My Favorite Xbox Moments of 2023
7 mins read

My Favorite Xbox Moments of 2023


Before we start getting pumped up for what should be a big 2024 for Xbox, I wanted to take the opportunity here in this final Unlocked column of 2023 to look back on my favorite Xbox moments of the year. It’s certainly been a memorable year for Xbox, what with a major shadow-dropped first-party exclusive, the biggest first-party launch since at least Gears of War 3 (if not Halo 3), the ongoing saga that was the Activision-Blizzard acquisition, and more. Here’s what I’ll remember most when I think back on Xbox in 2023:

Out of the Shadows

When Microsoft held its first-ever Xbox Developer Direct in January, we expected good stuff that we got, like a release date for Redfall. We also expected some good stuff we’d end up having to wait longer for, like release dates for Forza Motorsport and Starfield. But Microsoft managed to pleasantly surprise everyone with the mid-Developer Direct announcement – and immediate release – of Hi-Fi Rush, a stylish rhythm-action game from Tango Gameworks, a studio known for making games that are tonally the polar opposite of the cheery and upbeat adventures of a robo-armed teenager named Chai. It wasn’t just cool because it was a shadow-dropped first-party game. It was cool because it was a shadow-dropped first-party game that’s legitimately outstanding. That moment is going to be remembered for years to come in Xbox history.

A Weekend in Hell

Diablo 4 was not only one of my most anticipated games of 2023, it was probably one of my most anticipated games in the last half-decade. I’m a massive fan of the series, and Diablo 4 up to that point had been giving off some serious Diablo 2 vibes (this is a very, very good thing) ever since I first got my hands on it last December.

So when Blizzard held its first beta weekend in March and allowed us to play all of Act 1 of the long-awaited action-RPG, I was glued to my couch, barely moving off of it as I voraciously consumed everything the beta had to offer and test-drove the Barbarian I’d come to roll with the full version in June. And it was the water-cooler moment for gamers of all stripes, be they Xbox players or not. Everyone seemed to love it, and on top of that, it served as a crucial test of Blizzard’s servers that would later prove valuable when the full, final version of Diablo 4 launched with no major online connectivity issues.

ForzaTech Goes Fantasy

In my humble opinion, the Fable reboot that’s well underway at Playground Games – a studio with an impeccable track record – has the highest ceiling out of anything in the Xbox portfolio not named The Elder Scrolls 6 (which is even farther away than Fable is). And I’m talking both in terms of potential quality and potential sales. Fable could be incredible and it could be huge, and it couldn’t be in better hands than Playground’s, if you ask me.

The Fable reboot that’s well underway at Playground Games has the highest ceiling out of anything in the Xbox portfolio not named The Elder Scrolls 6

As such, getting our first glimpse of in-engine gameplay from Fable at June’s Xbox Showcase was simply awesome – both for how incredible it looked from a graphics standpoint as well as its unique new Jack and the Beanstalk-inspired new take on the Fable universe. Fable dropped my jaw, and I clearly wasn’t alone. In fact, there was plenty of chatter online in the aftermath of the Showcase from fans who didn’t believe what we were shown was real. Playground confirmed that it is from their game engine, and I absolutely can’t wait to see more. This might’ve low-key been my favorite of these half-dozen favorite Xbox moments in 2023, only because it gave me even more confidence that Playground is going to blow us all away whenever the Fable reboot is finally ready to go.

Into the Starfield

That first weekend of Starfield? The early access weekend when Xbox fans finally got their hands on Todd Howard’s first new RPG since Fallout 4 in 2015? That was special. It was probably the Xbox’s biggest “you had to be there” water-cooler moment in a long, long time. The buzz, the excitement, the hype – Xbox players hadn’t enjoyed a launch that monumental in many years. Say what you will about the final game when it was all said and done – some folks were a bit disappointed, while others have happily sunk hundreds of hours into it – but there was an energy in the air in the Xbox community as August turned to September that stands out, if for the unfortunate reason that it had been far too long since the last time it happened. Here’s hoping that feeling becomes a lot more commonplace in 2024 and beyond.

The $69 Billion Check Gets Cashed

I almost didn’t believe it at first. Was it finally over? Had Microsoft finally cleared its last regulatory hurdle and been allowed to close its $69 billion acquisition of Activision-Blizzard-King? Despite the United States’s Securities and Exchange Commission making one last legal Hail Mary, Phil Spencer’s check finally cleared in October as Microsoft welcomed tens of thousands of talented developers into the Xbox family across many different studios.

I admit this was more of a relief than a “favorite moment,” as I’d grown quite weary of hearing about the drawn-out regulatory approval process (and even more tired of talking about it on Podcast Unlocked). But the deal got done, and Xbox gamers will all look back on this acquisition as, hopefully, the start of lots of new games not named Call of Duty from the many stellar studios under Activision’s umbrella, as well as the start of the purging of systemic toxicity from Activision-Blizzard’s workplace culture by Spencer and the Xbox leadership team.

Sharpening Xbox’s Blade

Xbox fans have longed for “their” Spider-Man – a console-exclusive, AAA superhero game they can call their own. At The Game Awards earlier this month, they got their wish, though probably not in any way they could’ve imagined. While PlayStation’s Marvel hero is known for being bit by a dangerous creature, Xbox’s Marvel hero is the dangerous creature doing the biting. Yes, Xbox got Blade, and the partnership is one I admit I’d have never seen coming, as Arkane Lyon – the studio known for doing first-person sandboxes with emergent gameplay like Dishonored and Deathloop – will be bringing Blade to Xbox. The reveal proved to be a great capper for the year, sending Xbox’s 2023 out on a very high note we won’t soon forget.

What were your favorite Xbox moments of the year? Sound off in the Comments below, and we’ll see you in 2024!



Source link