Xbox Game Studios: Projects start to multiply, firepower increases


Two other Xbox Game Studios projects were actually leaked last week: Obsidian Entertainment’s Pentiment, directed by Josh Sawyer and Project Midnight from Compulsion Games, the developer of We Happy Few. In both cases, the developments were already known. In other words, Obsidian was known to have a fourth project underway, in addition to Avowed, The Outer Worlds 2, and Grounded, and Compulsion Games was known to be developing something, in part because making video games is what software houses do. usually do and a little bit because Phil Spencer has talked about the game in the past.

As a matter of fact, from today onwards it will be easier to talk about Penitiment and Midnight Project, because we have codenames, even if only temporary, and we have more specific coordinates, which allow us to fit them better. You can also begin to assess the strength of the next wave of Xbox Game Studios games, which increases with each passing day. 2021 was a year of confirmations and transition projects, in the sense that many Microsoft-led studios released their last games born and signed before the acquisitions. For example, inXile completed Wasteland 3, Obsidian with The Outer Worlds, Double Fine with Psychonauts 2, Arkane with Deathloope and so on. It’s the end of a cycle for them.

Please note: these are Microsoft games in all respects once you bought them, but Redmond decided to honor all agreements made by the various studios before purchasing them, creating this row of cross-platform releases.

Now, however, everything that is revealed by Xbox Game Studios is not only exclusive to the Xbox ecosystem, but is also funded and approved directly by Microsoft, so it can be assessed as such. The presence of smaller projects like Pentiment alongside larger productions like Obsidia’s acclaimed Avowed is interesting, in part because it shows Microsoft’s philosophy of leaving ample freedom to experiment with its studios, not forcing them into very specific tracks, in part because it opens up a creativity close to the philosophy of independent developers, often repressed in the context of AAA. In short, it seems paradoxical to say this, but a title like Sawyer’s would hardly have been given the green light by Obsidian executives. A production like Avowed a Obsidian could not afford it alone. We are probably looking for the Grounded effect: a smaller project, in any case of high quality, capable of affecting a more or less large niche of users, it easily managed five million players already in its first days and became the top seller on Steam for a decent time.

For the title of Compulsion, the speech is different, but from the first information we can still make some substantive considerations. We Happy Few, your previous game, was plagued by the need to please creditors by inserting distorting elements into the game, just to give the mirage of infinite monetization possibilities. At Project Midnight we are talking about a pure narrative game for one player, therefore more focused and probably devoid of certain economic restrictions. This could also be an effect of Microsoft’s entry into the picture, which could have removed certain obligations and left more freedom for the studio.

In short, it is also a way of multiplying the offer, focusing on variety and also on mega productions. This isn’t an increase in firepower in the traditional sense, but at least it’s proof that Microsoft wants to try different paths to please Xbox fans, trying a more dynamic and creative approach.