It’s been a hot minute since anyone mentioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Microsoft in the same sentence. The last we heard about them, Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley had denied the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction, which had seemingly freed up Microsoft to acquire Activision Blizzard. That merger hasn’t officially been completed yet, and the FTC is still trying to submit its arguments against it. Last Friday, Microsoft uploaded hundreds of internal documents to a website hosted by the U.S. District Court in order to help plead their case for the acquisition. It’s a typically standard procedure that soon became anything but typical when it was revealed that the documents were accidentally made available for all to see.
To make matters worse for Xbox, Judge Corley recently confirmed that the documents were not leaked by the FTC but were rather made public due to the fact that they were sent to the court via an unsecured link. That means that one of the biggest leaks in video game history was seemingly caused by the company it most affected: Microsoft.
Because of this snafu, gamers received a sneak peek behind the curtain that regularly hides Microsoft’s future plans. While the District Court website is no longer sharing the documents, nothing on the internet is ever truly forgotten or deleted. Plenty of digital archivists saved the unintentionally leaked images, and we’ve had enough time to examine them.
Before you dive into all of that, though, please note that this information is based largely on recently leaked documents. Among other things, that means that the dates, prices, specs, and other information in them may be accurate based on what is in the documents themselves but is in no way final. So while we just got a big peek into Microsoft’s internal operations, all of the specifics are always subject to change.
Microsoft Intends to Release A Digital Xbox Series X (and a new Controller) In 2024
Given that the Xbox One gave way to the more powerful Xbox One X, gamers have been anticipating what Microsoft would do for the Series X’s refresh. The answer is an all-digital Xbox Series X that is shaped like a cylinder.
According to documents saved on ResetEra, the Xbox Series X mid-gen devices will focus more on sustainability and connectivity rather than graphical power. The console will keep its 12 teraflop CPU but sport faster Wi-Fi, lower PSU power, and an even lower low-power standby mode. More importantly, this Series X 2.0 (not its official name) will rock up to 2 TB worth of storage, but all of these advances will come at a cost. According to the document, this console will be digital only. Is Microsoft finally phasing out discs? I certainly hope not. While the images don’t show what the planned Series S upgrade will look like, it will seemingly follow the same pattern, i.e., focusing on faster internet speed, lower power, and double the SDD space.
The other ingredient in Microsoft’s Xbox mid-gen plans is the Xbox Universal Controller, which will apparently adopt a two-tone black/white color scheme similar to the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller. However, the controller’s biggest changes will be under the hood. This universal controller will apparently also be able to connect to mobile devices, including accelerometers and haptics, and wake up whenever you lift it. Plus, the Xbox Universal Controller might actually ship with a rechargeable battery.
If we take these plans at face value, when should we expect these devices to hit store shelves? According to one image, the Xbox Universal Controller is scheduled to release just before June 2024, with the Xbox Series S refresh following around September 2024. The Xbox Series X 2.0, meanwhile, will follow 60 days after the Series S, so we could be looking at a November or December launch.
The Next-Gen Xbox Is Currently Scheduled to Be Released in 2028 or 2029 (and Will Utilize AI and Machine Learning Technology)
Since the leaked documents included details for Microsoft’s next Xbox Series X model, one can’t help but wonder how far into the future these records go. As any good console manufacturer, Microsoft is well into designing, or at the very least conceptualizing, the next big Xbox console.
While the images saved on ResetEra don’t reveal as much information as the Series X refresh documents (probably because the Series X’s successor is further away), they still highlight Microsoft’s next-gen focal points. According to the documents, the next Xbox will be released sometime in 2028 or 2029 and focus on “cloud hybrid games” and “immersive game & app platform.”
Microsoft is also apparently planning to power the console with AI and machine learning. Those features will seep into everything from resolution and frame rate interpolation to player retention. Moreover, creators will get to utilize the next Xbox’s AI and machine learning, which will fuel kinematics systems, dialogue, and procedurally generated content. Granted, Microsoft previously promised cloud hybrid gaming for the Xbox One, which didn’t pan out, but maybe the company will work out all the kinks this time around.
Doom Year Zero, Fallout 3 Remastered, and More Leaked Xbox Games
While the Xbox isn’t home to many exclusive games, that is starting to change thanks to Microsoft’s more recent acquisitions.
One of the leaked documents showed which games the company wanted to release in what years. While some plans, such as DOOM Eternal and Ghostwire: Tokyo, lined up with reality, games such as Redfall and Starfield launched later than Microsoft initially expected. More importantly, those internal calendars revealed what major Xbox games Microsoft has in store for the next few years.
The most important games in Microsoft’s docket (shared on ResetEra) are obviously all the games that have yet to be released or haven’t been announced. The currently planned remasters of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Fallout 3 immediately jump out, but the image also lists games tentatively titled Dishonored 3, Ghostwire: Tokyo Sequel, and DOOM Year Zero.
The first two Dishonored games put Arkane Studio on the map, and after the disappointing Redfall, it would be great to see that company return to the game that started its stardom. And as for DOOM Year Zero, the mind boggles as to what it could be. A DOOM Eternal successor seems most logical, but given that the game was seemingly intended to be released in 2023 and clearly isn’t currently scheduled to be released this year, it’s too early to say with certainty what the scope of that project may be.
This document also hypes up some games that are in development that haven’t even received names yet, including Project Kestrel, Licensed IP Game, and Project Platinum. Fingers crossed that Project Platinum is a revival of Scalebound. Finally, the leaked document mentions the anticipated Indiana Jones Game, which is strangely the first time anyone has mentioned it in several years. Apparently, Microsoft wanted to launch the game in late 2022/early 2023, so here’s hoping the game isn’t that far off.
Phil Spencer Would Love For Xbox to Acquire Nintendo
In 2021, Bloomberg published an article on the history of Xbox. According to the interview with Microsoft’s Director of Third-party Relations, Kevin Bachus, early in the Xbox’s life, the company approached many big name studios and publishers in the hopes of acquiring them. Believe it or not, Microsoft was even bold enough to approach Nintendo to discuss a possible acquisition. According to Bachus, the representatives he met with “laughed their asses off” and essentially told Microsoft to dream on. According to the recent Microsoft document leak, that’s exactly what Microsoft did.
One of the documents sent to the U.S. District Court website and subsequently saved to ResetEra included an email from 2020 that Phil Spencer sent to chief marketing officers Chris Capossela and Takeshi Numoto. In Spencer’s own words, Nintendo is considered “THE prime asset” for Microsoft that would help the company maintain “consumer relevance.” At the time he wrote the email, Spencer had had “numerous conversations with the LT of Nintendo” about more collaboration. Spencer is seemingly still eying Nintendo for a possible merger and thinks these shares are the key, at least if he wants to do things amicably. Spencer admitted that if Microsoft is going to acquire Nintendo, it will have to play the long game since “hostile action” wouldn’t be wise.
In this email, Spencer also mentioned that Microsoft has looked into purchasing Valve, Warner Bros., and ZeniMax at various times. One month after he sent the email, Microsoft purchased ZeniMax, which probably gave Spencer hope of acquiring the other companies mentioned. He finished by saying that a merger with Nintendo would be a “career moment” and would be great for both companies, but it would probably take a while, as it would involve convincing Nintendo to move off their own hardware. Capossela agreed with Spencer’s sentiment and said Nintendo won’t sell to Microsoft until they see it as “a top company to sell to.” not unlike Mojang during that company’s merger. Unless “the timing and terms were right,” Microsoft probably won’t ever acquire companies such as Nintendo and Valve.