher prices and the emergence of more powerful companies capable of dismantling unions, customer rights, and other laws that benefit us and harm us, by using vast sums of money in the courts.
2023 could be the worst year for the gaming industry in a long time, with… Layoffs occur almost weekly Making headlines. Microsoft itself cut 10,000 workers At the beginning of the year, a long list of publishers and development studios also cut staff. Sure, Microsoft says all the right things, but the truth is this Massive mergers like this lead to layoffs This is the last thing this industry needs moving forward.
But for Microsoft, Activision — and all the companies and intellectual property it brings with it — will help it feed the ever-hungry, content-hungry beast that is Game Pass. Call of duty The games were already very popular On Xbox in 2023 thanks to server overhaul and price cuts. Bringing these games to the subscription service’s library would be a huge win for Xbox. In the same way, Rolling World of Warcraft, DiabloAnd mobile games on Game Pass It will help the service expand beyond consoles and PC more, which is something Microsoft really wants to do.
The problem is that all of this will come at a cost. Taking on that many employees quickly is difficult, and if you don’t think layoffs will come at some point, well, you’re more optimistic than I am. Ditto, if you don’t expect the growing Game Pass library to come at a price in future price hikes, as Microsoft looks to make more money from what has clearly become the main interest of its gaming division.
Will there be a new generation of Xbox in a few years? Call of duty To launch on? maybe. Maybe not. But I can guarantee you that in a few years, Game Pass will be in more places and playing the latest games will be easier than ever. Call of duty Access, regardless of your platform. That sounds nice, although the cost of getting there — in jobs, in increased prices, and in less competition — doesn’t seem worth it.
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