Xbox Developer Direct’s surprise game should’ve been Contraband

The Xbox exclusive I can’t stop thinking about is Contraband, and the Developer Direct felt like a great moment to give fans an unexpected first look.

Contraband Xbox: A close up of a man in a beige shirt and brown explorers hat with a red X across his face. A green Xbox logo floats next to him, and a map showing plans for a heist are in the background

Oh, Contraband, where art thou? While I personally felt deflated by some of the games on show at the Xbox Developer Direct, nothing took the wind out of my sails more than the absence of Contraband – Avalanche Studios’ upcoming open world adventure that Xbox players deserve to hear more about. It’s been more than two and half years since its funky reveal trailer, and we’ve heard absolutely nothing else about it since.

I had a feeling that we’d get at least one surprise during the Developer Direct, alongside the pre-show billing of Avowed, Ara: History Untold, Hellblade 2, and the new Indiana Jones game (which is missing a surprisingly important component). Deep down, I had a gut feeling (and was desperately hoping) that it’d be Contraband, the upcoming co-op game from Just Cause developer Avalanche Studios. I even suggested it in our pre-Developer Direct curveball predictions.

While I mean no disrespect to fans of the series or to developer Square Enix, you can imagine my disappointment when the show’s curveball turned out to be Visions of Mana. So, why am I quite so hung up on Contraband? At a basic level, it’s just been a very long time since we last saw or heard anything about it – and that was at its initial reveal in June 2021.

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I recognize that the Developer Direct was focused on games releasing in 2024, and that Contraband has always been thought of as a 2025 title, at the earliest. But I feel like a new trailer, a crumb of concept art, or even some short acknowledgement that it still exists and is cracking along nicely would’ve been beneficial to Contraband – and some of the other post-2024 new Xbox games in development too.

I also really loved the vibe of its reveal trailer. The concept of a “co-op smuggler’s paradise”, according to Avalanche’s very limited description of the game, really shone through despite it being a short concept trailer. And similarly to how I’ve been blasting a fair bit of Tom Petty since the GTA 6 trailer dropped, the Contraband trailer certainly got me in the mood for some Steely Dan.

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Then there’s the matter of who is making it, and what’s come before. I’ve loved the chaotic open-world action of the Just Cause series for many years, and while Just Cause 4 fell short of the excellence of 2 and 3, that doesn’t stop me from wanting more Avalanche-crafted carnage. In a new setting, with new characters, and a heavy co-op focus, Contraband feels like it might take the Just Cause formula I love and elevate it, or take it in a fresh direction.

And finally, anything console-exclusive always piques my interest. Even though it’s technically not a first-party developed game, Avalanche’s partnership with Xbox Game Studios as this project’s publisher means it is destined for Xbox consoles only, and surely a day-one Game Pass launch too.

I’m always intrigued by any game with platform exclusivity, but even with The Outer Worlds 2, Fable, and so many other Xbox exclusives waiting in the wings and due an update, Contraband is the one game in Microsoft’s upcoming slate that I can’t stop thinking about.

I really don’t want this game to descend into a tornado of leaks, so let’s pray we get some new details or trailers in the near future. Already, rumors have emerged from an insider that Contraband will feature eight-player co-op and have a similar vibe to this underrated Battlefield game. I’m just praying that not too much else spills out before the time is right.