Microsoft has had a lot to celebrate towards the end of 2021, including the one-year anniversary of the Xbox Series X and S consoles, the 20th birthday of the Microsoft brand, the release of the best-in-class Forza Horizon 5, and the launch of the ridiculously fun Halo Infinite. However, Phil Spencer and friends aren’t eager to let the balloons down and end the party just yet, and with a jam-packed 2022 ahead, it’s easy to see why they want to keep the celebration continuing. Here’s a look at what Microsoft and its host of Xbox Game Studios will produce over the next 12 months.
Xbox Has Games
One way to keep the momentum continuing remains to focus on what made Microsoft such a strong ending to 2021 – great games. One element of the 2022 slate will be continued support for those outstanding games from the past.
Halo is back and possibly bigger than ever, but the most fascinating thing about Infinite remains that it’s only starting. In 2022, Halo developer 343 will release so much more, including the eagerly awaited addition of co-op to the campaign, as well as the fan-favourite Forge mode. Multiplayer will of course be updated on a regular basis, whether that be new maps, modes, or further improvements to the battle pass progression system, which has been the only real mark against its name up until this point. Within a week of its release, Forza Horizon 5 saw over 10 million players hoon it around Playground’s stunning depiction of Mexico. The studio is a great track record of giving high-quality DLC to previous Horizons, so we can certainly expect some of that in the coming months.
Bethesda, a little indie company Microsoft purchased for $7.5 billion in March of 2021, is then there. Redfall and Starfield, two Bethesda Xbox exclusives, are currently in the works for 2022. The former is an open-world co-op vampire shooter developed by Arkane, which will be eager to duplicate the critical acclaim it earned for Deathloop, a Game of the Year contender in 2021. Redfall will be a new challenge for Arkane to contend with, but with a history of creating some of the most mechanically sound and smartly created games in recent memory, there’s no reason to doubt the studio’s ability to do so.
Bethesda Games Studios’ first new series in 25 years is Starfield. A sprawling odyssey that director Todd Howard has alluded to as “Skyrim in Space.” We actually know very little about what we’ll be seeing in Starfield, and that’s partly what gets it so exciting. It is currently slated for a November 11th, 2022 release. Howard has teased us with the ability to explore the great unknown, with unparalleled freedom, and even calling it “the biggest most epic science fiction thing you could possibly make.” If Starfield lives up to all of its potential, then Xbox might land their best exclusive to date.
Back in the world of Forza, perhaps in 2022 we’ll witness the return of its elder, more sane brother. A smooth reboot of Forza Motorsport from Turn 10 Studios could be ready to take its place on the starting grid towards the end of this coming year, according to the video released at the 2020 Xbox Games Showcase. If the in-engine trailer is anything to go by, it was made from the ground up for the Series X and S consoles and is sure to be a treat for the eyes.
As for other things that appear to be making full advantage of Epic’s Unreal Engine 5, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Ninja Theory’s follow-up to the critically lauded Senua’s Sacrifice, appears to be. The signs are that development is proceeding well, with gameplay recently demonstrated off at The Game Awards. Another game we’re hoping to play in 2022, but we just don’t know at this point.
Let’s get onto some of the games that we’ll be surprised if they don’t drop in the next 12 months. The April 28th release date for Stalker 2: Heart of Chernobyl is scheduled. Stalker 2 will bring along with it a legion of devoted fans of the cult original, as it is the first in the series of four games to be released on consoles. While this post-apocalyptic survival FPS may not be a lighthearted comedy, it is certain to be one of the most tense games of 2022 and another opportunity for the Series X to flex its powerful tech muscles.
If you didn’t have your fill of first-person survival horror over the previous few years by just existing, then Xbox has you covered. Scorn, an H.R. opponent of Stalker, is vying for the award for grimmest looking game. Giger-inspired biopunk adventure. If relishing in the macabre and acting as a skinless humanoid fighting off ghoulish creatures on an alien planet sounds like a nice getaway to you, I’ve made the perfect game for you. Delays have caused it to be postponed until October 2022, after it was originally planned to be delivered in 2021.
CrossfireX is a distinct cross-continental flavor, with a free-to-play multiplayer in the vein of Korean developers Smilegate and a single-player campaign designed by Max Payne and Control creators Remedy from Finland. If the Fins can take some of their unique storytelling talent to the table in this game, it could be a surprise hit for Xbox when it drops as soon as February.
Rare is busy creating Everwild when it isn’t wasting time constantly updating and adding unexpected treats to Sea of Thieves. It’s a one-of-a-kind and stunning sounding proposition, but it’s still largely shrouded in mystery. Maybe 2022 is the time we get a decent look at what secrets Everwild holds, and maybe even learn to play it after it was unveiled well over two years ago. However, with rumors swirling that the development has been difficult and that a 2023 release is more possible, we’ll keep our breath for now.
However, not everything needs to run on such a grand scale. Xbox hasn’t had as many indie exclusives recently to make its own since being at the forefront of the indie game boom in the early 2000s at the peak of the Summer of Arcade, but it may be seeing that momentum swing back in 2022.
Somerville is a mystery platformer created by former Playdead co-founder Dino Patti and produced by new studio Jumpship. Somerville promises something like, with plenty of pedigree being from his time working on indie classics such as Limbo and Inside. Tunic is a magic quest-based adventure in which you act as a fox. Because both heroes wear a green outfit, carry a sword, and solve puzzles, it has been expected to make many Legend of Zelda comparisons. Nobody Saves the World, from the traditionally PlayStation-aligned Drinkbox Studios, is also available. A top-down dungeon crawler that contains all of the charming and character you’d expect from the people behind the Guacamelee! games.
All of these games will be made available through Xbox Game Pass, which is clearly the biggest deal in gaming at this point, and these are all just the Xbox console exclusives arriving next year. In 2022, a smorgasbord of great looking third-party games such as Elden Ring, Dying Light 2, Suicide Squad, and Gotham Knights are set to be released, with but a few being canceled. In addition, perhaps the Series X version of Cyberpunk 2077 will make it as well.
Hardware & Services
Of course, you’ll have to be either an Xbox Series X or a S in order to play some of these games. Since those consoles were delivered, it has not been the easiest thing to play. Console shortages are no new thing in the games industry, especially so soon after the introduction of a fresh generation, but this time they’ve been more difficult to attain. Of course, component shortages and the ever-growing pandemic have posed unprecedented difficulties – let’s assume things only become better from here on all accounts.
However, xCloud is here to save the day for those who are still waiting to put their hands on the current generation. Xbox Cloud Gaming allows PC, phone, and tablet users to catch a glimpse of the Xbox action without the need for a console. When you can play all of the games mentioned earlier without even having a console in 2022, it really does mean that they were recently added as a service to any Game Pass Ultimate subscription. It will be fascinating to watch how cloud gaming evolves over the next 12 months, but with Xbox Cloud Gaming, it really does feel like the future is already here.
However, a dip into the muddy sea of NFTs is one thing we’re unlikely to hear from Xbox anytime soon. Phil Spencer described Non-Fungible Tokens in games as something that “feels more exploitative than about entertainment” in a recent interview with Axios. While major publishers like Ubisoft and EA may be going in this direction, it’s safe to mention that no Master Chief NFTs will be available on the Xbox Store in 2022.
In 2022, it is shaping up to be a fantastic time to be an Xbox player, with a slew of new games on the way and so many audience-friendly services continuing to expand. Beyond all of this, the future is looking bright for Xbox and its stable of impressive studios. Fable, Avowed, The Outer Worlds 2, State of Decay 3, Perfect Dark, Indiana Jones, and The Elder Scrolls 6 are all on the horizon. If any of these were to drop out in the next year, it would certainly be a surprise (and you would not hear me complaining), but the prospect of seeing more of them is enough to have me going. And that’s probably the greatest thing about being an Xbox player right now; it’s just not sounding like the excitement is going to be stopping any time soon.