Astro Bot is an incredible mascot for PlayStation, and I wish Xbox had the same

Xbox logo behind characters from owned IP such as Stealth Elf and Spyro, and Banjo and Kazooie
(Image credit: Xbox/Future)

After watching last night's State of Play, I have one niggling thought. Astro Bot was by far my most anticipated title from the lineup.

Astro Bot is an incredibly clever advertising tool for PlayStation. Not only is it a fun game for all ages, but it's also built to demonstrate the power and features of the DualSense controller. It's packed full of PlayStation console product placement and, if the previous game Astro's Playroom is anything to go by, will hark back to other PlayStation-exclusive titles with in-game references and jokes. Astro Bot is the PlayStation mascot, and I really wish Xbox had something similar.

A mascot for all ages

Astro Bot is PlayStation's cute robot that goes on platforming adventures. (Image credit: Sony)

When I say a mascot, I mean a real, cross-generational appeal character. So before anyone reading this begins to utter the sentence "but Master..." NO. While there's a lot of nostalgia around Halo for Xbox fans, and Master Chief is instantly recognizable as 'Xbox,' — I'd argue that this is only true for an older demographic. Xbox needs to do more to build loyalty with a younger generation of gamers, gamers who want to lock into the Microsoft ecosystem at an early age. PlayStation has Astro Bot, Nintendo has Link and Mario (to name a few). I ask, what does Xbox really have that's instantly recognizable as intrinsically Xbox? Nothing, yet.

My interest in the Astro Bot trailer was due in no small part to the very familiar gameplay shown, which whisked me back to some of my favorite games — the Skylanders series. The 3D platformer beats 'em up with level design and dialogue built for both children and adults to enjoy. Xbox needn't reinvent the wheel trying to bring in younger gamers; after all, as we know, the most successful games of the past decade have been continuing franchises. New IP is hard work and potentially wasted money. Xbox has a huge catalog of nostalgic titles it could dust off, doing half the brand recognition task for them.

Bringing back family games built to be played by parents and children alike, full of characters oozing with personality, is a great way to do this and shine some positive attention on the Xbox brand and all the amazing IP it has under its wing. Titles like Banjo and Kazooie, Skylanders, and Hey, even a more family-friendly Conker, could grab the attention of a whole new audience.

Bring back Skylanders

The figures were pricey to collect, but the games could make a comeback minus the toys (Image credit: Jennifer Young - Windows Central)

Following the lengthy battle to acquire Activision Blizzard, my one hope was that we'd see a revival of Skylanders, now that the IP is under Xbox control. Recently, with Toys for Bob going independent, my hopes were somewhat quashed. However, there is still the opportunity for Xbox to outsource the return of Skylanders to Toys for Bob or use another studio to deliver a comeback. In fact, today they've announced a partnership with Toys for Bob to create their next game.

My hopes for Skylander's return aren't purely based on nostalgia; I genuinely believe it could bolster the Xbox brand's catalog of family games. The best 'children's games' get the parents invested, too, and Skylanders did exactly that. The levels, similar to Astro Bot, were varied enough to never be repetitive and were chock full of cheeky jokes and references only adults could appreciate. For example, the Drill-X fight set to a dubstep soundtrack (imagine if the Belial Boss fight from Diablo 3 was actually with a giant Skrillex). 

I'm not advocating for the return of the physical toys that came with Skylanders, these and the fatigue from parents trying to collect them are probably what contributed to its ultimate downfall. A victim of its own initial success, Skylanders became an annual release under a money-hungry Activision, each installment introducing around 30 figurines you had to buy in addition to the game if you wanted to unlock all of the characters. The 'bringing toys to life' genre also generated more copycats such as Disney Infinity and Lego Dimensions, dominating toy aisles in stores and oversaturating the market. At around $8 each for a figurine, parents eventually got sick of the cash-grab tactics.

If Skylanders were to return, I'd like it to have characters unlockable by playing the game, with figurines as optional merchandise — but it could be a wider advertising opportunity for all Xbox games. Imagine being able to unlock a miniature Master Chief? Or 808 from Hi-Fi Rush?  Unlock a Halo energy sword as a weapon? Collecting hidden collectible Xbox controllers around each level? Xbox could turn Skylanders, and by extension Spyro the Dragon himself, into the Xbox cross-generational mascot they desperately need. 

Perhaps Banjo-Kazooie is the more obvious choice

Banjo say hi to all the Banjo believers in the Xbox fanbase (Image credit: Future)

Banjo-Kazooie, the beloved Rare platform series, is another nostalgia bomb just waiting for detonation. This game will appeal to kids and grown-ups alike if the comeback is done right. Besides, there's already a passionate group of 'Banjo-believers' which Phil Spencer has acknowledged when he said "Banjo fans I hear you." 

This series has appeared on multiple platforms, and some may say Banjo-Kazooie is synonymous with the Nintendo 64. However, I say it's now heavily associated with Xbox since that's where its most staunch fans find themselves playing. Not to mention, Xbox owns Rare, the Banjo-Kazooie developers. We've already been teased with a Banjo figurehead in Sea of Thieves, and Banjo being added as a character to Super Smash Bros. Xbox knows the audience is there, so why not give them what they want?

Minecraft doesn't benefit the Xbox brand

Minecraft isn't an Xbox-only game. (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Minecraft is incredibly successful, and holds its own in a chart of most played games in the last decade against titles like Fortnite and Roblox. But is Minecraft heavily associated with Xbox outside of hardcore gaming audiences? In the mainstream gaming audience? From a financial standpoint, it's likely Microsoft doesn't care, as it makes them enough money through the marketplace regardless of what platform people choose to play on. Still, when I'm looking for a game and characters to really bolster the Xbox brand and actually bring new players to the platform, Minecraft isn't that game.

This blocky series lacks the exclusivity and focused branding that a mascot typically embodies. Unlike Nintendo’s Mario or Sony’s Astro Bot, Minecraft lacks a direct connection to a single console brand — even with its inclusion of Halo-franchise skins.

Could we see a revival in the Xbox Showcase?

In my wildest dreams for the Xbox Showcase (dreams that will probably not come true) I envision Xbox making a bold move — one that not only caters to current blockbusters but also resonates with the younger generation, who will shape the future of gaming. While the Activision Blizzard acquisition has already brought exciting additions like Diablo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 to Xbox Game Pass, these titles would thrive regardless of their Xbox branding due to their multiplatform nature.

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But what if Xbox went beyond the expected moves and concentrated on that younger audience with a revival of a classic franchise — one that bridges the gap between adults and their Roblox-addicted kids. My choice, Skylanders, with its whimsical characters, could be that bridge. By infusing it with the unmistakable Xbox DNA of other franchises, Microsoft could create a nostalgic yet fresh adventure. Picture young gamers exploring vibrant Xbox-themed worlds, parents reminiscing about their own Skylanders days, and everyone feeling that magnetic pull back to the Xbox brand.

So, Xbox, let’s make dreams a reality. Revive Skylanders, weave in that magic and remind us why we keep returning to this platform.

Jennifer Young

Jen is a News Writer for Windows Central, focused on all things gaming and Microsoft. Anything slaying monsters with magical weapons will get a thumbs up such as Dark Souls, Dragon Age, Diablo, and Monster Hunter. When not playing games, she'll be watching a horror or trash reality TV show, she hasn't decided which of those categories the Kardashians fit into. You can follow Jen on Twitter @Jenbox360 for more Diablo fangirling and general moaning about British weather.