Xbox had the spotlight all to itself in the lead-up to E3. Without Sony to put forward a competing press conference, Xbox was able to announce several new first-party games, an expansion of its popular Game Pass subscription service, and announce a new console all in the same show.
Even with a full slate like that, there's a good chance Xbox held back. Xbox Game Studios head Matt Booty said in an interview with Eurogamer that even with 14 games from Xbox Game Studios "we're not emptying the tank, getting everything we've got and just throwing it on stage."
Instead, along with the games Xbox went back to two previous moves from its playbook: announcing a new studio acquisition and talk up Game Pass.
This year, Microsoft picked up Double Fine Productions, but Xbox boss Phil Spencer says there's no cap to how many studios Xbox can buy, and that it's certainly not the end of studio acquisitions either. "It's not every year that we'll add seven new studios, but I do think us looking at specific targets that we need is important," Spencer told GamesIndustry.biz.
Spencer says that he'd like to add a Japanese or Asian studio to the growing roster of Xbox developers. "I think it would be nice if we found an Asian studio, in particular a Japanese studio, to add [to our studios]. I like it when we had some first-party capability in Japan."
At least until Xbox buys a Japanese studio, there will continue to be representation at Xbox presentations, like Bandai Namco's big E3 blowout this year at the Xbox presser.
The other key component of Xbox's E3 2019 this year was Game Pass. The subscription was recently announced for PC, and a good number of games Xbox revealed at its E3 2019 will launch or come to Game Pass eventually.
But while Game Pass is clearly one of Xbox's biggest priorities, Spencer likes offering the service as a choice, not a requirement for gamers. In an interview with Polygon, Chris Plante brought up how easy it could be for certain games to be Game Pass exclusive, thereby making Game Pass a more immediate purchase.
Spencer says that while teams have pitched Game Pass exclusive games to him before, it's not that simple. "I'm a little reticent on [Game Pass exclusivity] because I believe the customer wants a choice... But it is interesting. We're starting to see teams bring ideas [that factor Game Pass into] the actual creative of the game."
Spencer says the easy example is episodic games, which like television episodes, work well with Game Pass's subscription-based model. "I'm not saying episodic is new, but this isn't an online service-based game," Spencer says. "It's actually a single-player narrative game where we want time to be one of the things that builds drama across the game's arc. And we want to use a subscription model so that we always know that we have more and more people ready to engage every time [we release a new episode.]"
In the meantime, Xbox is open to the idea of putting Xbox Game Pass on Nintendo Switch. It would be quite the coup for both Nintendo and Microsoft if that were to be the case.
Xbox's future plans are still a bit of a mystery, and we still haven't actually seen Scarlett in action. But based on its strategy for the past few years we know what to expect when Xbox is ready to announce more: More games, bigger Game Pass offerings, and maybe a new studio or two.