Xbox Still Needs A Major Japanese Studio Under Their First-Party Banner
With 23 first-party studios, all Xbox is missing now is a notable Japanese studio, and I think it should be none other than FromSoftware.
Xbox’s acquisition of Bethesda is far and away the biggest industry story of 2020. The two companies have collaborated for years, so the purchase–while still shocking–feels like their relationship has come full circle. The massive 7.5 billion dollar deal has given Xbox property of numerous major franchises like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, DOOM, and Wolfenstein, just to name a few.
Microsoft now has 23 different studios under their Xbox Game Studios banner, and while it has taken over half a decade, we will surely see many first-party titles arrive in the coming years. Despite this insane deal, there is still a significant outlier that is missing from this now relatively stacked lineup for Xbox: a major Japanese studio.
Phil Spencer has been wanting to get a real market for Xbox in Japan for years now, and has possibly looked at different Japanese studios to put under the Xbox banner. In the past, this was rumored to include Platinum Games, who were originally developing a first-party title for Xbox One called Scalebound, which eventually got canceled after rumored development issues. Ultimately Platinum seemingly shot down those rumors and has since been self-publishing starting with The Wonderful 101: Remastered, which released earlier this year. Platinum would have been a fantastic get when thinking of all the beloved games they have released in this current generation alone like NieR: Automata (which eventually made its way to Xbox) and Astral Chain.
This isn’t the first time Xbox has tried to attract Japanese consumers either. During the 360 era, there were a relative number of Japanese titles that were exclusive to the platform like Tales of Vesperia, The Last Remnant, Blue Dragon, and Lost Odyssey. On top of that, we saw Final Fantasy hit the platform for the first time with Final Fantasy XIII. Xbox trying to attain a Japanese audience isn’t a new thing, but Microsoft needs to grab the right studio to amass attention and more importantly, people’s money.
I’ve already had several people on Twitter tell me that Xbox does have a Japanese studio now with Tango Gameworks, the developer behind The Evil Within, but I just think they’re not noticeable enough. Sure, now they have more potential to grow with Xbox backing them, but that could take years. We already know that following the Bethesda acquisition, Xbox is still looking to buy more studios, so the main question for me is “what Japanese studio(s) are they looking at?”
My first immediate thought was RGG Studio; with Xbox getting a timed-exclusive deal for next-gen with Yakuza: Like a Dragon, I thought maybe this is the beginning of something more. But they are already owned by Sega similarly to Atlus, who has consistently released great games like the Persona franchise and Catherine. Even though Bethesda was such a surprise as a major third-party publisher, I think that Sega and Square Enix are too big as companies for them to sell to Microsoft, even with the endless pockets that the company has. With that in mind, there is only one studio I can think of that could possibly come to the Xbox lineup: FromSoftware.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “but FromSoftware has already had two PlayStation exclusives in the past two generations; it has more ties to the PlayStation brand.” Yeah well, Insomniac Games made Sunset Overdrive last generation for Xbox, and now they’re a first-party studio for Sony, so that argument doesn’t hold much weight to me. FromSoftware is the only major Japanese studio that I can think of that will turn heads and isn’t already owned by a larger gaming-focused company. Going as far back as the original Demon’s Souls on the PlayStation 3, the developer has had different publishers for their titles, and it looks as though Xbox already has a partnership with them for their next highly anticipated game, Elden Ring.
The debut trailer for Elden Ring premiered at the Xbox E3 conference last year, giving me the idea that Xbox will have the marketing deal once the game gets closer to launch as it does right now with Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Elden Ring is already being published by Bandai Namco, but that doesn’t mean an acquisition is out of the question. We’ve already seen Xbox buy studios in the past but still let those studios honor their agreements with other platforms and publishers, such as their acquisition of Mojang and Minecraft. They did most recently with Deathloop and GhostWire: Tokyo, where both titles have a timed exclusivity deal on the PlayStation 5 despite Xbox now owning the studios.
Imagine at a showcase the Xbox Game Studios logo pop up with a new Elden Ring trailer showing off full gameplay with an acquisition announcement at the end of it. That would surely get people excited for the future of the platform, even if Elden Ring was still multi-platform with other future FromSoftware games being console exclusive to Xbox, similarly to The Outer Worlds from Obsidian last year.
Even with their past attempts, I don’t see necessarily see Xbox making a big enough market in Japan, with both PlayStation and Nintendo being household brands in the country. But regardless of that, there needs to be more Japanese representation under their wing, and FromSoftware is currently their best bet to me. Phil Spencer recognizes this and has found some success with getting both Kingdom Hearts and Dragon Quest on the platform for the very first time. This is great progress, but there needs to be more. An exclusive Japanese studio with new IP; that is what is going to get gamers excited, and that is what is going to get fans of those titles on the Xbox platform, whether it be on console, PC, or xCloud. Xbox buying Bethesda made a colossal splash that will be hard to outdo, but adding a major Japanese studio such as FromSoftware to their roster would be a massive win for the platform.