BattleTech / MechAssault would be amazing for a next-gen Xbox revival, but there may be problems

Mechwarrior 5 Mercenaries 10 05 2020 18 58
Mechwarrior 5 Mercenaries 10 05 2020 18 58 (Image credit: Windows Central | MechWarrior 5 )

Microsoft has a ton of great IP under its belt, especially since beefing up Xbox Game Studios. With Obsidian they have The Outer Worlds and Pillars of Eternity, with Rare they have Killer Instinct, Perfect Dark, and Banjo Kazooie, with inXile they have Wasteland, and that's without thinking about the Halos, Forzas, Minecrafts, and Gears of the world.

What about some of its long-lost IP, though?

As Microsoft looks to the future, they're building up a huge range of new games, with stuff like Grounded and Everwild, while also keeping stuff like Halo ticking over. There are rumors of a Fable reboot as well, to go along with Age of Empires and Microsoft Flight Simulator as revived classics.

Beyond that though, it's reasonable to think that Microsoft may be looking at other IP in its back catalog for the revive and reboot treatment, and here's one, in particular, I'd love to see brought back. But ... it's complicated.

Addicted to big mechs

Source: Windows Central MechWarrior 5 is a solid take on the legendary franchise. (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Recently I've become hopelessly addicted to the recent BattleTech game, released a couple of years ago by Harebrained Studios and Paradox. As a franchise, BattleTech is probably more famous among gamers for its MechWarrior and MechAssault titles, based on the tabletop strategy game with lore that dates back literal decades.

While playing BattleTech, I began getting sucked into a rabbit hole of novels, its utterly complex political landscape, and its small, but passionate community of minifig collectors and tabletop roleplayers.

BattleTech is deep and addictive.

My first introduction to the franchise was a brief experience with MechAssault on the original Xbox, although my memories of the game is hazy. I do remember how great it felt to play, though. I feel like games with heavy, hulking, tank-like mechs are few and far in between these days, although there are some great options out there.

BattleTech by Harebrained is a truly excellent, and complex game, and I can see myself sinking dozens of more hours into it in the coming weeks. Pirahna Games is also working on MechWarrior 5, now available on Xbox Game Pass. It definitely has problems (with the worst companion AI I've ever seen), but the core gameplay is satisfying and nostalgic and made me wonder why Microsoft hasn't explored the franchise a little more in recent years.

What happened to BattleTech?

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Microsoft purchased the BattleTech IPS interactive rights when it acquired (opens in new tab) FASA Interactive Technologies back in 1999. Microsoft has the sole right to create and license games based on the expansive BattleTech lore, but we've barely seen them being used in the past 20 years. MechWarrior 4 launched all the way back in 2000, literally decades before we saw MechWarrior 5, and it's hard to get your hands on the games "legally" these days.

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Microsoft said back in 1999 that MechWarrior 2 and its expansions had achieved (opens in new tab) $70 million dollars in sales back in the day, which makes it seem incredibly odd that we haven't seen more from the franchises since. Indeed, Mechwarrior is the second most requested (opens in new tab) classic game on GOG.com, with over 54000 votes. Xbox head Phil Spencer also commented in 2015 that Microsoft isn't working on a MechAssault or MechCommander game, but "they should be."

The true problem may lie with the legalese in the original FASA acquisition. Back in 1999, there were no huge scale internet-connected networks like we see today, certainly no cloud gaming platform to account for, and various other storefronts. Some of the legal issues may pertain to who actually, truly owns the rights to the lore and art found in the games, and what can be done with them on modern platforms. Although this is pure speculation.

A cursory glance at Wikipedia reveals a tangled web of legal complications over the physical aspects of the franchise, with different parts of the franchise being cut up and owned by several different companies. Catalyst Game Labs seems to hold most of the rights to the art and lore at this time, and it ultimately remains unknown the extent to which they would be willing to work more closely with Microsoft to consolidate this legendary franchise.

The future?

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

BattleTech and MechWarrior 5 for PC do not seem to have created any legal fuss, though, which could be a good sign for the franchise. Catalyst Game Labs even tweeted about MechWarrior 5 hitting PC. However, neither title seems to be coming to Xbox, which might be a sign of Microsoft's uncertainty over potential legal problems for publishing console versions of games under these licenses. It's hard to say.

What isn't hard to say is how awesome BattleTech is. A sprawling space opera comprising dozens of planetary systems, hulking and complex mechs, political intrigue across beautiful alien worlds, ripe with opportunities for massive multiplayer matches with the right studio and investment behind it. For now, BattleTech and MechWarrior 5 are doing a great job at filling the void, but I can't help but wonder what a big Microsoft-backed MechAssault title from a studio like The Coalition would look like on Xbox Series X and PC someday.

Xbox Series X/S

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Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

12 Comments
  • Yeah it is a lost cause sometimes with Microsoft missing opportunities. There's World of Tanks, World of Warships...how badass would it be to build something similar but with Mechwarriors? I remember playing Mechwarriors 2 on Playstation. My brother and I spent hours battling trying to figure out the perfect counter for each others builds. I'd love to see this and in cross play without all of the steeplearning curves that World of Tanks has. Just create a bot and ******* kill. Learn the mechanics and counters. Balance is key...but that's the tough part.
  • Mechwarrior would be awesome on modern hardware and engines, but would have limited appeal what with the current mania for MOBA stuff like Valorant and Fortnight and PUBG.
    The mechs had pretty steep learning curves on loadouts etc. and balance was an issue. The game I want to see revisited with modern engines and hardware is Crimson Skies.
    That game would be great if updated. It was waaaaay to far ahead of the tech when it came out and suffered for it, but would be excellent now.
  • Harmony Gold tied it up in court for years.
  • That certainly didn't help when they threatened to sue over the last attempt at Mechwarrior 5, what 10 years ago? Or when they sued Catalyst, Harebrained Schemes and PGI (and lost badly) a couple years ago. But the Battletech IP is a mess. Catalyst and PGI/HBS need to use different, though similar, art for the same 'Mechs, rights to produce metal mijis and plastic minis reside with different companies, etc. Battletech's chain of IP ownership is incredibly byzantine.
  • HBS, PGI and Catalyst DO use different sculpts than the original UNSEEN models that were the cause of the lawsuits. Harmony Gold has no claim any more.
  • Also, those original models were not "stolen" from Robotech, but rather sold twice from a Japanese toy manufacturer, where Battletech had the early rights for western markets, until Harmony Gold bought them out and went after everyone.
  • I'm well aware. I've actually consulted for Catalyst and FanPro. The artwork issue between PGI and Catalyst extends well beyond the Macross/Dougram derived designs, however, which is why Catalyst doesn't allow people to post their 3D printed MWO minis out of respect for PGI's copyright on that interpretation of the 'Mech: https://bg.battletech.com/forums/index.php?topic=42933.0
  • BattleTech/MechAssault (Armored Core, Chromehounds) is exellent for Xbox in Japan.
    With Sega on box, or with version of Age of Empires.
  • As a long time Battletech/Mechwarrior fan, I am all for Microsoft breathing new life and resources into the Franchise, both on the next generation consoles and PC both! What people do not realize, is that the Battletech Universe has been around for over 35 years, and has so much history and lore spread out among novels, source books, comics, video games, tabletop games, TV, and more, that it would seem to only be beaten by Star Wars and Star Trek in that regard. The Battletech/Mechwarrior universe could easily be crafted into any genre of video game. Those we already have seen: Simulator(Mechwarrior), RTS & Turn-based Strategy(MechCommander; HBS Battletech), and more arcade style games (Mech Assault). But I could easily imagine a MOBA, MMO, or RPG with much content already in place to cover multiple games or expansions. Microsoft and Xbox have so many great IPs that have been in the vault, that need to be introduced to a new generation of gamers. Here's hoping Phil Spencer and team won't take too long, and can revive more of our favorite IPs that already have so much to offer.
  • thank you for writing this article - as a long time fan of the series, I have been frustrated by the lack of interest from video game developers on this.
  • I won't be touching MechWarrior for as long as PGI has their hands in it... The Macrotransactions they have in MW:O and the lack of quality content in MW5 are so bad I couldn't go on playing these games anymore despite MechWarrior being my most beloved Gaming Franchise: https://imgur.com/gVhokuv.jpg If Microsoft does a MechWarrior VI with proper Single Player Campaign and without the MTX crp then I'll gladly be picking it up again. My Saitek X-65F is still hungering for something to be used on.
  • Ive been wanting a third mech Assault for years