It wouldn’t be the first time, but Xbox fans are upset in the wake of last night’s broadcast of The Game Awards. The problem? While competitors like Sony scooped up award after award, the Xbox brand and Xbox-related games were almost nowhere to be seen.
Ironically, this year’s Game Awards took place in LA’s Microsoft Theater. Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer did in fact attend, and though an Xbox-published game won an award and a lot of upcoming Game Pass titles and features were announced, Xbox fans felt like their console’s parent company let them down. The Federal Trade Commission—which just hours before the Awards sued to prevent Microsoft’s pending merger with Activison Blizzard—likely didn’t mind Microsoft’s introversion, but the company’s long-suffering fans are tired of waiting for the publisher to show up.
“Zero showings since June pretty much,” one popular tweet in response to Xbox’s forthcoming Game Pass titles said. “Y’all hate your fans.”
The sentiment seemed to echo everywhere. “Very surprised with Xbox not having a presence at The Game Awards,” Kinda Funny host Parris Lilly tweeted, “IMO it’s a missed opportunity to set the table for what’s to come in 2023.” Wirecutter editor Arthur Gies noticed Microsoft Gaming’s wallflower status too, tweeting “Xbox was the quietest i think i’ve ever seen at the Game Awards.”
But Microsoft hasn’t been able to deliver the inspiring exclusives its fans keep praying for in a while—Bethesda’s huge Xbox-exclusive action role-playing game Starfield missed its 2022 due date, as did Arkane’s first-person shooter Redfall. We’re at the point where even Microsoft admits Sony and its PlayStation have “better quality” exclusives.
Instead of trying to match that quality, and despite a massive, promising Halo Infinite update and the success of 2022 exclusives like Pentiment, Xbox seems to be emphasizing Game Pass as its moneymaker. That may be disappointing for diehards yearning for some creativity from the brand, but it’s probably the safest thing for Xbox to do while its mess of an Activision Blizzard merger chugs on. The FTC is worried that a merger would make Microsoft too much of a gaming Goliath, and specifically mentions Starfield and Redfall in its press release describing why it thinks so.
“Microsoft decided to make several of Bethesda’s titles including Starfield and Redfall Microsoft exclusives despite assurances it had given to European antitrust authorities that it had no incentive to withhold games from rival consoles,” the press release says. “With control over Activision’s blockbuster franchises, Microsoft would have both the means and motive to harm competition by manipulating Activision’s pricing, degrading Activision’s game quality or [...] withholding content from competitors entirely, resulting in harm to consumers.”
So, as its legal troubles double, Microsoft will probably continue to lurk in the shadows. Fans are losing either way.