Xbox One has a mammoth 23 games confirmed for release on day one in November, more than many expected – but there’s a distinct lack of role-playing games available to play.
It’s the one genre lacking from the launch lineup, which includes a number of shooters, action games, casual games, driving games and even a fighting game.
The Fable series – Microsoft’s RPG franchise – is heading in a different direction on Xbox One with the multiplayer-focused Fable Legends, and developer Lionhead has confirmed it has no intention of making a fully-fledged Fable 4.
So, what’s the deal? Has Microsoft lost faith in the RPG genre?
“RPGs for me personally, that’s the genre I grew up playing, starting with the old Ultima series,” Microsoft Studios boss Phil Spencer told Eurogamer at Gamescom.
“Those are games that are in my heart. When we launched 360 we invested in Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon with Sakaguchi-san. Those were really important games from us.
“RPG games take a long time. You want to make sure those games are great. Lionhead’s taking Fable in an interesting direction and we’ve been playing that game for a while. That’s a ton of fun.
“RPGs specifically, we showed The Witcher 3 at E3, but I know what you’re asking. You’re asking about the more traditional RPG. I know you will see those games come to our platform. There’s just nothing to announce right now.”
Some have wondered whether the Xbox One will be home to as many Japanese role-playing games as the Xbox 360 was. Square Enix’s Final Fantasy 15 is due out on next-gen consoles, but Microsoft’s Xbox sales struggle in Japan is well documented, and the Xbox One will not launch there until 2014.
Amid concern about Xbox in Japan, Spencer reiterated Microsoft’s commitment to the Japanese market and said JRPGs will launch on Xbox One eventually.
“Specifically about the Japanese market – and I’ll be at Tokyo Game Show in a month – the Japanese development community remains incredibly important to us, and we’re continuing to invest there,” Spencer said.
“We’re having great conversations with people. We’re not announcing anything, but I can say both RPGs and specifically the Japanese developers are really important to our ecosystem.
“I know Dead Rising 3 isn’t an RPG and is being developed in Vancouver, Canada, but I’ll just say the relationship with the publishers and developers in Japan is something we’ll continue to invest in as important.”
“You’re asking about the more traditional RPG. I know you will see those games come to our platform. There’s just nothing to announce right now.”
Microsoft Studios boss Phil Spencer
Mistwalker’s 2007 JRPG Lost Odyssey was published by Microsoft
Microsoft’s Xbox One launch lineup is large – at least compared to previous console launches – but some have questioned whether it lacks a killer app in the vein of Halo: Combat Evolved on the original Xbox.
Spencer said gamers will decide what Xbox One’s killer app is, using history to guide his prediction.
“Even Halo – and I was there at the original Xbox – we didn’t know [the Xbox’s killer app] was Halo,” Spencer said. “And for those who remember how Halo performed at the E3 prior to the launch, I’ll be honest, there were some issues with how Halo played.
“You never know what the hits are going to be. We build things, we put our passion and creativity into the products, and then you put forward something, and the consumers decide what are the killer apps. The gamers will decide what the killer app is.”
Spencer continued: “We’ve got a breadth of content I’m proud of: Killer Instinct; we announced Zoo Tycoon, which is a completely different genre of game; Project Spark, which is a creativity application tool/game, which I think will bring a ton of people in; Forza; Call of Duty; Battlefield; Dead Rising; Ryse.
“In the end the gamers will decide what the killer app was. There’s enough content there that everybody will pick their thing that will work. I know from a quality level – and I’m playing all the games now at home – the teams understand what the platform is capable of. We’ve got people making use of Kinect, like Kinect Sports Rivals. We’ve got some tried and true shooters and fighting games. The quality across so many genres is something we haven’t seen at launch before.”
“For those who remember how Halo performed at the E3 prior to the launch, I’ll be honest, there were some issues with how Halo played.”
Spencer, who has Xbox One’s game release schedule outlined up to Christmas 2014, said part of his job is to ensure that with Xbox One Microsoft makes a commitment to gamers that there will be a steady flow of eye-catching games.
He again pointed to the past to highlight his point, saying key Xbox 360 games Gears of War, Crackdown and Halo Wars all released after the console’s launch.
“If you look at what happened on Xbox 360, Gears of War wasn’t a launch game,” he said. “It came a little bit later. We had investments like Crackdown, Alan Wake, which came later. Then we iterated on Halo. Halo Wars. Fable was there all along. We had this collection of things people could believe in and were tried and true franchises. Some of those were first on the original Xbox. Then we had things like Minecraft later in the cycle, which came from PC. That’s sold over eight million units now, pushing nine.
“That is to me the commitment you make as a platform holder to the gamer: we’re going to continue to invest in new content. Gamers want great new games. They want to know they can play their favourites and they want to know they’re going to get surprised by the new unexpected things that will come out. That is our commitment to them.”