It's almost time to find out what Microsoft has up its sleeve for Xbox Series X. This week the company announced that its Xbox Games Showcase event would air July 23 at 9 a.m. PT, presumably giving the world its first extended look at the system's first-party lineup.
As part of the build-up to that event, Microsoft made a number of its executives and studio heads available to GamesIndustry.biz for a series of features covering the company's plans. We talked about Microsoft's blitz of independent studio acquisitions, and what it learned from is own checkered history of picking up popular developers. We asked the heads of Double Fine and Obsidian Entertainment how they were being treated by Microsoft. (We told them to blink twice if they were in trouble and needed help, but it was a phone call so who knows? That one's our bad.)
We also asked about Sony's "We believe in generations" approach, where it will make PS5 exclusive games while everything Microsoft makes (for now) will also run on an Xbox One, just without the next-gen bells and whistles.
It might not be the full reveal Xbox fans are waiting for, but the series is still an interesting check-in with the console maker at a pretty crucial time.
And regardless of your personal excitement level for the Series X, it's safe to say this generational transition is going better for Microsoft than the last one. At this point in Xbox One's pre-launch hype cycle, Microsoft was already in switched to full damage control mode and the head of the Xbox division jumped ship to run Zynga, which was itself struggling mightily at the time.
QUOTE | "Frankly, held back is a meme that gets created by people who are too caught up in device competition. I just look at Windows. It's almost certain if the developer is building a Windows version of their game, then the most powerful and highest fidelity version is the PC version." – In a lengthy feature, Xbox head Phil Spencer takes exception to the idea that Microsoft's first-party Xbox Series X titles won't be "held back" by a requirement that they run on Xbox One as well.
QUOTE | "Around spring or summer last year, I had a number of employees who were super disappointed because they thought it was going to be more different [laughs]. Not from the standpoint of us not being supported, but because they felt we were becoming part of this 'big Microsoft'." – Obsidian Entertainment head Feargus Urquhart jokes that some of his employees have been disappointed by the way Microsoft has left the studio alone since acquiring it.
QUOTE | "It does make me think about some of the crazy game ideas we've had, and some of them you're just like... I can never pitch this to any publisher. I would never get this signed. But I am now opening up that folder of documents again, and going 'oh I really love this idea, I bet I could do that now.'" – Double Fine's Tim Schafer says Microsoft's push for Game Pass is giving his recently acquired studio more latitude in the types of games it can make.
STAT | 76 – Number of companies on our list of U.S. gaming outfits who have been approved for small business loans intended to keep them from laying people off during the COVID-19 pandemic.
QUOTE | "When game designers think about difficulty, we think about mental load really. None of these things are strictly a question of 'difficult versus easy'—they're more about how we guide players to greater competency, and what the journey should be like." – ArenaNet's Jennifer Scheurle explains why hardcore gaming is not real in a talk on game difficulty from last week.
STAT | 80% - The share of Capcom games last year that were sold digitally. The company says some customers will always want physical copies, but it has set a goal of digital games eventually being 90% of its business.
QUOTE | "Whether it's religion, politics, beliefs, cultures, etc...when we as human beings sit down and spend real time with each other to discuss things...it's always fascinating to me to find out how much everyone actually has more common ground than not." – Intellivision CEO Tommy Tallarico responds to recent comments made by Earthworm Jim creator Doug TenNapel calling COVID-19 fake, arguing that he should be able to use racist and homophobic slurs, and saying Black Lives Matter protestors had riots "in their hearts already" and "were practically praying that a Black man would have a cop kneel on him so he'd die." Tallarico is developing a new Earthworm Jim game with TenNapel, David Perry, and other creators from the series' past as an exclusive for the Intellivision Amico.
QUOTE | "I love games. I love making games and playing games and talking about games. But nothing, no amount of passion or creativity, can blind me to the cruelty, bigotry and abuse that is rampant in our corporations and communities." – Sweet Baby co-founder Kim Belair penned a must-read editorial about the need to make the fight against systemic oppression a sustained movement rather than just another moment.
QUOTE | "I can't justify buying yet another retro miniconsole and paying the premium to have it shipped from Japan. Wait, what's this Dark Edge? That looks phenomenally janky. How would that even work? I need this, don't I?" – Me, upon seeing the reveal of Sega's Astro City Mini, which will feature 36 of the company's old arcade titles.
QUOTE | "We knew it was a risk right from the get go, and it turned out to be exactly as bad as we thought it to be." – Former Bungie executive Marty O'Donnell says the company's partnership with Activision for the Destiny franchise did not go well.
QUOTE | "I hope these gamers get the mental help they so clearly need. Unfortunately this is now the cost of making popular entertainment that challenges conventions." – Naughty Dog's Neil Druckmann responds to harassment directed at one of The Last of Us Part 2's voice actors because of actions her character takes in the game.