After a pretty dry period, Xbox is set for a massive year in 2023 with several major first-party releases as well as a strong Xbox Game Pass offering.
2022 has been harsh for Xbox and their fans. What was supposed to be a pretty strong year for the green team with two major AAA bangers in Starfield and Redfall , quickly devolved into a desolate wasteland due to a double delay announcement from Bethesda, which left Xbox lacking first-party ammo in a year where Sony released God of War: Ragnarok and Horizon Forbidden West.
Without the excellent Pentiment , Xbox would have zero first-party releases in 2022, which is certainly disappointing given that the company have 23 studios including Zenimax. Despite the impressive year for Game Pass, which saw day-one launches of High on Life, A Plague Tale: Requiem, Tunic and Phil Spencer's favourite Vampire Survivors , that wasn't enough to save Xbox's 2022 from mediocrity.
However, things are changing in 2023, and if all goes as planned, Xbox might have their best year in a long, long time. I believe Xbox is in an excellent position to win another publisher of the year award and usher in a new era for the brand in 2023, now that Bethesda is under their umbrella. This is why.
Xbox Game Pass lineup looks totally bonkers in 2023
It's incredible how many AAA day-one launches Xbox Game Pass has scheduled for this year . Titles such as post-apocalyptic horror Stalker 2: Shadow of Chernobyl , dark fantasy RPG Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, Bioshock-like shooter Atomic Heart, Pinocchio souls-like Lies of P , stunning dystopian thriller Replaced, horror slasher The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Vin Diesel's Ark 2 are all confirmed to be launching day one on Xbox Game Pass in 2023.
And I didn't even count all of them, nor the first-party releases. That's crazy value but it gets even better with some highly-anticipated indies like Hollow Knight: Silksong, another souls-like in Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn and horror platformer The Last Case of Benedict Fox.
Yes, delays happen, and I wouldn't be surprised if some titles are pushed to 2024, but Game Pass simply has too much firepower in 2023, possibly more than ever before, making this year feel like the year when the popular subscription service really kicks into high gear and never slows down.
And let's not forget we're in only in January so there's plenty of room left for Xbox to announce even more major Game Pass surprises throughout the year.
Wrapping up 2022 with only one first-party release and a handful of exclusives is never a good look for a console manufacturer with 23 studios. While it can always be argued that publishers have little choice but to postpone titles that aren't ready for release, Xbox's dry 2022 left gamers with a bad taste in their mouths.
In contrast, 2023 should be a massive year with numerous first-party titles slated to come exclusively for the Xbox ecosystem, including Starfield, Redfall and Forza Motorsport.
Bethesda's Starfield in particular will be a mammoth release and has the potential to be one of the biggest games of this generation. And it's exclusive to Xbox, which doesn't seem to be mentioned as much as it should be.
Forza Motorsport has been built from the ground up to showcase the power of Xbox Series X|S - not to mention that Turn10 Studios rarely disappoint. Arkane's vampire-hunting shooter Redfall looks fantastic too, especially if you're looking for something to scratch that co-op fun itch.
Xbox also locked down many third-party releases to their platforms including the highly anticipated Stalker 2 and Ark 2, which do appear to be timed exclusives but nonetheless, these partnerships suggest that Xbox is boosting their third-party exclusives reach, similar to how Sony has been actively doing in recent years.
On top of this, Xbox have publishing deals for Ara: History Untold, console ports for Age of Empires and potentially, some major surprises for late 2023. With such a diverse lineup of exclusives, they are well positioned to compete and depending on the quality and critical reception of these games, even overmatch strong competition from their rivals.
Activision Blizzard deal is a tactical nuke
Unless you're a lawyer or some mergers enthusiast that loves to dig through countless documents from regulators and watch out for every comment that Sony, Microsoft and others involved in this deal make, you're probably bored and exhausted with the constant news about Microsoft's proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard .
Luckily, Microsoft expect this deal to close sometime in 2023 and once that happens, the floodgates of Activision and Blizzard games will finally open for Xbox Game Pass subscribers. Depending on when the deal closes, we could even see Blizzard's action RPG Diablo IV launch on Game Pass, which would be a Tsar Bomba.
But even if that doesn't happen and Diablo IV doesn't launch on Game Pass, Activision Blizzard has a slew of other games that will almost certainly be added to Game Pass shortly after the deal closes.
Remember how Xbox dropped 20 Bethesda games on Game Pass in one day? Well, you can bet that they are planning to do something similar with Activision Blizzard franchises like Call of Duty, Diablo, Crash, Spyro, Prototype and Blur as soon as the merger is complete.
Such a wave of high-quality games would be another massive boost for the Game Pass library and Xbox's 2023.
With a strong Game Pass lineup, AAA banger exclusives and the potential closure of the Activision Blizzard deal resulting in even more games on Game Pass, Xbox's 2023 is surely shaping up to be a stellar year.
Of course, their main competitor Sony won't sit and watch as Xbox takes the spotlight. Highly anticipated PlayStation exclusives such as Marvel's Spider-Man 2, Forspoken, Final Fantasy XVI and Silent Hill 2 Remake which have been confirmed for 2023 won't allow Xbox to relax one bit. Furthermore, Sony are launching PlayStation VR 2 soon with a full slate of exclusive titles.
The Japanese publisher will probably have other surprises too, like the highly-anticipated The Last of Us multiplayer project, so it's safe to say it's going to be a great year for both PlayStation and Xbox fans.
However, I feel that Xbox will have just enough juice in their engines to rocket into starfield and bury the "Xbox has no games" narrative once and for all. It may not be as simple and straightforward as that since success depends on multiple factors, especially in the games industry, but on paper, it certainly looks like Xbox have it all sorted out to take the spotlight in 2023. Hype is indeed real.