The Xbox logo against an interstellar background.
Image Source: Microsoft

With Studio Closures and Declining Hardware Sales, Pressure Mounts on Xbox’s June Showcase

A Fable in the making, or a State of Decay?

All eyes are on Xbox to deliver with their upcoming Games Showcase. With poor console sales, studio shutdowns, and perched between an underwhelming PlayStation presentation and 2024-focused Nintendo Direct, can the showcase deliver? And of course, what’s at stake if it doesn’t?

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Xbox Games Showcase 2024

Digitally airing on June 9, 2024, the Xbox Games Showcase will broadcast information on upcoming titles for the Xbox ecosystem. This is followed by a Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 Direct focusing on the upcoming Call of Duty title coming day one to Microsoft’s Game Pass.

Declining Hardware Sales

Xbox Series X and PS5 on Green and Blue background
Image Credit: Microsoft / Sony via Twinfinite

It’s not the ultimate measure of how the three console manufacturers – Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft – are faring amongst one another, but the amount of actual consoles sold is a firm gauge to view gamers’ interest in a platform.

Yet, in this respect, Microsoft is sorely losing. Xbox shows a 30% decrease in sales in 2024 from their third-quarter earnings. This is on top of a similar 30% decrease reported in 2023.

Xbox has been a runner-up in console sales for more than a decade, but Microsoft has seemingly not been fazed by this position. They continue to support their family of systems with cross-platform titles and prioritisation of Game Pass subscribers. However, with such a diminishing slice of the pie, gamers are going to be eagerly watching the Showcase for new releases which may tip the scales of sales in favour of Microsoft.

Recent Xbox Game Studios Closures

Main Cast of Tango Gameworks' Hi-Fi Rush in cover pose
Image Source: Tango Gameworks

Microsoft fought hard for their aquisition of Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion in October of last year. As such, gamers understood that Microsoft was likely heading into this Showcase with a lot of exclusive games to show off. However, just this May, three of Microsoft’s Xbox Game Studios were closed with one merged internally. As such, the atmosphere surrounding Microsoft’s upcoming first-party software has darkened drastically.

The studios closed were Arkane Austin (Redfall), Tango Gameworks (Hi-Fi Rush) and Alpha Dog Games (Mighty Doom). This is alongside the merging of Roundhouse Studios with Zenimax Online Studios. Speaking on these closures, President of Xbox Sarah Bond stated at the Bloomberg Tech Summit that:

“We feel a deep responsibility to ensure that the games we make, the devices we build, the services that we offer are there through moments. Even when the industry isn’t growing… The news we announced earlier in the week is an outcome of that”.

Microsoft has the weight of expectation from gamers everywhere to show the fruits of the other Xbox Game Studios’ labor. With the closures still fresh in gamers’ minds, all eyes are on Microsoft to deliver for the second half of 2024 and beyond.

Mixed Reception of Xbox Studios Titles

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II protagonist Senua looks at reflection of face in pool
Image Source: Ninja Theory via Twinfinite

Prior to release, Starfield – Bethesda Softworks’ first new IP in over 25 years – drew uproar from the gaming community. Amongst other things, it was announced that it would be exclusive to Microsoft’s Xbox ecosystem. The impact of this was so much that its exclusivity was used as a case against Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition.

But, nine months later, gamers’ ultimately lukewarm reception to Xbox’s science fiction role-playing game is apparent. It seems like its exclusivity was nothing the other console manufacturers should have had any concern over.

This is a common story, of Xbox Game Studios titles failing to capture the popular imagination despite critical appreciation. Yet it is one Microsoft has had to listen to time and time again. In the year since Xbox’s last Games Showcase in 2023, Xbox Game Studios have released a minimal three new titles: The aforementioned lukewarm Starfield, the next-generation racing game Forza Motorsport, and the recently released cinematic showcase Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II.

All three titles were critically applauded with an average Metacritic critic score of 82. However, user scores for the same titles averaged at 7.2. Clearly, gamers themselves weren’t holding them in similarly high regard.

Considering the decreasing number of studios under its belt, Microsoft has failed to release titles that resonate with gamers. As such, Microsoft must have a momentous amount of pressure to make the software they do announce engaging. Going into this Xbox Games Showcase, Microsoft is going to have to come out swinging if it’s going to ‘wow’ viewers.

Late Nintendo Direct and Underwhelming Sony State of Play

Navigating around the mid-year time frame provided by the Summer Game Fest, the three console manufacturers allocate this time of year for their own video game news announcements.

Sony led the charge with their May 30 State of Play broadcast, and Nintendo is likely to announce a Direct presentation later this month. Sony announced many captivating-looking titles, including a sequel to the PlayStation 5 pack-in title Astro’s Playroom, during its broadcast. However, many gamers felt that Sony’s broadcast focused too much on live-service titles.

As seen on the PlayStation subreddit, frustrated gamers were venting their displeasure. One such user, Majid232, encapsulated PlayStation fans’ upset over the State of Play and love for Astro Bot:

With the poor reception of PlayStation’s offerings, the only other potential competition to Microsoft for gamers’ attention remains Nintendo. However, as announced by Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa on X (formerly Twitter) last month, Nintendo’s upcoming presentation will be void of any mention of the eagerly-awaited Nintendo Switch system’s successor. As well as that, it’s solely “regarding the Nintendo Switch software lineup for the latter half of 2024”.

Sony has seemingly left gamers wishing for more from their presentation, and Nintendo’s later Direct poses as a stop-gap until the announcement of new hardware. As such, Microsoft is in the unique position of being able to shout loudest about its upcoming releases. With Sony’s hardware lead and Nintendo’s exclusive software experiences, all eyes are on Microsoft to use the quiet surrounding the gaming space to make a massive impact and gain some much-needed momentum.

Possible Xbox Showcase Software Reveals

Backward compatibility titles for Xbox lined up with cover art shown
Image Source: Microsoft

In the same quarterly report in which Microsoft disclosed its diminishing hardware sales, one bright spot was Xbox’s 51% growth in gaming revenue “driven by growth in Xbox content and services”. Game Pass, and the constant flow of eye-catching software to fill it, is Microsoft’s guiding light going into this year’s Summer Game Fest presentation.

Already slated for release this year are Xbox Games Studios titles such as Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, developed by Machine Games (Wolfenstein), and the long-awaited role-playing game Avowed from Obsidian (Grounded and The Outer Worlds).

Alongside the day-one Game Pass release of Black Ops 6, and with Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II’s release last month, such a showing would suffice for some as a decent Showcase from Xbox, especially considering the subdued offering from PlayStation and 2024 focus from Nintendo. However, with the potential for so many software reveals going into this Showcase, Microsoft has momentous pressure to deliver.

Rare’s Everwild was first seen five years ago, and many are clamoring to hear about the prestigious developer’s latest project. Playground Games’ Fable was shown off last year and blew gamers away with its classic tongue-in-cheek humor and stunning graphics. What about 343 Industries, The Coalition, id Software, and Undead Labs – the Xbox Games Studios in charge of the Halo, Gears of War, Doom, and State of Decay franchises respectively?

Last but not least, it’s been four years since we were first informed of The Initiative’s reboot of Perfect Dark. As such, gamers have been anxious to hear even the most minor of details regarding its development.

We’ll likely not see even half of those titles be mentioned, let alone shown, during the Games Development Showcase; with Xbox in such a precarious position this Summer Game Fest, they find themselves with so much pressure to perform.

Mark the Calendar

Master Chief and Cortana in Halo 3
Image Source: Microsoft Game Studios

From diminishing console sales and very public studio closures to underwhelming software reception and minimal presence from the other two competitors, alongside the normal pressures to deliver at this time of year, the jury’s out on how Microsoft will perform.

Either way, we all get to witness if they fumble the ball or hit right on target, in real-time, this Sunday at 10 AM PT.


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Author
Connor Wright
Connor is a Freelance Writer at Twinfinite. Hailing from the east coast of Scotland, with experience in the development and retail spaces of the industry, he uses his passion about games and Scottish charm to write features and guides. When he's not writing, Connor loves dissecting his favourite fictional worlds and plundering on the virtual open seas.