The upcoming Xbox Developer Direct is expected to showcase a handful of team green’s biggest releases of 2024. From Indiana Jones and Avowed to Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, there’s a lot on the table. However, Xbox has confirmed that there will be no shadow drops during or after the show on Thursday, January 18, 2024. This immediately shut down prospects of an exciting surprise release akin to Hi-Fi Rush, which followed the Xbox & Bethesda Dev Direct last year. While it’s sad there won’t be any surprise releases, Xbox’s priorities are squarely on showcasing the promising year ahead – and what a year it will be, finally offering true competition for PlayStation.
While shadow drops are undeniably special moments, they’re not all that unprecedented nowadays, even for Xbox. Just last year Hi-Fi Rush was revealed and released during the Xbox & Bethesda showcase. Likewise, Halo Infinite multiplayer was released ahead of the full release date in 2021 to celebrate 20 years of Halo. However, after the remarkable success of Hi-Fi Rush, fans had high hopes that we’d be in store for a similarly spontaneous release at the January Developer Direct, going so far as to hope that STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl would be shadow-dropped. Clearly looking to get ahead of any more speculation, the official Xbox Wire blog notes that “all the games in this year’s Developer Direct will be arriving later”. In other words, don’t expect any shadow drops. However, there’s a lot more to it than that.
Avoiding the bright, shiny lure of a shadow drop release means that Microsoft can keep fans’ attention firmly on their long-term plans. This feels reflective of Xbox’s priorities going into 2024, with more exclusive, first-party games to set team green apart from the competition. After all, PS5 players have the likes of God of War Ragnarok, The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered, Spider-Man 2, the upcoming Rise of the Ronin, and more PS5 exclusives to enjoy.
Over recent years, the lack of system-seller Xbox exclusives has been Microsoft’s major downfall, with Starfield, Forza Motorsport, and Redfall being the few exclusives that come to mind from 2023. It hasn’t helped that these releases haven’t received quite the acclaim as Sony’s exclusives either. Starfield, Bethesda’s first new IP in over two decades, was released to a disappointing lukewarm reception given the pedigree of the developer.
Evidently, however, there is a renewed focus on highlighting the new Xbox games that will give it the opportunity to stand out in 2024. There’s also bound to be news on numerous intriguing titles that have long been dormant and a handful of brand-new games which Xbox hasn’t revealed, though check out our Xbox Developer Direct predictions to find out more.
Importantly, the Xbox Wire blog does not mention Game Pass. While the games showcased won’t arrive until later in the year, who’s saying we can’t get a left-field or big-name arrival on Game Pass? With Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, now would be a perfect opportunity to unveil exactly what’s happening to this prestigious developer’s games. Could we see Diablo 4 come to Game Pass? Will Overwatch 2 have special bonuses for Xbox players? Perhaps there could even be Call of Duty news. If so, we’d certainly have to reevaluate the best Xbox Game Pass games. The ambiguity of Xbox’s official statement isn’t ruling out any astounding announcements.
Nevertheless, Xbox has a strong slate promised for 2024, with several first-party and exclusive titles to rival Sony at long last. It’s still got Halo too, with Halo Infinite being the Xbox exclusive I’m most excited about in 2024. We can’t forget about Final Fantasy 14 either, with the Xbox FF14 beta date fast approaching. All in all, the Xbox Developer Direct is on course to shake up the best Xbox games with wonderful new releases.