I was wrong: Why I’m worried about Xbox’s lack of exclusives

Xbox's lack of exclusives
(Image credit: Microsoft)

The newest generation of consoles are steadily approaching their second year, and I can’t help but recall an article I wrote last year on why I’m not worried about Xbox’s lack of exclusives — specifically highlighting how 2022 was bound to be an exciting year for the company. In particular, I mentioned Halo Infinite, Fable, Redfall, Forza Horizon 5, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Perfect Dark, Everwild, Avowed, Psychonauts 2, Starfield, and The Elder Scrolls 6. That’s a hefty line-up of games, yet more than a year later, much of that list is either still in the dark or failed in some ways.

This isn’t just about games being delayed, though. I’m not here to admonish developers at Xbox for a game being pushed to the next year. Game development is hard and things can take more time than you expect, but there’s seemingly much more going on behind the scenes in regards to projects being entirely rebooted, creative directors abruptly leaving their respective games, Xbox having trouble managing their studios, and even the possibility of the Halo team abandoning their shiny new engine entirely.

It’s also no secret that Xbox’s 2022 lineup has been light, and I can’t help but be worried about this generation’s lack of exclusive games.

What has worked for Xbox in 2022

Pentiment, Obsidian Entertainment’s bizarre lower-budget, side-scrolling, choice-based, narrative-focused, exploration-heavy experience looks like an absolute trip. This is a great example of the weird stuff a team responsible for games like Fallout: New Vegas and The Outer Worlds can create when given some freedom. I see the existence of this strange little gem as nothing more than a win for artistry in the medium, and I can only hope it is a financial and critical hit when it launches on November 15.

Xbox's lack of exclusives

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Grounded technically had its full launch this year as well, although it’s been in early access for a long time. The narrative adventure title As Dusk Falls also launched this year, so if that’s your type of game, you might consider giving its still-image based narrative storytelling a shot.

Although it feels a little dirty to count Scorn and Warhammer 40,000: Darktide since they’re not first-party games, they are technically console-exclusives. Scorn didn’t get excellent reviews, but it’s unique enough that its existence is absolutely worth noting as a positive, and I personally cannot wait to get my hands on Darktide.

What hasn’t worked for Xbox in 2022 

Redfall, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, and Starfield have been delayed to 2023. There’s not much else to say about it; delays happen and are often good to ensure a game comes out better than it would’ve before. Unfortunately, it means that 2022 is without big games from Xbox. There are no first-party AAA games launching as an Xbox-console exclusive this year, whereas Sony has had God of War Ragnarök and Horizon Forbidden West to boast.

Halo Infinite had its gameplay shown off during the summer of 2020, but it was rough around the edges and critics weren’t afraid to point that out. The game was delayed shortly after, eventually resulting in its late 2021 release. And, during the period of its free-to-play multiplayer beta, it was beginning to feel like Halo was back in its full glory. The reception of its campaign seemed to solidify that, although we were not big fans of it. 

However, this opinion quickly shifted. Now, a year later, Halo Infinite is widely regarded as a live-service mess. Campaign co-op is still not available, with its promise constantly delayed with every oncoming season. Learning that campaign co-op would be unavailable at launch was heartbreaking, and to learn players would have to wait until May to get their hands on it wasn’t much better. Yet, as that date approached steadily, it was just delayed again. Cut to August and there were rumblings of online co-op beta tests, and at that point, 343 Industries was targeting August for a release. Once again, nothing came. 

Halo Infinite’s third season begins on November 8, which is supposedly when online co-op and Forge will be in the game. This is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, so I can only hope we actually do get our hands on it. But even then, Halo Infinite’s promised split-screen co-op has been entirely canceled and would not feature matchmaking of any sort. There are also reports that Halo Infinite’s Slipspace Engine has been difficult to work with and there seems to be a rumor that the team plans to switch to Unreal Engine 5. 

Everwild, a seemingly bittersweet journey that vaguely promised to let us connect with the wilds and experience a beautiful world through the eyes of a nature-loving druid, is nowhere to be found. It was announced during the fall of 2019, and although we received another cinematic trailer in 2020, we haven’t heard much since. Development has reportedly been messy, with the project being “completely rebooted” and now targeting a 2024 launch. Its creative director, Simon Woodroffe, departed from the game and development was “restarted from scratch,” according to VGC. On the XboxEra podcast, Jeff Grubb claimed that "Everwild is a real mess." He continues, "the people working on that game don’t really know what’s going on with that game."

The Perfect Dark reboot, a game that is Xbox’s big project from “AAAA team” The Initiative, has also had some troubles. It was revealed that the company would partner with Crystal Dynamics to develop the game. It’s hard to say exactly what this means, but we'll have to wait until more footage is shown. Additionally, half of Perfect Dark's core staff has departed in the last 12 months, according to a VideoGamesChronicle report. Senior developers who spoke to VGC claim that a lack of creative autonomy resulted in a "fast and furious" wave of departures, along with slow development progress being cited as a contributing factor. These developers "didn't feel heard" on massive problems such as project planning, development priorities and team staffing.

Present and past employees from Undead Labs, developers of the upcoming State of Decay 3, have accused the company of harassment in a Kotaku report. One employee claimed that a man on the team was blatantly sexist, and a manager that a studio head sided with caused “nearly the entire tech art team quit.” These reports go just beyond harassment, though, as the development of the game has directly suffered according to those same employees. There is a shared concern that Xbox is being too detached from the project, “leaving some of the studio’s more vulnerable employees to fend for themselves.”

Although we don’t know much else, Eidos Montreal has been brought on to co-develop Xbox’s new Fable game. I don’t want to speculate too heavily on the reasoning behind this decision, but it does make me worry. Hopefully we’ll learn why this is happening soon. Beyond that, we haven’t heard much about Fable since its cinematic trailer in 2020. Playground Games has been hard at work on Forza Horizon 5 and its DLC since then, so we might not hear much about it for a while. 

Bottom line 

In my article last year, I wrote “once the floodgates open up, Xbox could boast a lineup competitive enough to challenge PlayStation. And this renewed spirit could kick off with Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 launching later this year.” Unfortunately, I just don’t believe this statement anymore.

2022 has been lackluster for Xbox, and the multiple reports we’ve heard from behind the scenes indicate that things are in a less-than-great position. I can only hope 2023 will look more positive for the console’s exclusive line-up, especially once we get our hands on Redfall and Starfield.

Momo Tabari
Contributing Writer

Self-described art critic and unabashedly pretentious, Momo finds joy in impassioned ramblings about her closeness to video games. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Media Studies from Brooklyn College and five years of experience in entertainment journalism. Momo is a stalwart defender of the importance found in subjectivity and spends most days overwhelmed with excitement for the past, present and future of gaming. When she isn't writing or playing Dark Souls, she can be found eating chicken fettuccine alfredo and watching anime.