This week, several unredacted, highly confidential documents from Microsoft began appearing online. These documents were part of Microsoft’s legal case against the U.S. regulator, the Federal Trade Commission. The case was argued back in June, with a verdict reached in July, ruling in favor of Microsoft.
The documents in question have revealed highly sensitive information regarding Microsoft’s gaming arm Xbox, where its hardware roadmap is in the coming years, and other game developers it has its eye on acquiring. To dive in deeper, check out our breakdown below of all the news and reveals from the latest leaked documents.
The Elder Scrolls 6 Is an Xbox Console Exclusive
The Elder Scrolls 6, the next major installment in Bethesda’s fantasy RPG series, entered the early stages of development late last month, but outside of that and a teaser trailer revealed back at E3 2018, news on this highly anticipated action RPG has been seldom.
While Xbox boss Phil Spencer said a PlayStation version of The Elder Scrolls 6 was still up in the air, during the trial, this new document recently spotted by Axios reporter Stephen Totilo reveals that The Elder Scrolls 6 is not only skipping PlayStation platforms but could release as early as 2026.
It should not be entirely surprising, however, that The Elder Scrolls 6 will remain a console exclusive on the Xbox Series X/S. With Microsoft acquiring Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax Media a few years ago, console exclusivity for future ZeniMax titles, both new and existing, felt like a given.
Activision Was Briefed on Switch Successor Late Last Year
In recent weeks, multiple reports have surfaced that Nintendo is working on a successor to the Switch. And thanks to emails published yesterday, this discussion continues to get more fuel.
The emails reveal that Nintendo briefed Activision on a next-generation console in December 2022. While heavily redacted, one email revealed preparations for a meeting between Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa and several Activision executives, including CEO Bobby Kotick. A note from Kotick also read aloud during the trial was visible in one of the emails, noting that the next-generation Nintendo console offers performance more aligned with the PS4 and Xbox One.
Microsoft Is Planning to Release Updated Xbox Series X and S Models Next Year
Despite Phil Spencer saying multiple times that there is no need for a mid-generation refresh of its Xbox Series game consoles, leaked court documents show that Microsoft is planning to launch hardware refreshes for both the Xbox Series X and S next year.
The new Xbox Series X, codenamed Brooklin, is more compact than the original mode, and like the Series S, it lacks a disc drive. The document also reveals that this console will feature 2TB of storage and 16GB of RAM and will come in 100% recyclable packaging. The updated Series S, codenamed Ellewood, will include 10GB of RAM. Pricing will remain the same as its predecessors, according to Xbox.
The document notes that both consoles will be announced concurrently next summer, with Ellewood releasing in August 2024 and Brooklin releasing in October 2024. Xbox explained placing a two-month release gap between the consoles in order to give Ellewood a “moment” to shine before Brooklin becomes the more sought-after console ahead of the holiday 2024 season.
Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion Are Getting Remastered
One of the many documents leaked online this week included a three-year-old document for Betheda’s release schedule prior to Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax Media in 2021. The document included some unannounced games, most notably remasters for The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion and Fallout 3.
Other information revealed in this document included the fact that Starfield was forecasted to generate $900 million in revenue, though again, this information is likely dated due to the document being published before Microsoft closed its acquisiton of Bethesda’s parent company.
Xbox Is Planning to Release a Next-Gen Xbox Console in 2028
Mid-generation console refreshes for the Xbox Series X/S launching next year are not the only hardware ambitions Microsoft has, as the tech giant is planning to launch a next-generation Xbox console in 2028.
One document released mentions this new Xbox system will be a “next generation hybrid game platform,” with development kits slated to launch in 2027. More interestingly, the document you can view above mentions a “thin OS” for a sub $99 “consumer or handheld devices,” implying that Microsoft may release a handheld device dedicated to cloud games.
Previous discussions of Microsoft kicking off the tenth generation of game systems surfaced during the trial, where the tech giant anticipates the successor will release in 2028.
Phil Spencer Really Wants Microsoft to Buy Nintendo
During the trial, it was revealed that Microsoft had its eyes on 100 developers Microsoft considered acquiring at one point before narrowing it down to eight studios, including Sega, Square Enix, and Zynga. However, there’s another studio Xbox was eyeing: Nintendo.
An email from August 2020 revealed that Spencer was enthusiastic about acquiring the studio behind beloved video game franchises such as Mario and The Legend of Zelda. Spencer noted in the email that the acquisition “would be a career moment” if it happened. The email also revealed that Spencer was interested in acquiring Valve and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, the latter of which would mean Xbox would own developers such as NetherRealm and Rocksteady.
New Xbox Hardware, Including a Direct-to-Cloud Wireless Controller
The leaks also revealed that Microsoft is working on additional gaming hardware beyond that of new consoles. A slideshow from May 2022 shows basic concepts for a few devices, such as a one-hand controller and a mobile controller akin to the Backbone or Razer Kishi. An additional slide in the same document reveals a new game controller currently in the works under the codename Sebile which, according to Xbox, will feature direct-to-cloud connectivity.
Phil Spencer’s Honest Opinion of the PS5 Reveal
After Sony revealed the technical specifications of the PS5 in March 2020, Spencer wrote an email to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and CFO Amy Hood. After half a day of absorbing the information Sony disclosed for its console, Spencer was enthusiastic about what the Xbox Series X and S were capable of, writing that Microsoft has “a better product than Sony has, not just on hardware but equally important on the software platform and services on top of the hardware.”
While the first few years for Xbox’s ninth-gen consoles paint a different picture, this email was sent out in 2020 before this current generation of hardware was released. Not to mention, during the trial, Microsoft admitted in a separate document that its gaming arm has “lost the console wars.”
An Email Chain Shows Microsoft Scrambling to Fill “Huge Gap Hole” in Its 2022 Game Lineup
In May 2022, an email chain between senior Xbox executives, including Spencer, Matt Booty, and Sarah Bond, revealed how Microsoft was scrambling to find games as the company had a huge hole in its lineup last year.
Games originally slated to release in 2022, including Starfield, Redfall, and Stalker 2, all being delayed were mentioned in the email. “This is really a disaster situation for us given all we’ve invested in content across studios at our GP content fund. We need to learn from this and build a plan forward,” Spencer said in the email chain before issuing a call to action from the team to ink third-party deals to circumvent the gap.
Other interesting tidbits include Microsoft’s comment on Baldur’s Gate 3, described as a “second-run Stadia PC RPG,” and Spencer’s suggestion that Microsoft go after FromSoftware’s Dark Souls series and add it to the Game Pass library.
Red Dead Redemption 2 Might Get a Next-Gen Update
In the same email chain from May 2022, a list of potential day-and-date Game Pass titles mentioned Red Dead Redemption 2 “D&D for gen9” indicating that Microsoft expected Rockstar Games’ critically acclaimned 2018 western game would release on ninth-generation consoles sometime during the second quarter of its 2022 fiancial year (October to December 2022 for context).
The FTC Blames Microsoft for the Leaks
There is no doubt that these are some of the worst leaks in Xbox history. With all the extremely sensitive information made publicly available, the question remains: “Who did it?” According to the Federal Trade Commission, Microsoft is to blame for the court document leaks.
“The FTC was not responsible for uploading Microsoft’s plans for its games and consoles to the court website,” said Douglas Farrar, the Director of the Office of Public Affairs at the FTC, in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
The FTC was not responsible for uploading Microsoft’s plans for its games and consoles to the court website. https://t.co/MspoQN1exL
— Douglas Farrar (@DouglasLFarrar) September 19, 2023
Taylor is a Reporter at IGN. You can follow her on Twitter @TayNixster.
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