Xbox One games: why you shouldn't underestimate Microsoft's core line-up

Don Mattrick and Phil Spencer talk "quadruple-A" and flexible platforms

The day before Xbox One's formal unveiling in Redmond, Microsoft's Aaron Greenberg described the announcement process as a two-part affair - the dedicated event, he explained in a podcast, would focus on the hardware itself and Microsoft's broad "vision for the future of games, the future of entertainment", with more to follow on individual releases at E3 a few weeks from now. In hindsight, that's a splitting of the material Microsoft probably should have made a bit more public.

The decision to blow the lion's share of the event's slender one-hour runtime on live TV, Kinect features and somewhat ethereal talk of cloud computing has created the false impression that Xbox is no longer a platform for games enthusiasts, that Microsoft has "abandoned" the core Xbox audience in order to draw first blood in the forthcoming war with Google and Apple for dominance of the smart TV market. There were games on offer, of course, including the latest Call of Duty and a formidable show of force from EA Sports, but only Remedy's mysterious Quantum Break was a genuine surprise, and there was no live gameplay. Even without the subsequent confusion over pre-owned on Xbox One, it was a troubled debut.

Thankfully, a glance at the bigger picture reveals that this is more a question of presentation than strategy. Microsoft will invest no less than $1 billion into games next gen - an unprecedented sum for the firm - and Xbox One will swipe 15 exclusive titles in its first year at retail, including eight new IPs. All that's on top of a two-year period of bulking up, which has seen Microsoft Studios open new games studios in London, Washington and Victoria, British Columbia while snapping up talent for its existing operations.

Core gaming powerhouses 343 Studios, Lionhead and Turn 10 have all seen significant appointments - Lionhead, for instance, now runs under the supervision of MMO expert John Needham, in further evidence that the rumoured Fable 4 will be a cloud-centric affair. Microsoft has hired former Sony executive Phil Harrison - the man who oversaw the gestation of such noted PlayStation IPs as LittleBigPlanet - to manage internal projects and developer relations in Europe. Rare Ltd is poised to return to one of its cherished franchises in what Microsoft Studios boss Phil Spencer bills a "historic" revival.

Black Tusk Studios is working on a mysterious action title that's designed to compete with Halo and Gears of War. Microsoft has opened Lift London to create and incubate smaller scale cloud-based games. New projects are underway at Microsoft Studios Osaka, reflecting IEB president Don Mattrick's assertion that the company remains "committed" to Japan. Perhaps most hearteningly, Microsoft has acquired Press Play and Twisted Pixel to work on "weird, unique" titles for Xbox Live. In short, there's a lot more bubbling away under the surface than the Xbox One event suggests.

Our own, pre-reveal chats with Mattrick and Spencer attest to this, though it's necessary to peel away a lot of glossy investor-speak about "delivery" and "excellence". "We want to be about serious fun," says Mattrick, summarising Xbox One's games and entertainment offering. "Things that people are really passionate about. Things that they love. Things that they can't wait to get home to experience and to use. That's what the Xbox brings about. So, we're in the serious fun side of the house. You can call us the, you know, five to nine section if you want."

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