Microsoft aired a 44-minute pre-recorded presentation Wednesday to announce several release dates for upcoming games on the Xbox platform, as well as a surprise drop of a brand new game.
Xbox teased the broadcast, which it called the Xbox & Bethesda Developer_Direct, for several days leading up to its debut. It featured a collaboration between Xbox and its subsidiary Bethesda Softworks, headquartered in Rockville, Md., to show off some of the bigger releases for the Xbox platform that are coming in the first half of 2023.
Direct presentations like this are increasingly common in the video game industry, with companies like Nintendo, Sony, Blizzard, and Capcom using them to announce news and projects directly to their fans.
Xbox’s spin on the practice was unusual in that it put many of the games’ developers front and center. It created a focus on not only the games, but the people making them, and their excitement at what they’re currently producing. This included Washington state creators like Redmond’s Turn 10 Studios, working on Forza Motorsport, alongside developers in Austin, Texas; Hunt Valley, Md., Vancouver, BC; and Tokyo, Japan.
It’s a more organic approach to this sort of homegrown hype than the typical games-first broadcast, which may provide some insight into Microsoft’s overall approach to its video game promotion going into 2023. Xbox really seems to want viewers to be familiar with the people making their games, from studio heads and creative directors to producers and designers, and to know that any video game is a team effort.
The biggest surprise of the Developer_Direct was a new game, Hi-Fi Rush, from Bethesda’s Japanese studio Tango Gameworks. Tango was founded by Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami in 2010 as a horror-focused development studio, and was acquired by Bethesda later that same year. Its previous projects include 2014’s The Evil Within and last year’s Ghostwire: Tokyo.
Hi-Fi Rush, on the other hand, is a comedic action/platformer with graphics that make it look like an interactive Saturday morning cartoon. As Chai, a wannabe rock star who’s out to dismantle a futuristic corporation with his new robot arm, you’re encouraged to fight and move in time with the beat of Hi-Fi Rush‘s rock’n’roll soundtrack.
Aside from being a massive departure from type for Mikami and Tango, Hi-Fi Rush was scheduled to debut on PC, Xbox, and the Game Pass subscription service on the night of Jan. 25.
Other announcements at Xbox’s Developer_Direct included:
- Mojang Studios and Blackbird Interactive’s Minecraft Legends is officially debuting on April 18. Set in the mythological past of the world of Minecraft, this action/strategy game challenges you to unify the forces of the Overworld to deal with an incursion from the Netherworld. The Direct touched upon its player-vs-player modes, where both sides also have to watch out for attacks from AI-controlled piglins while they build their forces.
- The eighth game in the Forza Motorsport series didn’t receive an official release date, aside from that it’s definitely coming this year. The game will have over 500 licensed race cars to collect at launch, with over 800 upgrades to apply to them, with new systems that include realistic dirt accumulation, temperature affecting the surfaces of racetracks, and a single-player career mode.
- Zenimax Online Studios announced a new expansion for The Elder Scrolls Online, called Necrom, which will introduce the arcanist as a new playable class. ESO‘s time during the Direct was focused on pitching the game—the MMORPG spin-off of the long-running Elder Scrolls fantasy series—to a new audience of players who might only know the franchise from popular games like Skyrim. All 20 past chapters of ESO were made free to play for newcomers during the Direct.
- Arkane Studios’ Redfall got an official release date, May 2, and an extended look at the game’s systems and style of play. You’re one of 4 eccentric hunters who’ve come to the town of Redfall, Mass., to liberate it from the vampires who’ve taken it over. Redfall is an open-world game that can be played cooperatively with up to 4 players, and features the same open-ended approach to its various challenges that characterizes past Arkane Studios games like Dishonored and Deathloop.
All five games from the Direct are planned to be available on PC, Xbox, and the Xbox Game Pass.