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Let's review and rate the recent range of Xbox rumors: Kojima, Xbox games, Game Pass, and more

Phil Spencer
Phil Spencer (Image credit: Windows Central)

E3 2021 is almost upon us. Although it will be a digital-only event, it should be a little bit more traditional in delivery than it was last year, which saw game announcements stretch out randomly across the whole summer (please, please no more of that).

In any case, in the run-up to E3, it feels like the rumor mill spins up in tandem. Deals are made, marketing teams get involved, and things get a little leaky shall we say, as more and more people become aware of publisher's internal plans. To that end, we have quite a bounty of Xbox rumors on the docket right now, ranging from the fantastical to the somewhat plausible.

For fun, let's run down and review the recent range of Xbox rumors from around the world wide web.

Xbox to work with Kojima?

Source: Kojima Productions (Image credit: Source: Kojima Productions)

Industry legend Hideo Kojima is working on more games, but for now, they remain shrouded in mystery. Kojima and his comrades at Kojima Productions most recently made Death Stranding, which polarized audiences owing to its unique gameplay and obscure story delivery. Love it or loathe it, Death Stranding, like most Kojima games, simply can't be ignored. Which is why it would be a bit of a coup if the long-time Sony collaborator jumped sides and worked with Xbox on his next big project. According to Jeff Grubb of VentureBeat, that's something that may actually be happening.

Microsoft seems to view Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming as an opportunity to gain traction in some Asian markets where Xbox has traditionally struggled. Microsoft also now has its first ever Japan-based studio in Tango Gameworks, following the Bethesda acquisition, and recently began pushing Xbox Game Pass' marketing in partnership with Japanese influencers and VTubers.

Phil Spencer Shelf

Source: Microsoft Is Phil Spencer's Kojima Productions Ludens statue a hint at a partnership? (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft has also redoubled efforts to bring Japanese IP to Xbox for the first time, in the form of Yakuza and Dragon Quest, both of which appear to have done well in the service.

Given the opportunity Microsoft has with Xbox Game Pass as a vehicle for funding developers who have typically snubbed Xbox due to its Western-heavy audience, coupled with the reliability of Jeff Grubb's track record, this is one rumor I would rate as one of the more likely to occur on this list. And hey, the big Kojima Productions Ludens statue on Xbox lead Phil Spencer's shelf during a recent live stream could be a big hint.

Everwild, Fable, and Perfect Dark "years" away

Perfect Dark Dec 2020 Concept Art (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Fable 2020 Fairy (Image credit: Microsoft)

Source: Xbox Game Studios and Microsoft

This next rumor is a little less positive for those waiting on Microsoft to deliver those big exclusives we've all been waiting for. GamesIndustry.biz editor Christopher Dring recently said on a VGC podcast that some of Microsoft's upcoming games are "far away." From Dring:

I've had few conversations with friends at Xbox Games Studios and those games they announced ... Everwild, Perfect Dark, Fable are so far away, as in, they might even be in a new Xbox by the time these games come out. When you look at the Hideo Kojima stuff you wonder if they are signing third parties in the moment because they don't have a line-up of big exclusives at all.

Although how one interprets "far away" could be subjective, if we use a "new Xbox" mid-gen upgrade as a frame of reference, the Xbox One X came out four years after the Xbox One, putting some of these games in the 2024-25 time frame potentially. Depending on the scope and breadth of these games, I'd argue that's not entirely unexpected.

Given that we expect many or most of Bethesda's future games will go exclusive to platforms with Xbox Game Pass, Bethesda and partnerships with companies like Kojima Productions could help plug some of the gaps between now and then. There's also a question of State of Decay from Undead Labs, projects from Obsidian, Double Fine, inXile, Compulsion, and various other studios that should prevent the slate between now and then getting too dry. All that disregards some sneaky games we've recently learned about too.

Xbox Global Publishing partnerships

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft naturally builds and publishes many of its own games from internal studios, but has worked extensively with third-party studios to build games exclusive to Xbox. Microsoft's Xbox Global Publishing team funded games like Quantum Break, Killer Instinct, and Crackdown in the past, all of which were built by external teams. Recently, we received a large cache of information from trusted sources which hint at some of the future deals Xbox's partner publishing teams are working towards.

I recently teased the following on Twitter, using a cyclone emoji. Many took this to mean the Dreamcast logo, Sonic, or Ubisoft, but it's actually in reference to a game Microsoft is looking to publish with a prominent third-party AAA studio.

See more

I don't want to share more details and spoil upcoming reveals for the devs or fans, but this particular one sounds extremely promising, set in what sounds like an ambitious connected world.

Microsoft isn't done there either. The above game could be revealed this year, or perhaps next year depending on how development goes. Beyond that, I've been made aware of not one, but at least three additional games being prototyped by Xbox publishing partner studios of a high caliber. None of these are the rumored game Microsoft may be working on with Kojima, either.

Many of these games may not emerge from prototyping stage, as is often the case in this industry, but each sounds impressive in its own right, crossing a diverse range of genres and settings. And of course, they'll all hit Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PC, and platforms that support Xbox Game Pass.

Steam and Nintendo partnerships

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

Another rumor (via TylerMcVicker) hitting the news cycle lately is that of Microsoft teaming up with either Steam or Nintendo, most likely for some sort of Xbox Game Pass deal.

With regards to Steam, I know Microsoft sees PC as a big avenue for growth potential, hitting markets that are perhaps more PC-centric, and gaining subscribers with audiences that simply don't care for nor want a console. It's with that in mind that some form of partnership with Steam makes absolute sense.

Valve was quite critical of Microsoft in the past, particularly as Microsoft sought to set up its own storefront baked directly into Windows 8 and now Windows 10. Problem is, it sucks, and didn't even put a dent in Steam as could be expected. Satya Nadella's Microsoft is a completely different beast to that of Steve Ballmer's Microsoft, more interested in partnering with other platform holders than competing directly with them. Steam has also shown itself to be quite progressive when it comes to new business models, and already supports EA's "Play" subscription service. To me, this is an obvious extension of Microsoft's investments in Steam versions of its games, which dominated sales charts throughout 2020.

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

Perhaps a little less obvious is a potential partnership with Nintendo, which comes via a combination of Jeff Grubb at VentureBeat and the legendary and award-winning industry insider Shpeshal Ed.

Grubb noted in a YouTube Game Mess video that "everything on Phil's shelf meant something," referring to the Nintendo Switch on Xbox lead Phil Spencer's top shelf, from his previous stream. Afterwards, Shpeshal Ed added that we'd learn more about the partnership in the Fall.

I've long thought that the Nintendo Switch would be an ideal vehicle for Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming, particularly for games that aren't yet available on Nintendo's platform. Whether that takes the form of the full cloud streaming library or a curated list of games Microsoft owns but doesn't sell directly on Nintendo's store remains to be seen. Nintendo and Microsoft have been collaborating nicely for some time, though, so this is another partnership that, to me, wouldn't be all-too surprising.

Persona, Battlefield 6, and more to Game Pass?

Persona 5 Strikers Joker Showtime

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

Following on from the theme of Microsoft doubling down on Japanese games, there's still one glaring gap in the Xbox portfolio in this regard. Namely, Persona, the legendary JRPG franchise that arbitrarily passes Xbox by, in similar fashion to Yakuza and Dragon Quest of yesteryear.

During a Q&A session a while ago, Xbox lead Phil Spencer said "I hear you," when a fan called out to get Persona on Xbox. Since then, I have personally heard that Microsoft is indeed working towards achieving this goal, backed by data from the success of Yakuza hitting Game Pass. A Twitter account dedicated to game leaks also tweeted the same recently, noting that Persona 5 Royale was coming to Xbox Game Pass and PC.

Additionally, Shpeshal Ed chimed in on the XboxEra podcast discussing the recent addition of Outriders into Xbox Game Pass.

Outriders might be the first AAA launch into Game Pass, but it's not going to be the last. (...) Here's what I can say: there's a certain third-party AAA first-person shooter that is highly likely to be launching in Game Pass this Fall.

Given Microsoft's partnership with EA, it seems more than likely to me that this could be Battlefield, and the podcast certainly hints as much. Call of Duty sells ridiculous amounts regardless and already has a free-to-play component in Warzone. Battlefield V arguably eroded the brand a bit, and slapping the game into a "free-to-play-like" environment via Xbox Game Pass, could be a good way to reinvigorate the Battlefield franchise, deliver it to audiences, and potentially make a ton of cash on the upsell of in-game purchases on the side.

Battlefield V key art

Source: EA (Image credit: Source: EA)

I've certainly heard similar to Shpeshal Ed that Microsoft isn't backing down when it comes to big-name third-party day-one Xbox Game Pass titles. Landing MLB The Show and Outriders recently put a big dent in Sony's image, which offers those games for $70, rather than on a $10-per-month basis. Outlets like Kotaku and Forbes, which I don't think it's unfair to say are often very critical of Xbox, wrote some quite positive remarks about the value Microsoft is delivering with Game Pass.

The opportunity here is quite obvious: hit PlayStation where it really hurts, value perception, and solidify Xbox Game Pass' place as the premier service early on before competitors can react. Microsoft has hundreds of millions of dollars per month coming in via Xbox Game Pass to play with, and it's certainly not shy to reinvest the majority of that right back into the service.

Pinches of salt at the ready

As always, it's best to keep your expectations in check when it comes to rumors. Plans can change, development can be tricky, marketing cycles may not align, so on and so forth. Alas, I'm also a firm believer that there's no smoke without fire.

As we head towards E3 2021, I expect more and more rumors will start to pop up here and there, too. Microsoft is investing more in gaming today than it ever has in the Xbox division's decades-long history. The result for consumers is obvious: bigger and better games, bolder and more powerful hardware, and higher-value services.

Whether or not these rumors pan out, of course, remains to be seen. But hey, it's fun to speculate, right?

Jez Corden
Jez Corden

Jez Corden is a Senior 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!

21 Comments
  • The avocado strikes again! Always a pleasure reading your work Jez
  • The One X(and PS4 Pro for that matter) were 'one offs' because of the switching to 4K etc . There's not going to be another one this gen. Outside of bigger SSD size offerings that's it for hardware.
  • I expect we'll see both a 6-8TF SeriesS replacement (for native 4K) and a PS5 pro. The latter much sooner than the former. Probably 2022.
  • Series S is designed for 1080p60 and keep the price of the console low. I think it's unlikely the S will get a S 2.0. to support 4K. Instead MS will focus on beefing some specs to line up to that 1080p60 better while keeping the price the same. The S still has room before it hits that 4K line.
  • It has been interesting to see journalists whom have been negative toward XBox spin positive news. XBox has had a lot of positivity the last month. I'm curious to see if it sticks. I hope it wasn't an article to just drive users to click on their website or Youtube video. Which wouldn't surprise me as journalistic integrity has gone out the window. WuuWuu
  • "The opportunity here is quite obvious: hit PlayStation where it really hurts, value perception, and solidify Xbox Game Pass' place as the premier service early on before competitors can react." Game Pass is not new, its nearly 5 years old.... sales of Xbox continue to declined during this time period and they have constantly lost market share during that time period vs Sony/Nintendo. The last 4-5 years have been the worst sale period for Xbox even compared to the original Xbox. If Microsoft wants to compete against the other big publishers i.e. Ubisoft, Take Two, Nintendo, Sony, etc.... they are going to have to go where the customers are. This is like watching Windows Phone all over again, trying to throw money at a problem that money can't solve. (popcorn) Watching billions being throw into the furnace. The data from sales shows that Microsoft is not getting any help from their service, the data shows they are in a downward spiral. Obviously Spencer sold Nadella on "service" so that they didn't cut him and Xbox, but there is no evidence to suggest this has worked... actually quite the opposite.... windows phone downward spiral. Microsoft has already burned all the bridges as far as being a middleman as it comes to software and games middleman see Games for Windows Live and the Microsoft Store. I'm not sure why Sony (Playstation) keeps coming up in these articles, Spencer said that Sony/Nintendo are not their competition. LOL
  • GamePass is not 5 years old. It began with XBox Insiders testing it in 2017. The current flavor (GamePass Ultimate) was made available in 2019 and XCloud was added in 2020. GamePass is perceived across the industry as "The Best Value in Gaming" and it's getting noticed by many. Clearly it's gained momentum and has over 18 million subscribers. I believe they've positioned themselves very well heading into this next generation. How it plays out will be interesting. To claim anyone knows how this will play out over the next few years, is overreaching. I'm curious as to what reports/articles you are referencing where Microsoft is not getting any help from their service and it's a downward spiral...throwing money in a furnace? I've read and heard the exact opposite. Since you feel compelled to base your comments on rumor/opinion, what is your opinion of the rumor that Sony is looking at coming out with their own flavor of a service to compete with GamePass?
  • My bad, almost 4 years old. The last 4 years have been at or below original Xbox sales numbers. "The current flavor (GamePass Ultimate) was made available in 2019 and XCloud was added in 2020. " So? "GamePass is perceived across the industry as "The Best Value in Gaming"" That sounds like marketing and pr, all these articles which are basically paid ads has not increased any meaningful numbers... actually the facts are the opposite. The numbers continue to go down at a steady rate. <--------- Its like saying the Windows Phone is the best phone, it doesn't mean anything... the market says what is best. "To claim anyone knows how this will play out over the next few years, is overreaching." Yet, that is exactly what this site has done and been constantly wrong on Microsoft consumer products. I'm not the one producing these delusions. "I'm curious as to what reports/articles you are referencing where Microsoft is not getting any help from their service and it's a downward spiral...throwing money in a furnace? I've read and heard the exact opposite." You can go out on statista as they have tons of freely available information on sales number which Microsoft tries to hides. "Since you feel compelled to base your comments on rumor/opinion, what is your opinion of the rumor that Sony is looking at coming out with their own flavor of a service to compete with GamePass?" Nobody really needs to compete with Microsoft (as a middleman for software distribution) as Microsoft has been steadily losing market share over the last decade. What they are doing is clearly not working from a sales numbers... the worse years have been since Game Pass has been around. That doesn't mean Sony won't change up their own service. According to Microsoft, Sony isn't the competition.... I'm still confused by why Sony keeps coming up. What you are talking about and what some of these silly articles are basically rinse and repeat of silly Windows Phone articles. There is a reason why Microsoft has basically no purely consumer products left... they're not good at it. People are not going to leave Steam, Sony and Nintendo and use Microsoft as an additional middleman... that ship sailed back with the shutting down of Games for Windows Live. There is simply no reason for Microsoft to be a middleman other than a normal publisher at this point, which is why sales continue to go down. Just like Windows Phone, the market isn't wrong.... this is Windows Phone v.2.0 or Games for Windows Live v2.0. You talk of competing, yet, everything Microsoft has been doing on the consumer side has been to avoid competing.... they don't want to compete.... so they lose. If Microsoft wants to compete, its competing as a normal large software publisher.... not as a middleman software distributor for third parties. All this game pass paid buzz is an attempt for Spencer to keep his job as long as possible... its actually worked in that regard, not so much as on actually selling something.
  • You are a completely delusional person.
  • That maybe true, but in your reality do you call people on a Windows Phone? LMAO Some additional questions to figure out which reality you are in: - Do you look at a Microsoft Band to see what time it is?
    - Do you speak to your Cortana enabled device?
    - Do you download your games from Games for Windows Live?
    - Do you listen to music on your Zune from Groove Music streaming service? LOL, two for one.
    - etc.
  • Look at this deluded person, whining about Zune and Windows Phone in 2021. Is that all you got?
  • Microsoft ran out of consumer products for us to talk about. It clearly isn't working which is why gaming is basically all that left on the table. That's not my fault. <---------
  • Do a Google search for "GamePass is the Best Value in Gaming". It's almost uniform across the board the feeling towards the service. Forbes, CNN, Gamespot, etc. Nice try to redirect and speculate that it's all pr and paid ads. Truth hurts. Any articles on XBox Gamepass burning up money is pure speculation. I did a quick search of Statista and I'm not sifting through hundreds or articles to find your "one" article that may (or may not) support your viewpoint. You can find many that state the opposite viewpoint for GamePass. I'm not quite sure what's your fascination with Windows Phone or XBox?!?! It's a bit odd to say the least. But keep on riding that dead horse!
  • "Any articles on XBox Gamepass burning up money is pure speculation." I said they were not selling more Xboxes, matter of fact, the evidence actually supports that the worst years for Xbox is during the time GP has been around... the numbers continue to decline. "I'm not quite sure what's your fascination with Windows Phone or XBox?!?! It's a bit odd to say the least. But keep on riding that dead horse!" The dead horse is the Microsoft consume products following the same path of decline, over and over. And the fascination of people like you that don't believe its happening. LOL
  • I don't think MS really wants to build hardware. They do it to help sell services. Rather than looking at number of consoles sold, look at attach rates for games, but more specifically, for multiplatform games. Look at at total number of active Xbox live members (last number I saw was over 90 million as of April 2020). MS wants to blur the line between console and PC, and thus have allowed all their 1st party games to come on PC. The latest being Forza. If Halo, Gears, Forza, etc etc etc are all on PC, then of course Xbox console sales will be down, but the number of people playing their games will be significantly higher. If you are a game developer, you would love nothing more than seeing millions of fans play your creation and admire your 'art'. EA joining gamepass was/is a big deal. Outriders on gamepass is a big deal. MLB the show, a game made by Sony Interactive Entertainment, is on gamepass and will immediately have millions of fans playing the game. In the history of MLB the show, they barely sell over 1 million copies a year on PS. Sony can sell 2-3-4-5 times the number of consoles, but still will not beat the number of users playing MLB the show on Xbox. I personally think that the Series S/X will be the last console MS makes. Xcloud will likely take over in the next 6-8 years, and at that point all you need is a hard drive and great internet connection. Competitive gaming and highest spec'd (resolution/FPS etc) will be on PC, but play anywhere on any device will be the 'Live' service MS will provide as gamepass. This generation will see more and more multiplatform games allowing cross platform play as well. The real threat to MS has always been Google and Amazon (not Sony or Nintendo). It is why they have ramped up the Gamepass service. Sony is already 'giving in' and going to let their 1st party games come to PC.
  • Why don't you take a break from harping on Games for Windows and Windows Phone and maybe play some games on your PS3, PSP or Playstation Vita, or maybe instead you enjoy some of your Nintendo games from the Wii or earlier systems on the Switch? Did one too many fans criticize your favorite console so you come here to shine a light on the little blunders Microsoft made in the past, under different leadership? Should I be bringing up the 2011 Sony hack, or how Nintendo treated developers in the 90s? Should we talk about the "other competition" in Google and Amazon which are trying to build unpopular gaming services from scratch? "LOL"
  • I'm sorry your feelings are hurt, but its not my fault they keep writing these silly articles. "Did one too many fans criticize your favorite console so you come here to shine a light on the little blunders Microsoft made in the past" Well, we can talk the why the sales have decline.... but its not my fault that they have. You are trying to shoot the messenger. The market determines the winners and losers not silly articles and ads, which this site should know full well with basically across the board MS consumer product failures. Shooting the messenger won't change the facts. If you want to discuss the why, we can, if you can't take it... .that is your own problem. Grow a pair.
  • The idea fable will be for some new generation of consoles is absurd, if the life of a console that has really yet to be launched fully is this short, I'll stick with PCs... Sure, backwards compatibility means i could play it, but it means this generation is really a dud
  • We really haven't seen what this new generation of consoles are even capable of yet. I'm not even sure if Halo Infinite is going to fully embrace the new technology of the newer systems. It's understandable that several of the titles that were announced may not even be playable for years to come. All platforms do this, think Sony and FFVII remake, Nintendo and Metroid Prime for the Switch... I'm still excited for what's in store. I'd have to say that so far the Game Pass is the biggest win for consumers. These new consoles are not easy to get a hold of at the moment anyways. I'm looking forward to seeing how everything plays out.
  • I can't be the only one who clicked expecting Lady Gaga content and it was just plan old rumors instead of romance
  • Hundreds of millions coming in from gamepass every month? They have a little over 10 million subs, and I would bet most of those subs, easily, are promotional--meaning anywhere from $1-$5/mo. I myself have 3, yes three, years of xbox game pass for a total of $1. They are more likely losing exponentially greater amounts of money every month, and are probably less than $100 million in revenue every month. Hopefully it continues, but so far the main value it is has getting games PS has had exclusives for years. We need more new games; Sony had several new blockbuster, GOTY games just last year, and the year before, and the year before. Xbox is catching up, and has a great gameplan, but is far behind and are forking over millions for subs.