Xbox Year in Review: A year of accomplishments bodes well for Microsoft in 2024

Xbox Year in Review 2023
(Image credit: Future)

2023 was a great year to be an Xbox owner, though not without some snags. Early Xbox exclusive Hi-Fi Rush kicked things off in style before Redfall's disappointing launch soured the taste considerably, with many then feeling dubious about other upcoming Bethesda games as a result. It was a relief to see homegrown behemoth Starfield launch to record sales a few months later, followed by more good news for Microsoft when, no matter your feelings on it, the embattled Xbox-Activision deal finally managed to close in October.

That's a lot of movement in one year for Xbox parent company Microsoft. Things are certainly looking brighter for Gaming branch CEO Phil Spencer as we round out 2023, especially when comparing the state of affairs in our 2022 Xbox Year in Review to how they stand today. Sure, Xbox might have "lost the console wars", but it's won plenty of other battles besides – and seems more incentivized than ever to keep that streak going. 

To infinity...

Hi-Fi Rush review

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)
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Alan Wake 2

(Image credit: Remedy Entertainment)

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Let's start at the beginning. Teeing off a bumper year for Xbox, January's Hi-Fi Rush made for impressive Game Pass fuel. The largely positive responses to its rock n' roll rhythmic action felt promising as we went into 2023, especially as the first Bethesda game to ship Day One on the Xbox subscription service after Microsoft acquired the studio in 2021. 

That's why Redfall was such a roiling shame. Published by Bethesda and developed by the studio behind Dishonored and Deathloop, how Arkane's vampire-slaying, gun-touting, totally not-a-horde-shooter FPS managed to fall so dramatically short of expectations is something even Phil Spencer could not explain. Like most of us, the Xbox boss was "disappointed" by Redfall in all its buggy, half-baked glory, and promised back in May that efforts would be made to improve things. Subsequent updates might have cleaned it up considerably for the handful of people still playing, but the damage had already been done. The game was critically panned, our own Redfall review deeming it "rushed, unfinished, and unsatisfying". For that reason, it's fair to say that Redfall is an indelible black spot on Xbox's record that sticks out as perhaps its lowest point of the year.

On the plus side, Game Pass is ending 2023 on the up when you look at things numbers-wise. Xbox appears to have done a total 180 on its comparatively slower 2022, as both the Game Pass service and Microsoft's "overall gaming revenue" are up by 13% and 9% respectively (via The Verge) as of this October. Those percentages might not sound massive, but there was one huge culprit behind the service's late-year uptick in subscription numbers.

...and beyond


(Image credit: Bethesda)

Xbox might have 'lost the console wars', but it's won plenty of other battles besides.

Enter: Starfield. The interstellar RPG of epic proportions finally launched in September, alongside a slight price increase for Game Pass subscribers. This did nothing to deter people from signing up to play it on day one, though, with over one million concurrent players loading in on release day. It's the first Bethesda Game Studios-developed title to launch on Game Pass as an Xbox exclusive, and with a host of new Bethesda games still on the horizon, it's a strong start.

Bethesda merger aside, acquisitions would go on to be a big deal for Xbox in 2023. The company has bought several developer studios over recent years, but the hot topic was obviously Microsoft's push to purchase Call of Duty publisher Activision. The proposal was unpopular in the eyes of many, most notably with the US Federal Trade Commission, as it pushed back against the acquisition numerous times. Citing exclusivity concerns regarding "financial interests" – in short, that Microsoft might pull games like Call of Duty from rival PS5's game library, drawing players to its own flagship console – emerging headlines sometimes made it sound like Microsoft's bid was going south. 

The two-year long battle ended in success for Xbox when Microsoft succeeded in acquiring Activision in October. Alongside this, Phil Spencer has promised "100 percent parity" for PS5 Call of Duty players going forward. This has been enough to soothe Call of Duty exclusivity worries for now, even though new Bethesda games aren't expected to launch anywhere but Xbox and PC platforms. 

It's been a tumultuous yet impressive 2023 for Xbox, and the coming year promises big things for Series X exclusives – even if we're still awaiting a lot of release dates for the new games in 2024. I'm already looking forward to Playground Games' upcoming Fable remake after witnessing its gloriously crass British humor, as seen in the Xbox Games Showcase trailer this summer. Long-awaited Skyrim sequel Elder Scrolls 6 is reportedly Bethesda's next port-of-call now that Starfield has launched, though fans of the spacey RPG are wondering where their Starfield updates are. I'm also keeping my eyes glued on BioShock Infinite-tinged Clockwork Revolution, Obsidian's Avowed, and the moody gothic folklore of South of Midnight as we pivot into 2024. With so many fantastic upcoming Xbox Series X games in the works, all of the above points to another exciting year ahead for Microsoft Gaming – no pressure or anything, Spencer.

Take a look at our Nintendo Year in Review to see how the Zelda Tears of the Kingdom publisher and its flagship Switch console has fared in 2023.

Jasmine Gould-Wilson
Staff Writer, GamesRadar+

Jasmine is a staff writer at GamesRadar+. Raised in Hong Kong and having graduated with an English Literature degree from Queen Mary, University of London in 2017, her passion for entertainment writing has taken her from reviewing underground concerts to blogging about the intersection between horror movies and browser games. Having made the career jump from TV broadcast operations to video games journalism during the pandemic, she cut her teeth as a freelance writer with TheGamer, Gamezo, and Tech Radar Gaming before accepting a full-time role here at GamesRadar. Whether Jasmine is researching the latest in gaming litigation for a news piece, writing how-to guides for The Sims 4, or extolling the necessity of a Resident Evil: CODE Veronica remake, you'll probably find her listening to metalcore at the same time.