A Direct of its own is just what Xbox needs after a weak 2022

Redfall
(Image credit: Bethesda)

Despite spending a lot more money buying up developers in the past few years, Xbox lost to both PlayStation and Nintendo in 2022 in terms of actual games due to a lack of first-party momentum – not just immediate releases, but also plans for what's next. The year-end announcement rush revealed a particularly brutal gap, with Xbox a virtual no-show at The Game Awards, the holiday season's biggest gaming hype storm. So it's both encouraging and unsurprising to see Xbox follow PlayStation in emulating Nintendo – still the GOAT of live shows – by launching its own Direct showcase. 

Xbox confirmed its previously-rumored January 25 Developer Direct earlier today. The event will be co-hosted by Bethesda, thus far the biggest of the game studios that Microsoft has gobbled up (technically, it's still only trying to fit Activision into its gaping, snake-like jaw, and with quite some opposition from the FTC). Thus far, it sounds mighty similar to Nintendo's more focused Directs and PlayStation's snackier State of Play shows.  

Xbox Year in Review

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Microsoft)

2022 left Microsoft with plenty to talk about, but not all that much to show for it, giving the Xbox Series X a lot to prove in 2023. Check out our Xbox Year in Review for a full breakdown.  

The showcase will focus on Redfall, The Elder Scrolls Online, Forza Motorsports, and Minecraft Legends, potential surprise guests notwithstanding. Redfall, as Arkane's spin on Far Cry, probably has the broadest appeal of the four, but Forza is an Xbox tentpole and Minecraft is, as ever, a juggernaut. The Elder Scrolls Online is a bit more PC-leaning and likely less exciting for many Xbox owners, but it's nice to see the still-quite-excellent MMO getting some love on a big stage. And more than anything, it's good to see Xbox being more proactive and vocal with its plans for the year ahead. 

Starfield factions

(Image credit: Bethesda)

The platform's lack of original games has been compounded by fragmented communication about what Xbox owners can look forward to. I want to see this January show kick off a series of regular Developer Directs, both to give individual Xbox studios and projects more time to shine, and also to give players a better sense of where the platform is heading. And you know, lord knows I don't have enough live shows to cover already. 

Starfield is a notable absentee here, but Xbox was quick to confirm that Bethesda's space-faring RPG will get its own standalone deep dive a bit later in the year. This comes as no surprise, seeing as Starfield will likely end up setting the tone for this entire Xbox generation as the ultimate acid test for Microsoft's long-term investments. Most of the company's biggest acquisitions still haven't borne fruit. No Senua's Sacrifice from Ninja Theory, no Avowed from Obsidian, Rare's Everwild is still basically just a title, and hell, an existing Arkane deal with Sony ironically even kept Deathloop off Xbox for a year. We're waiting on a lot, and the Xbox audience is getting understandably hungry for some payoff. 

If Starfield's launch is anything short of stellar, Microsoft's first-party strategy will face redoubled scrutiny and its immediate roster will be left with an unfillable hole that will inevitably darken the forecast for the years ahead. Virtually nothing is going to stop this mammoth game from selling like heaters in the arctic winter, but Starfield really needs to stick the landing. I'm knocking on wood here, but if it ends up being another Cyberpunk 2077 situation – which is not at all out of the question seeing as how Cyberpunk 2077 was basically another Fallout 76 – Xbox is gonna be in trouble, never mind Bethesda.  

But enough doomy hypotheticals. This feels like exactly what Xbox needs to regain some energy after not even showing up to parties for the past few months. Starfield is still packed with potential, and I'm excited for the first Xbox Direct. Here's hoping it's a good show. 

Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a staff writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature.