Microsoft is on a crusade to turn the Xbox brand around. In the face of stiff competition from Sony, they’ve been working tirelessly to prove the platform is still an enticing one. It’s resulted in some clever innovations and some admirable quality of life improvements for their users, like Backward Compatibility and Game Pass. But the issue that’s really plagued them has been the games themselves, or lack thereof.
After a flurry of exclusives back in 2015, things went quiet, and then took a turn for the worse with studio closures and game cancellations. Unsurprisingly, a narrative quickly grew that the Xbox One was void of quality games, particularly as Sony’s PS4 started to roll out a library of heavy-hitting exclusives.
Microsoft is now finally turning its attention to securing new studios and reversing that narrative. The message at their E3 2018 conference was clear: the company is building for the future and exclusive game content is very much a part of that plan. They’ve acquired five new internal studios, including the creation of an all-new one called The Initiative, comprising of former Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix alumni.
If we’re to believe recent whispers, one more might be on the way, with Obsidian Entertainment, the studio behind Pillars of Eternity, rumored to be in discussion with Microsoft as of yesterday.
An even more significant announcement could still be in the pipeline, too: Microsoft is seemingly planning on expanding its horizons to Japan. Perhaps, even, looking to add internal studios from the region. Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft, spoke of his desire to work more closely with Japenese developers in the future during E3, and now he’s over there apparently looking to put that plan into motion.
Earlier this week, Spencer tweeted:
Spending this week in Japan visiting studios and publishers, will be great to talk about games in development and get feedback on how we keep making progress with creators here. @Xbox_JP
— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) October 8, 2018
If Microsoft truly is planning to ally itself with a developer in Japan, that would represent a huge statement of intent. For years, Sony has utterly dominated the region and we’ve seen precious little support for Japanese content on the Xbox One. The platform just hasn’t gained any sort of traction over there at all, despite ironically supporting plenty of niche Japanese games the previous generation.
The lack of Japanese content has become such an issue that it’s prompted a negative backlash from developers in the region. Only last year, NIS President Takuro Yamashita suggested Microsoft was “not really (being) supportive of Japanese games or developers.”
What’s more, missing out on popular exclusives such as Persona 5, Ni No Kuni 2, and Dragon Quest XI has been a real sore spot for Xbox Players. Any sort of action to remedy that situation, therefore, is a huge positive for the brand’s reputation both among users and developers.
So what’s Spencer actually planning? I reached out to Microsoft for further clarification and was told:
Japan remains a major contributor to Microsoft’s future plans and we’re committed to bringing innovative and homegrown content from some of its leading game creators to a global audience.
Unsurprisingly, the spokesperson who replied danced around the specifics. But the extent to which Microsoft continues to speak and now take action within the region is certainly telling. There’s a tremendous push to add new content to the platform, both now and for the future. Microsoft knows that its ecosystem already offers a superior ecosystem to Sony with its various services, but it’s the software that does the real talking.
Armed with subscription services, streaming technology, and hardware platform that is likely to support all the same quality of life features as the Xbox One, Microsoft’s next generation platform is going to be hugely competitive if it can kick things off with a substantial library of games. Particularly so, if that library is plush with a diverse variety of content –namely, Japanese games.