During the early days of the original Xbox, Microsoft were known for their incredible RPGs. The original Xbox had games like Fable, Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), Morrowind, Jade Empire, Baldur’s Gate and others. Many of these games were Xbox exclusive, and games like Fable, KOTOR, and Morrowind specifically were so ambitious at the time that they were not perceived possible on console.
Almost two decades later, Xbox is in an incredible position to match or surpass the incredible RPG output of their first console. After the Bethesda acquisition, Xbox has a near stranglehold on the entire Western RPG market. Outside of CD Project Red and the remnants of BioWare, Xbox now owns the majority of the notable Western RPG studios and franchises.
Xbox now has the capability to create a truly incredible first party output of RPGs never before seen under one platform. This all depends on the studios that Xbox has acquired, but these studios have the cache to provide confidence that they will deliver.
Let’s analyze what each of these studios to see what they’re working on, starting out with the most notable RPG studio of the last two decades.
Bethesda Game Studios
Bethesda Game Studios are probably the most notable RPG studio of the last decade. They have made some of the most popular and critically acclaimed RPGs of all time, from Fallout 3 to Skyrim and beyond. Their games have a distinctive feel, for better or for worse. While their games are truly infinite sandboxes to play in, that has lead to quite a few bugs and frustrating situations.
Their reputation has probably seen a slight decline over the past few years as their last game Fallout 76 was met with poor reviews. While their recent resume has not been the best, they still have a lot of promise for the future. Their next two games, Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI are two of the most highly anticipated games coming over the next few years.
Starfield is rumored to be coming out in 2021, and while we don’t know much about it, we do know it will be an epic space adventure. A Bethesda game set in space sounds pretty enticing, and we should know more about this ambitious game relatively soon.
The Elder Scrolls VI will be the latest game in the legendary series that started more than two decades ago. That game isn’t expected for a while, and by the time it is released it will have been more than a decade since The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Skyrim is one of the most popular games of all time, and has been bought and re-bought millions of times. The Elder Scrolls VI will be a massive success on name alone.. Whenever that game does come out, and assuming it stays an Xbox exclusive, it will be a massive landmark game for Xbox and likely push many into the ecosystem.
Bethesda Game Studios are a developer that release massive games that other games make sure to stay clear of. For Xbox, Bethesda will be a prominent developer for many years to come and ensure Xbox is seen as a prominent home for anyone who loves a good Role Playing Game.
Obsidian have made a lot of great games in their time as a studio. From Fallout: New Vegas to The Outer Worlds and others, they have a history of making critically acclaimed RPGs.
The next game they are making, Avowed, looks a lot like The Elder Scrolls which isn’t a bad thing at all. Obsidian is very similar to Bethesda, and they have a lot of shared history. Both make RPGs that rely on dialogue, sandboxes, and player choices. They worked on Bethesda’s own IP when they made Fallout: New Vegas, which is arguably the best game in the entire series.
Obsidian has never had the luxury of a large budget like Bethesda has. They’ve gone from publisher to publisher looking for the green light to make a game. Under Xbox, they will no longer have to worry about money, all they will need to do is focus on creating great games. Obsidian is one of the best RPG developers in the world, and there’s a great chance they can end up being the best RPG developer in the world if given the proper resources. Their talent and track record gives confidence they can live up to expectations.
InXile are masters at isometric RPGs. Their latest game in Wasteland 3 is one of the best RPGs in recent memory. InXile is working on two new RPGs although we do not know much more than that. InXile is another studio that has struggled with budget concerns and lack of scope. Under Xbox, this studio should be able to stretch themselves and make bigger and better games.
InXile is lead by Bryan Fargo, an industry veteran who has worked on projects such as the Fallout and The Bard’s Tale. InXile has roots in legendary studio Interplay Entertainment, which went on to birth both InXile and Obsidian.
Out of all the studios Microsoft has acquired, it is reasonable to expect InXile to get the biggest bump from the extra resources. They are very talented and will have a chance to shine as an Xbox studio.
Playground Games are newcomers to the RPG genre, but due to their success as a studio there is a lot of confidence they’ll succeed in their upcoming reboot of Fable. Playground is known for their critically acclaimed Forza Horizon series. They have mastered the open world racing genre. Now, we will have to wait and see if they can transfer their open world expertise to the RPG genre.
We do not know much about the game, but the trailer that was released a few months ago shows that Playground understands the charm of Fable. Lionhead’s Fable was a very unique RPG series. It didn’t rely heavily on stats or classes, but instead focused on player choice and interactive gameplay.
It will be interesting to see where Playground takes the series. There’s an expectation that Fable fans will have, but they will also need to modernize the series and bring it forward. Playground is extremely talented, so there is trust that they’ll be able to pull this off. If they are able to, it will be yet another addition to what is looking like a ridiculously strong RPG lineup for Xbox.
Zenimax Online is the overlooked studio among Xbox’s RPG focused studios, but they need to be on everyone’s radar. The Elder Scrolls Online is a legitimately good MMO and has been getting consistent updates for years. Zenimax Online are an incredibly talented team and have done an excellent job adapting the work Bethesda Games Studio has done with The Elder Scrolls universe and transferred that into an MMO.
This studio is also working on a brand new IP. We don’t know anything about that yet but based on their MMO expertise we should expect a really good game.
And there we have it. Every Xbox studio (that we know of) that is working on an RPG. It goes without saying that Xbox has a lot of talent across their 23 studios, and the RPG genre may be their biggest strength. Xbox has always been the home of great RPGs. From Fable to Oblivion, from Mass Effect to The Outer Worlds, Xbox has a history of delivering the best RPGs ever made.
The next generation of Xbox has a chance to be incredibly special. After recent serious investments, Xbox is here to stay as a powerhouse in the gaming industry. They’re also going to be a powerhouse in the RPG space, and at the end of the upcoming generation they may deliver one of the greatest generations of RPGs in gaming history. Time will tell if this comes to fruition, but the talent under Xbox is undeniable. Now they just have to deliver.