The revelations from leaked Microsoft emails are coming in thick and fast. The latest set reveals Microsoft’s scramble to find video games to fill a huge hole in its lineup in 2022.
The email chain, which you can view in the slideshow of images below, kicked off with a message from Xbox boss Phil Spencer sent in May 2022 to a raft of senior Xbox staff, including head of Microsoft Studios Matt Booty, Sarah Bond, who leads Microsoft’s gaming business development team, and Xbox chief financial officer Tim Stuart. Spencer does not mince his words, pointing to the high-profile delay of Bethesda Game Studios’ Starfield out of 2022 and into 2023, a lack of clarity on when Arkane’s Redfall would come out (it eventually launched May 2023 in disastrous fashion), and understandable delays to Stalker 2, whose developer GSC Game World is contending with the war in Ukraine. IGN has asked Microsoft for comment.
Leaked Emails From Microsoft FTC Trial Reveal Xbox Scramble to Fill 2022 Lineup Hole
“I feel we are in a huge hole with our games lineup,” Spencer said, before predicting a 16-month gap between the launch of Halo Infinite in December 2021 and the release of Redfall without “big exclusive launches on our platform”.
“This is really a disaster situation for us given all we’ve invested in content across studios at our GP content fund. We need to learn from this and build a plan forward.”
Spencer then issued a call to arms for his Xbox team to sign third-party games to fill the hole: “let’s roll up the sleeves and get planning on the next two years of games.”
Stuart responds with a roadmap of third-party releases, accurate as of May 2022, that includes a number of games that were at the time set to launch across the four quarters of the 2023 financial year. Of note here is mention of Resident Evil Revelations for Q2 (October to December 2022). This is perhaps a codename for the Resident Evil 4 remake, which launched in March 2023. Also slated for Q2 were BioWare’s Dragon Age 4 and Ubisoft’s Skull & Bones, both of which are yet to come out nearly a year later.
Further into the email chain is talk of the difficulty associated with getting day-and-date releases for Xbox Game Pass. This is Microsoft’s ongoing attempt to secure new game launches from third-parties that come out on Game Pass at the same time as their general release.
To fund a D&D, as Microsoft calls it, from a big hitter such as EA or Ubisoft, Microsoft would have to drive other parts of its business “hard”. This includes pushing existing live service games from first-party studios, such as Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls Online, Rare’s Sea of Thieves, Mojang’s Minecraft, Playground’s Forza Horizon 5, and “Halo F2P”.
What follows is a detailed and revelatory assessment of third-party options for day-and-date Game Pass launches to fill Microsoft’s lineup hole. Perhaps the most eye-catching entry here is Red Dead Redemption 2 “D&D for gen9”, which suggests a next-gen update for Rockstar’s epic was as of last year set to come out. Rockstar has yet to make an announcement about such a game, and as with everything here, the plan may have changed.
Also worth noting is Microsoft’s comment on Baldur’s Gate 3, which it described as a “second run Stadia PC RPG”. Given the astonishing success of Larian’s superb Dungeons & Dragons-themed role-playing game, that has to go down as a bad call.
The emails also reveal the astonishing amount of money Microsoft is spending securing these day-and-date deals. Microsoft estimated it would cost $5 million to secure Baldur’s Gate 3, $35 million to snag Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga for Game Pass, $50 million for Dying Light 2, $100 million for Assassin’s Creed Rift (the codename for the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Mirage), $250 million for Rocksteady’s Suicide Squad, which still hasn’t come out, and an eye-watering $300 million for Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
The email chain ends with Spencer suggesting Microsoft go after FromSoftware’s Dark Souls series for Game Pass, a move that would benefit from the huge launch of Elden Ring. So far, this has yet to pan out.
The leaked emails pull the curtain back on the secretive video game industry, and offer a rare look at the behind-the-scenes deals that underpin the first-party machine at Microsoft. Microsoft is currently embroiled in perhaps the biggest, most devastating leak in Xbox history, with FTC trial documents revealing its plans for a mid-gen Xbox refresh in 2024, a next-gen hybrid Xbox in 2028, and Bethesda’s release schedule. A leaked email revealed Phil Spencer really wants to buy Nintendo. There’s also word of a potential one-hand Xbox controller.