Jun 12, 2022 - Technology

Minecraft spin-off debuts at Xbox gaming event largely promoting 2023

Video game screenshot of blocky warriors in a forest

Minecraft Legends. Screenshot: Microsoft

Microsoft revealed a Minecraft spinoff game during its big annual video game showcase Sunday but also added to the evidence that the game industry's release slate for the rest of 2022 will be sparse.

Driving the news: Microsoft's 90-minute event ran in its usual mid-June Sunday slot in a week that normally would have kicked off the traditional E3 gaming trade show.

  • The showcase, which aired to hundreds of thousands of viewers on YouTube and Twitch, was stuffed with footage of upcoming games.
  • The lineup included anticipated in-house productions such as space exploration adventure Starfield and third-party works like Blizzard's demon combat sequel Diablo IV.
  • As with a rival PlayStation showcase this month, many of the trailers shown Sunday ended with some variation of "coming in 2023."

Minecraft Legends, announced for 2023, was one of several new games announced at the event.

  • It's a strategy adventure in which players control armies of Minecraft characters who battle across a blocky world. The game is being co-created by Minecraft studio Mojang and genre experts Blackbird Interactive.
  • While it comes from a Microsoft-owned lead studio, it will be made for Nintendo and Sony consoles, not just Xbox and PC.

The big picture: Making games is hard in any year, but it's been tougher during the pandemic, leading to cascades of delays.

  • Many of 2022's remaining big releases had been scheduled for 2021, and expected 2022 games mostly have been shunted to 2023.

Between the lines: Microsoft's gaming announcements Sunday for 2022 were low-key and conspicuously void of any big release for the holiday season.

  • 2022 highlights: The addition of Hot Wheels tracks to the racing game Forza Horizon 5, a new murder mystery game called Pentiment that is set in 16th century Bavaria and the addition of helicopters and even a vehicle from hit Halo sci-fi franchise to Microsoft Flight Simulator.
  • 2023 highlights: The promise of a new Forza game, Starfield and vampire-hunting adventure Redfall by the end of June 2023.

One of the most impactful announcements, the news of a cloud-based game from a team led by all-star developer Hideo Kojima, received no title, let alone a release date.

Be smart: The shrewdest move Microsoft made Sunday may prove to be a partnership with Riot Games, the massive Tencent-owned creators of the global 100-million-player hit League of Legends.

  • Riot's games are free to play, but it can be costly to pay to unlock their full rosters of characters.
  • Starting in early 2023, however, subscribers to Microsoft's Game Pass service will unlock all of the characters in Riot's top PC and mobile games — League of Legends, Valorant and Wild Rift.
  • The deal is a new way of sweetening the Game Pass subscription, which is a central Microsoft offering — Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has had a pay incentive tied to its success — and has largely involved granting subscribers access to full games on Xbox and PC.

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