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Earlier this week, a massive trove of leaked emails and documents was accidentally posted online by Microsoft itself, revealing much about the past, present, and future of its Xbox division.
The documents, which included emails, presentation decks, and concept illustrations, were sensitive and intended only for the use of the court arbitrating the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s attempt to halt Microsoft’s acquisition of publisher Activision Blizzard, were accidentally placed on public servers, where journalists, amateur sleuths, and the general public were able to download and copy them.
The bombshell Xbox leaks shed light on Microsoft’s near-term plans, including a hardware update for the Xbox Series X|S, a possible “next-gen” Xbox console or hardware iteration for 2028, and unannounced games from Bethesda Game Studios.
The leaks also detailed internal communications at the executive level from past years, revealing that Microsoft had considered attempting to acquire nothing less than Nintendo itself, as well as the Xbox C-Suite’s reaction to the announcement of Sony’s PlayStation 5 console.
Keep reading for more about the Xbox Leaks, and some of the most interesting stories emerging from the biggest corporate leak of the year.
As you read, please keep in mind that much of the material is the result of leaked documents not intended for public consumption. As such, they may detail plans that are in flux, subject to change, or plans that have changed in the intervening period. Take every story with a grain of salt, and don’t assume it’ll happen as detailed.
Xbox Leaks Hardware Updates for Xbox Series X|S
One of the most interesting stories to come from the Xbox Leaks are Microsoft’s potential plans for the future of the Xbox console hardware itself. A leaked presentation deck leaked potential concepts for a “refresh” of the Xbox Series X console set to be announced in 2024.
Code-named “Brooklin”, the refresh would update the hardware of the Xbox Series X, making it “The most powerful Xbox ever”.
Brooklin would reportedly target “4K Gen9” graphical power, with increased internal storage, faster wi-fi, greater power efficiency, and a redesigned controller. It would also be all-digital, meaning it would not be able to play or install games off a disc, downloading all its data from the cloud.
The Brooklin, which held a round, cylindrical form factor (compared to the current box-like Series X) would be accompanied by “Sebile” a new controller. The controller would support wireless connections, Bluetooth 5.2, and “Direct-to-Cloud’ connections, along with pairing via a mobile app.
The Sebile controller would have a rechargeable and swappable internal battery, modular analog sticks, and a “lift to wake” functionality, allowing players to activate their console or controller simply by picking it up.
Xbox Leaks Next-Gen “Hybrid” Console Concept for 2028
Besides the hardware refresh of the Xbox Series X, another, further-off plan suggested that the future of the Xbox hardware could be found in a “cloud hybrid model”.
The concept sounds similar to very early promises made about the Xbox One, which suggested at the time that it would run games only partially on the local hardware, while offloading other tasks to Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing infrastructure to make for games whose scale and quality far exceeded what even the most powerful local desktop PCs are capable of.
In a limited sense, Microsoft already employs the concept in certain titles, such as with Microsoft Flight Simulator being able to stream in photo-realistic flight scenery from the cloud while you play.
The new hybrid console would reportedly arrive around 2028, with deals being made with AMD to employ the Navi 5 graphics chips.
The presentation didn’t make it clear if this new device was meant to be a replacement to the current Xbox Series X|S line or an alternative platform targeted at a different segment of the market, but the slides did suggest that the device would be small, cheap, and largely mobile, using a different, one-handed controller that could be paired like the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Cons.
It’s unknown how much of this plan is being put into place. The roadmap did suggest that if the concept was approved (it wasn’t yet at the time of the presentation), Microsoft would be negotiating with component manufacturers as early as the first quarter of 2023.
Future Xbox Games Could Include Oblivion, Fallout 3 remasters, Dishonored 3, Starfield DLC
One part of the Xbox Leaks of 2023 comes from years in the past – specifically a presentation given in 2020, before Microsoft had completed its acquisition of Zenimax, the former parent company of The Elder Scrolls and Starfield developer Bethesda Game Studios.
The presentation suggested a number of games on the then-upcoming release calendar that would later release, as well as a slate of future Xbox and PC titles that have yet to materialize. While the information is almost certainly outdated, they give a picture of what could be on the horizon for RPG fans.
Most notable are plans to remaster The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Fallout 3 for modern platforms. The Oblivion remaster was positioned in the Xbox leaks as scheduled for the 2022 fiscal year, which has already passed.
Meanwhile, the Fallout 3 remaster was set for the 2024 fiscal year, giving Bethesda, Microsoft, or whatever studio is working on the projects more time to make the window. Oblivion and Fallout 3 are largely credited with popularizing Bethesda Game Studios’ approach to open-world RPGs, and were early PC and Xbox 360 hits.
With The Elder Scrolls VI early in development and Starfield out the door, Microsoft could be looking to the studio’s past to help bolster its future prospects.
Additionally, the slides suggested that Starfield was due to receive a DLC expansion in the 2022 fiscal year. However, the game didn’t make that window, and any plans Bethesda Game Studios has to expand its open-galaxy RPG are known only to Microsoft and Bethesda themselves.
A few other non-RPG and as yet code-titled projects were also on the slate, including a potential sequel to the “immersive sim” title Dishonored, a sequel to the Tango Gameworks-developed supernatural action game Ghostwire: Tokyo, and two games code-named Project Kestrel and Project Platinum.
The Xbox Leaks revealed much about the future of Xbox games, but if you’re looking for info about RPGs that are out now, stick with the site.