"We are absolutely actively looking for developers." Behind the scenes with some of the first games from Xbox's new Global Expansion team

GDC ID@Xbox games
(Image credit: Windows Central | Xbox)

I am grateful I was given the opportunity to attend the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this year, as I learned a lot I otherwise would've missed. GDC 2024 was filled with informative summits, fateful encounters, exclusive events, and exciting previews for me, including being able to demo 10 upcoming ID@Xbox games heading to Xbox and PC in the near future. I got another opportunity at that event, though: the chance to interview Agnes Kim, the Director of Xbox's relatively new Global Expansion team.

A subset of ID@Xbox, Agnes Kim and her Global Expansion team focus on discovering more creative and diverse games to bring into the Xbox ecosystem from underrepresented or underserved global markets. It's all about affording developers every resource they need to succeed and make some of the best Xbox games on the platform, including access to local support, potential Xbox Game Pass partnerships, and more.

Not only was I able to pick Kim's brain regarding her team's ongoing efforts, but I was also able to preview eight more ID@Xbox games during a digital event after I returned home from GDC — Five of which were from Global Expansion developers.

Disclaimer

Travel to and from and accommodation at GDC 2024 in San Francisco, California was paid for by Windows Central. This interview was edited for grammar and clarity. Xbox did not see the contents of this article before publishing.

Agnes Kim and Xbox's Global Expansion Team

ID@Xbox has been a crucial part of Xbox for years, and it's continuing to get bigger.

Under the ID@Xbox umbrella, a small team of passionate Xbox employees work tirelessly across the clock and the globe to track down talented developers and interesting games for Xbox consoles and Windows PC. "Our goal is to find awesome developers from what we call 'expansion regions,'" Agnes Kim introduced herself and her team at the beginning of our conversation. "These regions tend to be... expansion markets where we might not traditionally have found a lot of developers organically. We cover Southeast Asia, India, Latin America..."

This is Agnes Kim, the Director of Xbox's Global Expansion team. (Image credit: Microsoft | Agnes Kim)

In these regions and more, Kim has team members dedicated to developer outreach, looking for talent to "educate them on what our platform does, and get them excited so we can bring more diverse games to our diverse players." It's important work for expanding the Xbox brand, but this isn't a veteran team that has been operating at Xbox for many years — it's actually newer than the Xbox Series X|S generation.

"We are a relatively new team," Kim informed me. "We started two years ago; half my team hit their two-year anniversary just recently. The... genesis of this team being established was because we felt like we weren't doing justice for those developers. We felt like we needed to make a proactive effort. We needed to go out there." There are literally thousands of developers actively creating for the Xbox ecosystem, even just under the ID@Xbox program, but there are countless others who may not have the connections, knowledge, or inspiration to bring their titles to Xbox.

It's not just about finding games, though; it's about the developers themselves. "We also want to make sure that points of contact for Xbox, they're not just in the USA or Europe or Japan — They are in those markets," Kim said. "They're able to talk to [developers] in their time zone, their language, and their culture."

Aspiring developers can learn from some of the best in the business. (Image credit: Microsoft)

That means Kim and her team aren't sitting idly and waiting for devs to come to them — they're on the ground in each targeted region, hosting events and making themselves available for developers. Kim made it clear to me how much is invested in this initiative, saying, "We do a lot of different activations. We have this event called 'Xbox Discovery Day'... It's a half day of fun learning about the Xbox platform. We talk about tips and tricks to bring your games to Xbox."

More in-depth, long-form events are also regularly hosted in different regions and have been since even before the team's inception. "We also have 'Game Camps,' which is an initiative where we leverage our Xbox Game Studios," Kim said. "We have 32 studios, and we're leveraging this AAA talent to educate the aspiring and early career game developers out there. We just kicked off Game Camp Asia across five countries in Asia." Kim told me how Game Camps have been around for four years, with camps in Korea, Africa, and more. Some are days long; Game Camp Asia is two months long across the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, India, and Indonesia.

"We're able to bring so much awesome talent like UX designers, game directors, sound designers... every week we have not only content that we report for students... but we also have office hours every week where [developers] can ask literally any questions." Xbox Game Studios is a veritable ocean of experience and talent from which Xbox can draw for these events, and it does make a meaningful difference.

El Paso, Elsewhere is a highly rated shooter that came out of the Developer Acceleration Program. (Image credit: Strange Scaffold | Xbox)

"It's an awesome program," Kim bragged. "It's also a great way for us to find talent. Some of these campers actually got into the Developer Acceleration Program." If you need a refresher, the Developer Acceleration Program is a part of ID@Xbox that provides non-recoupable funding to developers free of equity or exclusivity clauses to assist with porting games to Xbox. This funding can be crucial for getting a game across the finish line. Since its inception, over 100 developers have been accepted into the program, and some come from Global Expansion efforts.

"[Game Camps] are a great way to just meet more developers and invest in them and partner with them... It's like GDC, but you have customized support with somebody who more personally works with you," Kim continued. Unlike major conventions like GDC with general admissions and dozens of simultaneous summits, the Global Expansion Game Camps assign Xbox Game Studios mentors to each developer to provide accessible, localized, and personal support.

Being a part of the Global Expansion initiative affords all the benefits of the wider ID@Xbox program, too, beyond even the Developer Acceleration Program. "Global Expansion is a part of ID@Xbox, de facto [partnered developers] are a part of the ID@Xbox team, de facto they get opportunities to be considered for Xbox Game Pass partnerships," Kim said. Efforts on this front have already produced results, too, and ID@Xbox showed me even more games from Global Expansion partners coming to Xbox and PC platforms.

"My team is just so excited to be able to add voice to the developer's journey on bringing their games to Xbox."

Five new games from Global Expansion developers

The Global Expansion team is bringing even more devs under the ID@Xbox umbrella. (Image credit: Microsoft)

"Game development takes years, so a lot of [the games] are in the pipeline," Kim said. However, that doesn't mean the Global Expansion team has nothing to show players so far. "You'll get to hear, for example, three games from India are getting released this year and it's very momentous... Because it's been two years in the making."

There's a lot more to come on the horizon, too. "We do have 100+ developers across Southeast Asia, India, and Africa that we onboarded to ID@Xbox since the inception of the team," Kim informed me. "Success stories are actually pretty easy to find. We have 'The Palace on the Hill' from Niku Games that we signed." This is a slice-of-life adventure game with watercolor visuals where you explore historical ruins as a young, aspiring artist. You can learn more on The Palace on the Hill website.

"'A Space for the Unbound,' which won The Game Awards late last year... [Mojiken Studio] is also a very close partner from Indonesia," Kim offered another victory for the Global Expansion team. A critically acclaimed side-scrolling narrative-adventure, A Space for the Unbound follows two high school sweethearts approaching the end of their time in school. You can buy A Space for the Unbound now for $19.99 at Microsoft Store (Xbox) and $19.99 at Steam (PC).

Kim even had something to say about one of the games I was going to preview at the upcoming digital ID@Xbox event, "Brocula is a game from India; Destroyer Doggo is the developer's name and they are a DAP recipient." On these examples and more, Kim said, "Those cases are more than double digits per region." Out of the eight games I previewed with ID@Xbox, a grand total of five were the direct result of work from Kim's Global Expansion team.

Fallen Tear: The Ascension

What to know

• Links: Wishlist at Steam (PC) | Official website
• Genre:
2D Metroidvania
• Developer:
Winter Crew
• Publisher:
CMD Studios / Holysoft Studios
• Region: Philippines
• Platforms:
Xbox, Windows PC, PlayStation, Switch
• Release date:
2025

The first game shown during my digital ID@Xbox preview hails from the Philippines. Fallen Tear: The Ascension is a 2D, side-scrolling Metroidvania with JRPG elements. Its hand-drawn visual style is inspired by the likes of WAKFU, a turn-based MMORPG released in 2012, and the Ori series from Moon Studios and Xbox Game Studios. It's a smooth, action-packed platformer following Hira, an orphan with mysterious powers.

You'll explore 26 unique biomes filled with over 150 enemies and discover a diverse combat system full of different forms you can switch between, unique abilities with skills trees, and more based around Mana. The environments are interactive, with a plethora of items, secrets, environmental hazards, and more that can both help and hinder you during your adventures. In this respect, it's your classic Metroidvania fun; steadily gain new skills to further open up the world and dominate the tactical combat.

However, there are also multiple unique towns full of interactive NPCs and secrets. Along the way, you'll meet up to 22 "Fated Bond" companions who can assist you in your journey and help progress the story. Each companion is an ally with special quests, personalities, backstories, and abilities that add to the story of Fallen Tear: The Ascension.

It's the debut title from studio Winter Crew, and I honestly can't wait to play it. The visual style is lovely, and the gameplay seems both engaging and unique. I love games that blend genres, and Fallen Tear: The Ascension certainly aims to do that. Plus, a choice-driven narrative centered around a mysterious hero who can transform into a ferocious beast definitely catches my attention.

inKONBINI: One Store, Many Stories

What to know

• Links: Wishlist at Steam (PC) | Official website
• Genre:
Narrative-adventure
• Developer: Nagai Industries
• Publisher: Nagai Industries
• Region: Japan
• Platforms:
Xbox, Windows PC, PlayStation, Switch
• Release date: Q1 2025

I actually saw inKONBINI at the GDC 2024 ID@Xbox event, but I wasn't able to play it myself. During the following digital event, I got more information on the game, which made me more interested in diving into it when it releases early next year. This is a life-sim-meets-narrative-adventure following college student Makoto Hayakawa in 1993. Makoto, taking a break from school, takes on the job of running a local Japanese convenience store known as a konbini.

The gameplay sees you manage the store, including delivering products, stocking the shelves, and managing sales and other duties. However, the heart of inKONBINI is in the interlapping of individual stories. During your time in the convenience store, you'll meet a variety of customers, each with their own tales to tell. Makoto gets to know each customer in turn, learning of them through interactive conversations that the player directs.

The decisions you make during these conversations and the advice you provide help shape the direction of the story, reflecting in the actions or behaviors of those characters later on. These characters are almost presented as puzzles, with players expected to pay attention in order to better serve the customers in both the store and their lives. It's a relaxing, narrative-driven game that slowly treks across six episodes.

Nagai Industries is a small indie studio based in Japan, and their debut title embraces the nostalgia the team feels for konbinis. According to the studio, inKONBINI embraces the Japanese concept of ichi-go ichi-e, or "one time, one meeting," highlighting how each individual interaction is important in its own way. The game is a culmination of smaller moments in life.

Brocula

What to know

• Links: Wishlist at Microsoft Store (Xbox) | Wishlist at Steam (PC) | Official website
• Genre:
Life sim
• Developer: Destroyer Doggo
• Publisher: Destroyer Doggo
• Region: India
• Platforms:
Xbox, Windows PC
• Release date: Unknown

Brocula is an expansive life sim being developed by Destroyer Doggo, a solo developer situated in India and a recipient of the Developer Acceleration Program grant. With a combination of pixellated visuals and animated cinematics, Brocula follows the story of a 500-year-old vampire freshly woken in an unfamiliar modern world. Brocula must learn how to survive in this alien society.

Players will explore the town, take on various part-time jobs like working at a garage, coffee shop, or restaurant, and even seek to restore Brocula's ruined castle. There is a myriad of challenges in front of Brocula, financially, socially, and even bureaucratically. You'll even be able to manage your very own cult, restoring an ancient church and hosting sermons to keep yourself satiated.

I am not a regular player of life sims, but Brocula's concept and rich breadth of gameplay opportunities do intrigue me. Being able to do everything from working small jobs, fishing, and cultivating crops to commanding cult members and exploring a terrifying dungeon full of dangerous creatures is a compelling gameplay loop, and Destroyer Doggo promises approximately 40 hours of solid game time.

It's a battle against the perpetual march of time and the challenges of capitalism, and you'll do it all as a dashing immortal vampire. It's not clear when Brocula will be released, but I am excited to see what the final product will be when it eventually releases on Xbox consoles and Windows PC.

Go-Go Town!

What to know

• Links: Wishlist at Steam (PC) | Official website
• Genre:
Tycoon city builder
• Developer: Prideful Sloth
• Publisher: Prideful Sloth / CULT Games
• Region: Australia
• Platforms:
Xbox, Windows PC, PlayStation, Switch
• Release date: 2024

I don't have to go into too much detail here because I actually already played Go-Go Town! at GDC 2024, and I loved it! This is a tycoon, goofy city builder with up to four-player co-op (local and online), and the game is centered around letting you have fun in a city that you build from scratch. It may not take itself too seriously, including letting you ride around on a pill bug or make your character neon green, but it's still a surprisingly deep tycoon city builder with a lot of buildings, industries, decorations, items, and more.

Build your city on the backs of mining, forestry, farming, fishing, and touristry. Manage imports and exports, hire workers to automate businesses, and slowly build out your town to dominate the city leaderboards and become the most valuable locale on the map. Or just goof around, spending time on amusement rides and making your citizens worship a dead fish or a log. It's all fair game, and it's a blast to play with friends.

I don't think I'll want to play Go-Go Town! by myself, but with my partner and/or my daughter? Yeah, that seems like a killer time with hours of potential joy. There's a lot of charm and self-aware silliness in Go-Go Town!, and that's made even more evident if you actually have the privilege of meeting some of the developers behind the game (they're all lovely people).

I wasn't aware that Go-Go Town! is a Global Expansion game when I first demoed it at GDC, but that doesn't really matter. It's an exciting game that feels very polished and fleshed out, and I believe a lot of people are going to enjoy it when it comes out this year.

Nightscape

What to know

• Links: Wishlist at Steam (PC) | Official website
• Genre:
Narrative-adventure
• Developer: Mezan Studios
• Publisher: Mezan Studios
• Region: Qatar
• Platforms:
Xbox, Windows PC, PlayStation
• Release date: Unknown

The last Global Expansion game I previewed actually hails from Mezan Studios in the Middle East, and it's heavily inspired by ancient Arabian culture and the night sky of that period. In Nightscape, a mysterious catastrophe known as 'Starfall' caused the stars in the sky to fall to earth, unleashing corruption upon the world. You play as a young woman named Layla, attempting to recover the stars and return them to their rightful place.

It's a 2.5D narrative-adventure game, meaning it's usually a side-scroller but does actually have some light 3D sections. There's light combat, puzzle, and platforming gameplay, but for the most part, Nightscape is focused on the narrative, with gorgeous blue-cast visuals painting a vivid picture of an eternal night. You're accompanied by the Goat Kid, a guiding constellation that aids you on your quest (and mostly wants to be fed).

As you find stars throughout the world, you can use a magical astrolabe to interact with the night sky. Completed constellations grant unique abilities that help Layla progress through the world. Maybe you'll be able to summon a wind or shield; what matters is that you'll need to use every ability at your disposal to succeed in your quest.

Nightscape intrigues me with its stunning environments and slow-paced gameplay that reminds me in some ways of titles like Planet of Lana. I'm definitely interested in playing it for myself, but it seems we may still have to wait a while. It's coming to Xbox and PC, but Mezan Studios didn't reveal a release window during my digital preview of the game.

Three more upcoming ID@Xbox games previewed

I'm about to start playing Botany Manor, and I can't wait to tell you my thoughts. (Image credit: Whitethorn Games)

Not all of the games I previewed with ID@Xbox come from the Global Expansion team, but that doesn't mean they're not worth talking about. All three of the games below have captured my attention fully, and two of them will be released soon on Xbox, Windows PC, and Xbox Game Pass. Just to be thorough, here are three more games you should be keeping an eye on.

Botany Manor

What to know

• Links: Wishlist at Microsoft Store (Xbox) | Wishlist at Steam (PC) | Official website
• Genre:
Puzzle-exploration
• Developer: Balloon Studios
• Publisher: Whitethorn Games
• Platforms:
Xbox, Windows PC, Switch, Xbox Game Pass
• Release date: Apr. 9, 2024

Botany Manor has been on my radar for a while, and for good reason. Another game being made through the Developer Acceleration Program, Botany Manor is a puzzle-exploration game centered around botany. I suppose you could say it's in the same category as Strange Horticulture, another plant-based puzzle game I played on Xbox. Unlike that title, though, Botany Manor has you explore a 19th-century Victorian manor in search of plants to grow.

It's a relaxing, approachable first-person puzzle game with a lovely soft color palette and visual style. You play as a botanist and the owner of the manor, seeking to complete your book, 'Forgotten Flora.' To do so, you'll have to explore the grounds in search of seeds, clues, and secrets. Each plant is wholly unique, with different needs and processes required to successfully cultivate them. Use your book to compile clues, and then grow the plants whenever you're ready.

I'm eager to play Botany Manor, and I actually don't have to wait as long as you all. I'll be reviewing the game for Windows Central, so stay tuned for that around the time the game launches later this month.

Jump Ship

I couldn't find a trailer for Jump Ship. (Image credit: Keepsake Games)
What to know

• Links: Official website
• Genre: First-person shooter
• Developer: Keepsake Games
• Publisher: Unknown
• Platforms: Xbox, Windows PC
• Release date: Unknown

Jump Ship, previously known as Hyperspace, is a first-person co-op player-versus-environment (PvE) shooter and space exploration game. Normally, that isn't my kind of game, but Keepsake Games seems to be on to something here. This is a mission-based title for up to four players, where you are the crew of a spaceship (which you can customize and upgrade). You'll choose destinations and fly to abandoned facilities, hostile planets, and more in search of gear, components, and treasure.

There are intense space dogfights, but you can also seamlessly transition to on-foot exploration or spacewalks, where you'll engage a myriad of dangerous enemies. Teamwork seems to be crucial to survive, as you're not a super soldier capable of annihilating entire armies on your own. To succeed and return home with your spoils, you'll need to work together with your friends.

There's still not a ton of information available on Jump Ship, but I did see enough raw gameplay footage to know this game is going to be a fun one. Each player can customize their character and their arsenal, adopting different playstyles to fill specific roles. I'm sold, and I'll be looking out for the release of Jump Ship on Xbox and Windows PC.

Still Wakes the Deep

What to know

• Links: Wishlist at Microsoft Store (Xbox) | Wishlist at Steam (PC) | Official website
• Genre: Narrative-horror
• Developer: The Chinese Room
• Publisher: Secret Mode
• Platforms: Xbox, Windows PC, PlayStation, Xbox Game Pass
• Release date: Jun. 18, 2024

Originally announced during Xbox Partner Preview 2023, I was sold on Still Wakes the Deep from the very first trailer. This is a first-person narrative-horror game set on an offshore oil drilling rig in 1975 off the coast of Scotland. It's a return to form for The Chinese Room, most known for games like Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, Dear Esther, and Everybody's Gone to the Rapture.

You're one of the oil rig workers, and a vicious storm rocks the facility alongside the arrival of a mysterious, supernatural horror that defies all reason. You have to struggle to survive when so many of your crew members have not, trapped in the middle of the ocean when lines of communication have been severed. This isn't a survival-horror game — You can't fight the horrors hunting you and your colleagues. All you can do is run, hide, and swim to survive.

Whether you or the rest of the surviving crew will depend on your cunning and tenacity. Either way, Still Wakes the Deep is a hauntingly gore-geous game with absolutely stunning sound design; that's a must for a great horror game. You better believe I'm playing this the moment I'm able, and it's arriving later this year on Xbox, Windows PC, and Xbox Game Pass.

Supporting developers where they are

There are so many exciting games about to land on Xbox and PC from ID@Xbox. (Image credit: ID@Xbox)

The Global Expansion team isn't picky about who they help come to Xbox. "If it's within the expansion markets, no matter what the developer's journey has been — whether they're more mature and they've already released a couple games... Or they're just starting their journey and initial phases — we want to make sure that we're there to help them succeed on more platforms in front of more players," Kim said.

Kim and I talked about the future of her team, too, and how Xbox is looking to get even better at finding new developers for Xbox. "[Latin America] is a market that we are keenly interested in expanding more," Kim said. "We have team members who are working on our expansion there, but we currently don't have somebody local in Brazil. I would love one day for us to also have somebody in that region, just so that it makes it easier for our Brazilian or Latin American developers to meet somebody and talk in Portuguese... or Spanish."

According to Kim, the Global Expansion effort at Xbox isn't an afterthought — it's a passionate team with backing from the larger organization, and the results speak for themselves. "[My team] has a lot of energy for this, they really do care about their game developers in their region," Kim told me, continuing, "They have so much pride for it, and I know this team is going to continue to grow. I want developers to know that they have a place to go."

"The goal of our team is to continue to support these developers and bring diverse games onto our platform, so we can give joy to our diverse players out there," Kim finished.

The Monster Hunter franchise thrives on Xbox, so where is Stories? (Image credit: Capcom)

It's not just about brand-new games, either. I asked Kim if the Global Expansion team can also help combat Xbox's reputation for missing out on multi-platform releases. On this front, Kim said, "I can... totally see a scenario where [a game] might not have launched on our platform, but we are still interested in bringing that title to our players. It's not something we necessarily are seeking out, but it doesn't mean that we will not look into it."

As Xbox begins releasing some of its exclusive games on PlayStation and Switch, other games like Monster Hunter Stories release on every platform except Xbox, despite Monster Hunter enjoying a healthy community on Xbox. Situations like this exacerbate community concerns that developers lack interest in building games for the platform. "We're interested in making sure that developers reach as many players as possible," Kim said. "[Monster Hunter Stories] may not be my team, per se, but the larger Xbox organization that works with partners is always looking for opportunities to bring awesome games to the platform."

Monster Hunter Stories is a Capcom property, so it certainly doesn't fall under the ID@Xbox umbrella, but Kim is confident that Xbox as a whole is doing everything in its power to bring as many games as possible to players. The Global Expansion team is just one piece of the puzzle, but it's an important one. "I think the proof is here, that we are already having these engagements to showcase our independent games," Kim argued. "I have no doubt that Xbox really cares about the independent developer scene, and investment carries on. The leadership is behind it."

Information and resources for developers

Thousands of ID@Xbox games, and every day it becomes easier to release one of those games yourself. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Since the creation of ID@Xbox, over 5,000 studios across over 100 countries have become partners, developing and publishing over 3,000 unique games. Right now, more than 3,500 ID@Xbox games are in active development for Xbox, too. The Developer Acceleration Program also continues to expand, with more than 150 creators; over 50 games have already been released through the DAP, including critically acclaimed titles like El Paso, Elsewhere, which you can buy for $19.99 at Microsoft Store (Xbox) and $19.99 at Steam (PC).

There's also the new pitch portal, which aims to streamline the process for developers and make it even easier to be accepted by the ID@Xbox team. "We opened a new pitch portal... for external game developers to pitch their games to be considered for partnerships, which is inclusive of Game Pass," Kim explained. "I want more developers to know about it because I think it's great... Ultimately, we love hearing about [games] from the voices of developers, and they can afford to pour their passion into that process and talk about the studio, how the game came about, what they do for the communities."

"You can talk to us and pitch your game through us, but if you don't know anybody at Xbox... There is still a way to communicate with us."

To wrap this piece up, I wanted to share some information and resources for interested developers to also get involved.

  • ID@Xbox in-depth guide. This helpful resource includes a ton of easy-to-digest information on the ID@Xbox program, including how to join or contact the team, tips and tricks for succeeding on Xbox, info on the Developer Acceleration Program (DAP), and even advice on how to pitch your game to ID@Xbox.
  • ID@Xbox website. You can sign up to join ID@Xbox for free here, as well as find information on the program. The biggest obstacle is signing the nondisclosure agreement (NDA), after which you'll have full access to the brand-new pitch portal.
    • If your game pitch is accepted and you become an ID@Xbox partner, you'll have access to the full range of resources and support available through the program (DAP acceptance is a separate process)
    • ID@Xbox partners are also eligible to receive Xbox development kits free of charge
    • The only potential cost is a modest, one-time fee for accessing the Partner Center publishing portal
  • ID@Xbox store page. If you want to see what ID@Xbox has accomplished with its developer partners, you can head to the ID@Xbox store page for a comprehensive collection of released titles from the program.
  • Microsoft game development resources. Xbox and Microsoft have compiled a huge list of various resources and documentation for game developers, which outlines advice for creating successful, inclusive, accessible, and stable games across Xbox and PC.
    • I also highly suggest specifically checking out Xbox's accessibility resources, which can be extremely helpful for any developer, no matter how big or small
  • Emails. If you'd rather email ID@Xbox directly, here are some addresses you can use:
    • id@xbox.com is the primary ID@Xbox email
    • idmarketing@microsoft.com is used for ID@Xbox marketing purposes
    • idap@microsoft.com is used to get in contact with the Developer Acceleration Program team

I hope all this information helps! If you're not a developer and you still read this far, I hope you're as eager for some of these upcoming Xbox games as I am. Stay tuned to Windows Central for even more information out of GDC 2024.