What to expect from Xbox in 2024: A preview of exclusive games, platform expansion, and increased momentum

An Xbox branded steam train
(Image credit: Windows Central | Microsoft Designer)

Happy New Year! Welcome to Xbox in 2024. 🕺🏻🎇

It's a new dawn for Microsoft Gaming. We're now over a full decade removed from the dark days of the Xbox One launch, and we've now moved beyond simply turning a page on the Xbox of yore. We now have a whole new book to write, and 2024 is arguably its first chapter. 

In October 2023, Microsoft completed its acquisition of Activision-Blizzard for a cool $70 billion. This completes a truly gargantuan few years of investment in gaming from Microsoft, which includes studios like Undead Labs, Compulsion Games, and InXile, but also ZeniMax and Bethesda. The vastness of the legacy now within Microsoft's umbrella is hard to visualize, but we're talking franchises spanning decades here — Nintendo-like nostalgia that has, up until now, largely eluded the Xbox brand. Microsoft has also expanded its hardware footprint, investing massively in cloud gaming servers powering experiences you can enjoy right from your television, no console required. Microsoft is also making bets on the future for gaming, including AI for dev tooling, graphics, and potentially even gameplay. 

So, with all that in mind, what can you expect to see from Microsoft Gaming and Xbox in 2024? Let's brainstorm, friends. 

Perpetual forward motion 

Activision characters, by @Klobrille on Twitter (X).

(Image credit: @Klobrille on Twitter (X).)

At least from a revenue perspective, Xbox is expected to have a huge leap in growth this quarter, as money from Call of Duty, Candy Crush, and World of Warcraft starts pouring in. The jump could put Microsoft ahead of long time competitors like PlayStation in the global games rankings. And with Tencent's outlook battered by China's aggressive (and evolving) regulatory stance towards home-grown gaming companies, Microsoft potentially has an opportunity to leapfrog them too. 

What does that mean for gamers, though? Well, cash flow from games like Call of Duty will help subsidize Microsoft's gaming operations in general, helping to offset risk as more traditional single-player experiences get ever increasingly expensive to produce. Xbox CEO Phil Spencer also previously hinted that Activision-Blizzard titles will start hitting Xbox Game Pass in 2024 as well, although it might take a little while for some of the more heavy hitters like Diablo 4 and Call of Duty itself to join the service. Initially, I would expect to see games from Activision's back catalog hit the service first. Perhaps we'll get classic Call of Duty games in there initially, alongside games like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and maybe Diablo 3. For more recent titles like Diablo 4 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Microsoft will likely want to assess how an Xbox Game Pass inclusion may disrupt the cash flow of those titles, and impact the teams working on said games, before jumping in head-first. 

Indeed, Microsoft has probably already done some preliminary assessments on these kinds of things, but it was only legally able to begin collaborating with Activision-Blizzard as of October 2023 when the deal closed. Microsoft and Activision-Blizzard will probably spend years fully integrating, and there are a lot of implications for what that may look like.

Activision Blizzard joins Xbox October 2023

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Beyond the back catalog and Xbox Game Pass, fans will want to know about some of the minutiae. What will Microsoft do with Battle.net? Blizzard's game launcher and social network has been present for decades, and has served as the fabric for communications between games like World of Warcraft, Diablo 4, and even mobile titles like Hearthstone and Warcraft Rumble. I suspect Microsoft will leave it as is for now, but it's hard to say what might happen in the future. What about events like Blizzcon, which are notoriously expensive and don't break even financially? What about Call of Duty and Overwatch esports? What about the Blizzard perks on Twitch Prime? And so on. There are a lot of moving parts here, which will probably end up aligning with Microsoft's broader strategy in the coming months and years ahead. 

Something more definitive we can elude to is: Microsoft will want to do is mark the fact Activision-Blizzard is now part of team Xbox, and they'll probably want to mark it soon. I suspect we'll get that big back catalog drop into Xbox Game Pass sooner, rather than later, perhaps even as part of an event and showcase to help set the tone for the coming year. 

Let's face it, Microsoft has a true mountain of content to showcase in the near and long term. 

A swell of fresh first-party content, and events to showcase them

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2

(Image credit: Ninja Theory)

Indeed, this time last year, Microsoft did an Xbox Developer_Direct event which gave us Hi-Fi Rush as its headline act. I would bet money that you can expect something similar in the near term too. I know from my conversations with Microsoft figures at in-person events last year that they are on board with a more regular cadence of information sharing, through events like its Xbox Developer Direct and the E3 Xbox Showcase events in June. So, let's assume that we are getting a new Xbox Developer Direct in the next few weeks, what can we realistically expect to be there?

We already know from previous events that Avowed is slated for 2024. Avowed is the first major game from Obsidian, known for titles like Fallout: New Vegas and The Outer Worlds in quite some time. Obsidian has launched smaller projects including Pentiment and Grounded, but Avowed looks set to be something more grand, set in the famed Pillars of Eternity universe. It might be fair to think of Avowed in the following terms: if The Outer Worlds was Obsidian's take on Fallout, Avowed would be Obsidian's take on The Elder Scrolls, albeit with various twists, and Obsidian's industry-leading writing. 

We also have Towerborne, which I was lucky enough to play at Gamescom last year. Towerborne could become something of a sleeper hit. If Diablo, with its loot and progression systems, had a baby with Castle Crashers' tight side-scrolling combat, it might look something like Towerborne. With combat designers from Killer Instinct and the team behind The Banner Saga, Towerborne could also be something really special. 

The headline act for 2024 is undoubtedly Hellblade 2. Long in gestation at Ninja Theory, Hellblade 2's visual quality already speaks for itself. Right now, we have no idea how it actually plays, however. The previous game was something of a cinematic experience with very little combat, but Hellblade 2 has every opportunity to be a little more interactive. Set in bronze age Iceland, Senua will battle myth and legend, and her own demons, on a long journey to Hekla — otherwise known as the gateway to hell. 

Towerborne on Xbox

Towerborne is a beat 'em up gamer's dream.  (Image credit: Microsoft | Stoic Games)

There are other games likely ready to showcase in greater detail at any potential Xbox Developer_Direct, including the 4X strategy title ARA: History Untold, and the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024. Last year, though, we had a shadow drop in the form of Hi-Fi Rush. Perhaps Microsoft has some similar surprises up their sleeve this year as well. 

Microsoft has noted its long-standing ambition to get one major game launch in per quarter for Xbox Game Pass moving forward. We know ARA: History Untold, Towerborne, Hellblade 2, and Avowed are slated for 2024, but what else could fit the bill? I would also say it's fair to expect some major surprises at upcoming events, as Microsoft's investments begin to hit their stride in the post-pandemic era. 

Microsoft has a mountain of studios these days, across ZeniMax, its internal teams, and Activision. And while it might be too early to see any exclusive titles emerge from Activision in the near term, plenty of other studios have been quiet for quite some time. We've not heard what id Software is working on, we don't know what The Coalition's next game looks like. We've not heard anything of Avalanche's Contraband project, nor do we know what the status of Perfect Dark is. There's also State of Decay 3 to consider, as well as the big Fable reboot. While it's unlikely any of these could drop in 2024, it stands to reason that we will most likely see them showcased between now and the end of the year. 

New platform features, new hardware innovations

Image of the Xbox Series Family of Consoles

(Image credit: Microsoft)

A major leak last summer detailed Microsoft's Xbox hardware thought processes from back in 2021. While some of the information is outdated, and I have it on good authority some of (and maybe all of) the plans have changed, it does serve us to take a look back and remind ourselves what Microsoft has been considering in recent years. 

The rise of PC gaming handhelds like the Steam Deck and ASUS ROG Ally has undoubtedly captured Microsoft's imagination. It was an intense topic of discussion at every opportunity and every event I went to in the past year, chiefly among those how Windows 11 is barely fit for purpose on a 7 to 8-inch gaming tablet, with interface issues that aren't functional on touch. It's a testament to Windows' adaptability that a device like that is even possible, but it's also undeniable how much more user-friendly the Steam Deck or Nintendo Switch are, with custom-made interfaces more befitting of their hardware paradigms. 

In those previous leaks, Microsoft said building its own handheld gaming device was "out of scope for first party," indicating that Microsoft may want to lean further on Lenovo, ASUS, and other OEMs supporting the PC gaming handheld effort instead. To that end, Windows 11 (or even Windows 12) itself would need to be heavily adapted and customized, and Microsoft has positioned teams to support that effort. But what about on the console side?

The pyramid above from Microsoft's FTC court case leaks details Microsoft's Xbox hardware scope from previous years, although plans may have heavily changed.  (Image credit: US Courts)

In the leaks last year, it was revealed that Microsoft has geared up minor mid-gen refreshes for the Xbox Series X and S, codenamed Brooklin and Ellewood. These consoles would both become all digital, ditching disc drives entirely, while incorporating Bluetooth 5.2 for the first time for better accessory compatibility, as well as Wi-Fi 6E for improved streaming and internet consistency. Neither of these consoles come with any hardware upgrades, however, and would most likely be heavily overshadowed by the PlayStation 5 Pro, which Sony will most likely be looking to position as the "best place" to play the console-exclusive Grand Theft Auto 6 in 2025, no doubt. GTA6 will be a huge event for console gaming, shifting people from PS4 and Xbox One consoles in a way no other game has achieved previously. Microsoft may want to ensure it has at least something fresh to capitalize on that wave, although perhaps they have other plans in mind. 

There have been some suggestions that Microsoft may end up skipping over mid-gen refreshes entirely and just gun for an entirely new gen in 2026 or 2027. Perhaps they could step away from directly competing with PlayStation and instead just building new hardware as and when it sees fit, much like Nintendo does. Microsoft's timeline lists FY25 Q1 for launching the mid-gen consoles, which for Microsoft, starts in July 2024. Microsoft also aims to launch a new controller this summer, codenamed Sebile, which will incorporate superior platform switching features and better Bluetooth for multi-modal gaming. If things are all still going to plan, we'd also see Brooklin (X) and Ellewood (S) debut during that time too, with a September and October launch respectively, at $599 and $299 price points. I can't help but wonder if Microsoft might not just pivot towards focusing on next-gen at this point, though. 

The documents describe how Microsoft begun prototyping and researching what an Xbox with onboard AI processing might look like. Some of the ideas include improved AI NPCs in games, for example, but also things like improving cloud latency, generating frames, and improving graphics. In that timeline, Microsoft's "Gen 10" consoles would launch in 2028, and may even be based on ARM64 architecture instead of the AMD architecture we know today. The same documents describe how developing a "Thin OS" for $99 dollar handheld devices could also be on the cards. 

We'll find out for certain if some of, or all of these plans have remained in place this summer at Microsoft's Xbox Showcase 2024. If Ellewood and Brooklin do end up launching regardless, it stands to reason that the rest of the plans will remain in place, which would give us four more years of the current hardware cycle before Microsoft's big AI co-processing Xbox push in 2028. 

What do you want to see from Xbox in 2024?

(Image credit: Windows Central | Jez Corden)

There are other things likely on the horizon for 2024 as well. Microsoft has teased new Xbox achievements in an exclusive interview with us, as well as projects for franchises like Banjo Kazooie and StarCraft. Microsoft is also working on new Xbox accessories, including wireless headphones and new features for the Xbox Design Lab. 

Personally, I do want to see Microsoft create its own Xbox handheld, preferably natively. I think the Nintendo Switch 2 could become a huge threat when it drops in the near future, grabbing that portable factor enjoyed by the Steam Deck while also grabbing the power necessary to provide AAA games that have eluded the first Nintendo Switch. I think cloud will have a role to play, but cloud is incredibly expensive and energy intensive, when you could just provide local hardware and make use of those thousands of digital titles people have purchased instead. The fact I can't take my Xbox games to other platforms in the same way I can with Steam games is a real downer on the Xbox ecosystem, particularly when cross platform scalability was supposed to be Microsoft's wheelhouse. Right now, Steam is the only platform that gives me gaming on cloud, high-end local hardware, and mid-range local handheld hardware — I imagine this is exactly where Microsoft dreams it could be. And this is absolutely where Microsoft should aim to be, in my view. 

I'm not worried about content, though. Xbox Game Pass is absolutely the best deal in gaming, and will remain so in 2024. Microsoft's first party teams will absolutely hit their stride in 2024 and beyond, and the release cadence should pick up heavily in the coming years. The blips of yesteryear should become rarer, and the platform innovations and investments should ramp up, as subsidization from Activision's huge mobile arm picks up pace. 

2024 should be a great year for Xbox and its customers, and I'm here for it. But what do you want to see? Drop in the comments, let us know. 

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at 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!

  • fjtorres5591
    FWIW, A couple thoughts:

    1- MS keeping its game announcements quiet is good. With a steady stream of output now flowing preannouncing games risks Osbourning current and near term releases. Early teases like BLADE and CLOCKWORK REVOLUTION are fine but after that, go dark. Maybe do more shadow drops to save on PR. Like "we know something is coming in march but what?" Ratchet up the excitement.

    2- Getting the ABK back catalog into Game Pass the sooner the beter. Like, now.

    3- When MS bought ZENIMAX they bought PC streaming tech they were working and reportedly was almost done. Unless there are patent jssue, they need to rationalize the Game Pass catalog by streaming at least the old games to console. Stuff like Elder Scrolls 1&2, Fallout 1&2, and the early Activision classics. None of which will undercut the console as a platform but do wonders for game preservation.

    4- OG XBOX emulators exist. Add one to the SX. For those of us with games from that era. Let us bring our own disks.

    5- On our side, we need to be prepared for MS, if they do jump past TENCENT in revenues to window their big multiplatform legacy franchises. Say for a month or two, much like the video streamers do with testrical releases. Exclusives, day and date, multiplat...a bit later.

    Don't want to give the ideologues antitrust fuel.

    Oh, and...

    6... Keep the smaller games flowing. More PENTIMENTS and HIFI RUSH-class games.
    Reply
  • Fragslayer
    Well the person above touched on many points thus saving me some typing so thanks.

    They should forget the refreshes in all honesty. They don't justify much except for S user's who would appreciate a upgrade, minor as it is.

    If PlayStation is in fact making a Pro variant of the PS5 I don't think MS should pass up the opportunity to do the same. Especially on a launch as big as GTA6 even if I personally don't care about the game it makes sense. It's the S stopping you, oh well, I have a S too and I wouldn't cry if the X got a pro variant. To clarify this is a hunch but I feel it's more about the S than anything else.

    Elite 3..... If it does not have Hall Effect Sensors don't bother making it. I'm sick of the things developing drift. The modular thing I saw is not what I or anyone wants either. Yeah let's replace the thumbsticks every couple months and pass the expense to our highest paying consumers. Instead of just putting the dang proper stick in the first place.

    Emulation! As much as you can give us. I know it was said but I wanna drill that in. That is what has set Xbox apart.

    Give us OLD achievements back it was awesome actually getting things for our efforts. Every since the change I don't even bother now. Some artificial number don't excite me. People buy/ games strictly to abuse the achievements number. Boooooring.

    Give us access to OUR cloud storage back or remove it. This gen has been a nightmare never seen before on Xbox. If I have to clear my local game saves one more time or return a XBSX for a corrupted internal drive I'll throw it out a window. I mean Cyberpunk, Baldur's Gate 3, Skyrim and Fallout 4 are just some examples. Calling you guys about it is amusing, nobody seems to know or want to say what the problem is. I've checked around, it's a widespread issue to big to ignore.

    Hmm.. yeah that's about all I can add that hasn't been said already.
    Reply
  • fjtorres5591
    Fragslayer said:
    Well the person above touched on many points thus saving me some typing so thanks.

    They should forget the refreshes in all honesty. They don't justify much except for S user's who would appreciate a upgrade, minor as it is.

    If PlayStation is in fact making a Pro variant of the PS5 I don't think MS should pass up the opportunity to do the same. Especially on a launch as big as GTA6 even if I personally don't care about the game it makes sense. It's the S stopping you, oh well, I have a S too and I wouldn't cry if the X got a pro variant. To clarify this is a hunch but I feel it's more about the S than anything else.

    Elite 3..... If it does not have Hall Effect Sensors don't bother making it. I'm sick of the things developing drift. The modular thing I saw is not what I or anyone wants either. Yeah let's replace the thumbsticks every couple months and pass the expense to our highest paying consumers. Instead of just putting the dang proper stick in the first place.

    Emulation! As much as you can give us. I know it was said but I wanna drill that in. That is what has set Xbox apart.

    Give us OLD achievements back it was awesome actually getting things for our efforts. Every since the change I don't even bother now. Some artificial number don't excite me. People buy/ games strictly to abuse the achievements number. Boooooring.

    Give us access to OUR cloud storage back or remove it. This gen has been a nightmare never seen before on Xbox. If I have to clear my local game saves one more time or return a XBSX for a corrupted internal drive I'll throw it out a window. I mean Cyberpunk, Baldur's Gate 3, Skyrim and Fallout 4 are just some examples. Calling you guys about it is amusing, nobody seems to know or want to say what the problem is. I've checked around, it's a widespread issue to big to ignore.

    Hmm.. yeah that's about all I can add that hasn't been said already.
    PS5 has more need of a Pro since they didn't wait for AMD to finalize the festure set of RDNA2 features. They got away with it because third party games are "scaled" to what PS5 can do.

    That said, I chuckle when I see the wishlist specs the fans float about.

    Unless it's going to sell for $1000 or Sony is going to eat $400 per box like they did during the PS3 launch or both, those specs are not doable at the volumes Sony would need for a Pro to matter in the market for 2025.

    Consider that Sony this year raised the prices on the current 9.2TF SKUs and that the entire PS5 SOC is barely 10 Billion transistors. A 28TF PS5 Pro as rumored would require 30Billion transistors for the RDNA3 GPU alone. Even the weakest RDNA 3 gpu eats 13B transistors itself. Add in more storage, more expensive memory, a bigger SSD, faster clocks, and what is the thing going to cost this summer to ship this fall. I don't see it hitting even $600.
    I could see them grow their gpu by 50% to hit 13.5TF for bragging rights over the SX and its 12.15 TF. but that would again push prices to over $600 at a time SX might be selling (again) for $400-$300-$200.

    Now there *is* a way to make that 13TF GPU look like a 28TF GPU: quote the FP16 (half) performance instead of the more common FP32 (float) but by that measure the SX is already at 24TF. And it would not need to grow by 50% to still best the PS5.

    As you say, XBOX should simply let them go out on a limb and ride out the cheaper slot for a year and retake the performance lead in '26. Or 28.

    To be honest and considering not game has used all the capabilities of the current boxes, the "next XBOX in 2026 rumor" and $400 SX sale price may be a warning to scare Sony into *not* doing a Pro. Because bragging rights aside, a half measure like a disguised 13TF Playstation is not going to change anything: Sony will still sell more boxes but make less money than XBOX.

    Even true next gen hardware isn't going to matter: gaming is moving past pixel count pimping to consumer value. Sony may be zig-ing at a time the market is zag-ing, just as they did in the ebook reader market they pioneer and lost for not reading consumer interests correctly. (They pushed "Premium quality" when the market wanted cheaper readers and pivoted to cheaper readers when the market was ready to upgrade to more capably readers.)

    Given their trajectory, I expect MS to ride Game Pass to higher consumer involvement and way larger profits.

    Consider the INSOMNIAC leak and look at the numbers between SpiderMan 2 ($6M sales) and 13M players for STARFIELD. Not comparable in upfront dollars but vastly more important in consumer engagement, and life cycle revenue which will come in way longer that the single playthrough games Sony relies on.

    Ignore Sony and their FUD, which can only hurt them. Who is going to buy $569 PS5's when a PS5 pro is (allegedly) months away?
    Pay attention to XBOX's "minor" moves; they are playi g a long game.
    Reply
  • NoLifeDGenerate
    1. They need to fold the other account systems into MS accounts now. It's bullshit Bethesda accounts still exist. Now they own Activision too. Get rid of the extra accounts. I only account I should ever need to play a game is the one I bought it with. The publishers are turning console gaming into the same shitshow they did PC with the launchers, and nobody is speaking out about it.

    2. They need to throw some money at Japanese devs to get ports of games like the EDF series back on Xbox like they used to be.

    3. Piss on mid-gen refreshes. Just step it up. Release whatever is more powerful than Series X, and drop Series S to XCloud support only so it doesn't hold back devs anymore.
    Reply