A document that was part of Microsoft’s legal battle with the FTC over its $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard has been leaked online, revealing some of the company’s plans and ambitions for its Xbox gaming division. The document, which was uploaded to a public website by mistake and later removed by Microsoft, covers topics such as potential acquisitions, hardware updates, software roadmaps, and revenue goals.
Microsoft Wanted to Buy Nintendo, Valve, and Warner Bros. Games
One of the most surprising revelations from the document is that Microsoft considered buying some of the biggest names in the gaming industry in 2020, including Nintendo, Valve, and Warner Bros. Games. According to an email from Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, Nintendo was “the prime asset” for Microsoft in gaming and he speculated that the Japanese company might eventually realize that its future was not tied to its own hardware. He also said that Valve, the maker of Steam, was another potential target if the opportunity ever arose. Spencer also mentioned Warner Bros. Games, which owns franchises like Batman, Mortal Kombat, and Harry Potter, as a possible acquisition candidate.
It is unclear whether Microsoft ever approached any of these companies or how serious it was about pursuing them. However, the email shows that Microsoft was willing to spend big money to expand its gaming portfolio and compete with rivals like Sony and Google.
Microsoft Planned to Release 8K Consoles in 2023
The document also reveals that Microsoft planned to release updated versions of the Xbox Series X and S in 2023, codenamed Brooklin and Ellewood respectively. Brooklin would be a cylindrical design without a disc drive, while Ellewood would be a smaller and cheaper version of the Xbox Series S. Both consoles would support 8K resolution and 120 frames per second.
These consoles would be part of Microsoft’s strategy to offer a range of devices for different types of gamers and markets. The document also suggests that Microsoft expected Sony to release a similar console update in 2023 as well.
Microsoft Envisioned a New “Ecosystem Generation” for Xbox
The document also outlines Microsoft’s vision for a new “ecosystem generation” for Xbox after the Xbox Series X and S, which would involve not just new hardware but also new software, services, and features. This generation, codenamed Gen 10, would launch in 2025 and would include:
- A new console (codenamed Project Oris), which would be more powerful than the Xbox Series X and would support ray tracing, variable refresh rate, and spatial audio.
- A new streaming device (codenamed Project Hobart), which would allow gamers to play Xbox games on any TV or monitor without a console.
- A new cloud gaming service (codenamed Project xCloud 2.0), which would offer improved latency, quality, and compatibility for playing Xbox games on any device.
- A new subscription service (codenamed Project Game Pass Ultimate Plus), which would combine Game Pass, xCloud, Xbox Live Gold, EA Play, Activision Blizzard games, and other perks into one package.
Microsoft’s goal with this generation was to create a seamless and integrated gaming experience across all devices and platforms.
Microsoft Had a Roadmap for Bethesda’s Games Until 2030
The document also shows that Microsoft had a roadmap for Bethesda’s games until 2030, which included remasters of Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, sequels to Dishonored and Ghostwire: Tokyo, and new IP such as Starfield 2 and The Elder Scrolls VI. The roadmap also revealed that The Elder Scrolls VI would be an Xbox console exclusive and would release in 2026 at the earliest.
Microsoft acquired Bethesda in 2020 for $7.5 billion and has since announced that some of its games would be exclusive to Xbox and PC. The document confirms that Microsoft sees Bethesda as a key asset for its gaming strategy and has long-term plans for its franchises.
Microsoft Wanted to Grow Its Gaming Revenue to $50 Billion by 2025
The document also details Microsoft’s strategy to grow its gaming revenue from $15 billion in 2020 to $50 billion in 2025 by expanding its user base, increasing its engagement, and diversifying its monetization . The strategy involved:
- Investing in first-party studios, acquiring more third-party publishers, launching more exclusive games, and enhancing its cloud gaming capabilities.
- Improving its subscription offerings, such as Game Pass and xCloud, by adding more content, features, and value.
- Exploring new markets such as China and India by partnering with local companies and tailoring its products and services to local preferences.
- Experimenting with new business models such as free-to-play games (such as Halo Infinite), microtransactions (such as Forza Horizon 5), advertising (such as Microsoft Rewards), and NFTs (such as Minecraft).
Microsoft’s ambition with this strategy was to become the leader in the gaming industry and to leverage its gaming assets to support its other businesses, such as Azure, Windows, and Office.
Microsoft’s Xbox Future Leaked: A Blessing or a Curse?
The leaked document from Microsoft has given us a glimpse into the company’s plans and aspirations for its Xbox gaming division. The document shows that Microsoft is not resting on its laurels and is constantly looking for ways to innovate and improve its gaming offerings. However, the document also raises some questions and concerns, such as:
- How realistic and feasible are Microsoft’s plans and projections?
- How will Microsoft’s competitors and regulators react to its aggressive moves and ambitions?
- How will Microsoft’s fans and customers respond to its changes and choices?
- How will Microsoft deal with the potential backlash and criticism from the leak?
Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, said that it was hard to see his team’s work shared in this way and that he would share the real plans when he was ready. He also said that he was proud of the work that his team was doing and that he was excited for the future of Xbox. Whether the leak will help or hurt Microsoft’s Xbox future remains to be seen.