Xbox Mega Bits: January 2021

Welcome to another installment of Xbox Mega Bits! You’re monthly deep dive covering everything Xbox. Each month we take a look at the latest news, rumors, releases, and events in the world of Xbox. As always, we would love to hear your feedback on the show, which you can leave in the comments section, and don’t forget to subscribe to all of our Mega Dads programming by finding Mega Dads Live on your favorite podcast service.

After a month off for the holidays, we’re back with a recap of all of the big Xbox news and rumors of the past month. 2021 aims to be a huge year for Xbox, and with many of their exclusive launch titles being delayed into this year we’ll finally be getting a true look at the potential of the console and what it has to offer.

With that said, let’s jump in.

Indiana Jones is Back!

Disney announced a newly labeled Lucasfilm Games division of the company which will now be handling the video game adaptations of their properties. That announcement included the news that EA will no longer be the sole developer of games based on the Star Wars Universe, with Ubisoft working on an open world title. The more interesting part of that news though was that there is a new Indiana Jones games in development from MachineGames, makers of the recent Wolfenstein titles.

What makes this such an interesting story is that MachineGames is a 1st party Xbox studio, acquired as part of the Bethesda deal of last year. So does this mean that this new game will be an Xbox exclusive? Head of Xbox Phil Spencer has stated that Bethesda exclusivity will be handled on a case by case basis, and if I was a betting man I’d guess that a big licensed game from Disney would meet the criteria to be multiplatform. But even if that turns out to be the case, the game will still be included with Game Pass on day one which is another massive feather in it’s cap.

However the game is released, I’m very excited to see what MachineGames has in store for Indy. They certainly have a history of making great Nazi killing simulators and we don’t see many games featuring our favorite archeologist, so I’m pretty hyped.

Xbox Reveals Their Exclusives Lineup

One of the biggest criticisms of Xbox over the years has been the lack of exclusive titles available for the platform. They’ve spent the past few years trying to remedy that issue by acquiring new studios, signing deals with 3rd parties, and ramping up development. 2020 was a step in the right direction with games like Battletoads, Tell Me Why, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps seeing release, but 2021 aims to finally put an end to that narrative for good with Microsoft this month announcing 30 titles that are arriving this year as console exclusives.

The lineup is massive and includes something for everyone. From shooters like Halo Infinite and Crossfire X, action adventure such as Psychonauts 2 and Tunic, and indie projects like 12 Minutes, The Gunk, The Artful Escape, and Echo Generation. If you can’t find something to be excited about on this list, then you just don’t enjoy video games. You can find the entire list over at Xbox Wire, but there might be even more surprises than that in store this year.

Recent rumors suggests that Xbox Game Studios also has two unannounced AAA titles that will be ready for release soon. Jez Corden from Windows Central commented on the rumor stating ” I know of at least two games, big games, that aren’t on that list that are coming from Xbox in 2021″. It looks like Xbox players are going to have their hands plenty full with all of the new releases this year.

Xbox Live Gold Gets a Price Hike…. for less than 24 hours.

In a bit of a surprise move, Microsoft made the decision last week to raise the price of their online service Xbox Live Gold. The new pricing was announced to be $10.99 for one month, $29.99 for three months, and $59.99 for six months. This move essentially doubled the price of the service for one year, a move which definitely raised some eyebrows and had people talking online.

The negative reaction was so swift and universal that Microsoft announced later that evening that they were reversing the decisions and opting not to raise prices. Not only that but they went the extra step and announced that free to play games would no longer be locked behind the paywall of Gold. Something that has been true of other consoles and has long been criticized of the Xbox platform.

While it was absolutely fair to call out and criticize Microsoft for the decision to double prices during an economic crisis, it’s worth praising them for listening to their player base and taking such swift action to correct it. After all, everybody makes mistakes. It’s how you react after the mistake that truly matters.

Project: Mara Stuns in New Video Diary

Last year developer Ninja Theory announced an upcoming experimental horror title called Project: Mara that was in the works, and a new video diary from the studio shows off what could be one of the most visually impressive games I’ve ever seen.

The entire game takes place within a single apartment unit which is recreated in amazing detail from an actual location, and the video shows off the technology being used to scan objects and create an environment that is nearly indistinguishable from the real world. We still don’t know much else about the game or how it will play, but after their innovative work in Hellblade: Senua’s Saga I am very interested to see what other ideas the team has up their sleeves.

Xbox Game Pass May Be Growing Again

A few months ago, Game Pass received a big shot in the arm when they partnered with EA to bring EA Play to subscription service along with their sizable back catalog. Now there are rumors that Ubisoft may be interested in a similar deal for their Ubisoft + service. Jez Cordon from Windows Central reported on the rumor saying “I’ve seen rumours about Ubisoft Uplay+ joining Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. I think this has a strong chance of being true based on stuff I’ve heard.”

Ubisoft has a massive collection of titles like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Ghost Recon, and The Division which would be a great boost to the already overflowing service. Game Pass is very quickly making good on that vision of being “The Netflix of gaming” and becoming an essential part of any gamers library.

On every episode of Xbox Mega Bits, I’ll be highlighting a game that I’ve recently checked out on Game Pass, and if you have a suggestion for a game I should check out, let me know in the comments!

Slime Rancher

This month I discovered a charming little game on the Game Pass app called Slime Rancher. I was first drawn to download the game because of the bright, colorful graphics and found after a few hours that there was quite a bit of fun to be had as well.

In the game you care for a small ranch in which you must gather and breed slimes. They look not unlike the slimes of Dragon Quest fame and come in a number of varieties. You gather them using a vacuum type gun which can suck them up and then launch them into pens to hold them. You can gather and grow different types of food as well which you can feed to your slimes who will then drop gems for you. These gems can be traded for money which you use to upgrade the ranch as well as your equipment.

Like I said, there are many types of slimes which come in rock forms, flying forms, cat-like forms, and so on. There is a definite Pokémon type of allure in trying to discover as many different slimes as possible and the gameplay loop is satisfying in a very laid back, chill kind of way. It’s a great Sunday afternoon type of game.

Both of my kids were drawn in by the game as well and ended up spending more time with it than I did. It’s great, family friendly fun that is an easy recommend for anyone looking for a cute, relaxing game to spend the weekend with.

One last thing this month…

A couple of months removed from the launch of the next gen consoles, one thing seems to be clear to me. At this point there seems to be no clear indication that one machine is is superior to the other when it comes to raw graphical power. Sure, on paper you can definitely say that the Series X looks to be the most powerful machine, but that isn’t bearing out with every case. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla runs better on PS5, Hitman 3 runs better on Xbox, it seems that you can flip a coin with each new release as to which console will run it better.

As developers get used to the new machines, things may tip in one direction or the other. But in the meantime play your games wherever you feel like playing them. Both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox are plenty powerful and Cyberpunk will be equally disappointing on both.

Thank you so much for checking out Xbox Mega Bits. make sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts, and please hit me up with any feedback or suggestions you might have in the comments or by finding us on Twitter or Facebook, and don’t forget to check out all new episodes of PlayStation Mega Bits and Nintendo Mega Bits dropping this week.

We’ll see you next month for another brand new Xbox Mega Bits!

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