Microsoft was…clever, this year, to say the least, when it came to how it played its hand in The Game Awards. Yes, they did win a handful of awards, but pre-show, the big controversy was about their mega-launch Starfield not securing more than a single nomination, Best RPG, which of course it lost to Baldur’s Gate 3. That was deemed a somewhat significant failure given how profile the game should have been in their slate.
However, Microsoft instead leaned into the Geoff Keighley “main” draw of the show, the fact that it’s more or less become Winter E3. Well, really it’s the only E3 now, given the demise of the summer show, and publishers and Xbox and PlayStation just doing their own showcases.
So, Microsoft planned this well. They won a few awards, Hi-Fi Rush for Sound Design, Forza for Racing/Sports and Accessibility. But what they also did was thread in rather large Xbox-centric announcements and reveals all throughout the show. We had:
- A really great look at Hellblade 2, out next year, and the (second best) music performance of the show, impressive to land with a game that didn’t even have a release date, so the entire thing served as essentially chunky 10 minute ad for the project, well above and beyond most other games showcased outside of, of course, Hideo Kojima’s OD.
- And then, of course, Kojima’s OD is a project he’s making in collaboration with Microsoft. That part was glossed over a bit, but even though we didn’t see much from it and it was mostly a Kojima/Keighley/Peele love fest, it’s a big deal that Microsoft is making it with him, and between this and Hellblade that’s what, like 20 minutes at least for just these projects?
- One of the biggest announcements of the show was that Arkane was making a licensed Marvel Blade game, a third person endeavor that debuted with an eye-catching trailer and a base concept that everyone seems to be on board with. Even though there was some oddness about Xbox not saying it was an Xbox exclusive, everyone expects it to be, and insiders are saying it is.
- Baldur’s Gate 3 launched on Xbox after its GOTY win. Despite zero GOTY nominations, Microsoft still managed to attach itself to GOTY itself by finally launching Baldur’s Gate 3 on Xbox the night it won. The Larian folks were allegedly supposed to announce that on stage but forgot (that would have been…a bit tacky if you ask me), but it did launch all the same.
Microsoft played this well, and Sony just wasn’t nearly as much of a player this year, when in the past, of course, it’s won GOTYs and loads of other awards. Not so in 2023.
The biggest Sony story is probably that Marvel’s Spider-Man, despite being nominated for seven awards, lost all of them. I don’t think that’s quite a reflection on the game but rather the insanely stacked nominee list this year, but it happened all the same.
In terms of actual wins, given that Alan Wake 2 and Baldur’s Gate swept so many categories, it was hard to squeeze much of anything out. Square Enix’s Sony exclusive FFXVI won best score (a category that was stupidly glossed over by Geoff). The Last of Us won Best Adaptation, which was not a shock, given its stack of Emmy nominations. And most anticipated game has shifted from Tears of the Kingdom to FFVII Rebirth. A Rebirth showcase was indeed a highlight, but that only has 3 month PS5 exclusivity window.
The only of Sony’s exclusive mega-franchises featured was God of War Valhalla, which looked like perhaps a story expansion for a minute, but instead it’s a soon-to-be launched free roguelike combat mode. Interesting, perhaps, but not a huge deal. And on top of that, God of War actor Christopher Judge found himself in hot water over a joke aimed at (the now Microsoft-owned) Call of Duty team, which did not go over well in many circles.
Sometimes the timetables just don’t line up, and you don’t have much to reveal when your competition does. Sometimes your big, very good game debuts in a year with a lot of big, even better games. And this year The Game Awards were mostly dominated by two multiplatform games, so Xbox tried to inject what they could do the non-awards part of the show. Sony, for its part, didn’t. That may change in 2024, and everyone is just one big showcase away from mega-hype, but this was interesting to watch unfold.
The yearly Game Awards was an eventful evening for the video gaming community to recognize the best video games and developers of 2019. Although much of the evening was dominated by Sony’s PlayStation, it was Xbox, Microsoft’s flagship gaming system, that soared above all the others to earn the top spots.
Sony’s PlayStation had several well-deserved nominations, such as with “God of War” which received nine nominations, including for “Game of the Year”, but only came away with one award by the end of the night.
The Xbox team, on the other hand, was easier to overlook with only two games garnering attention, “Cuphead” and “Sea of Thieves”. Xbox successfully secured six awards including awards for Best Art Direction, Best Independent Game, and Best Multiplayer.
The biggest success story from Xbox, however, was easily “Cuphead”, the animated run-and-gun game from the Canadian development team, Studio MDHR. The game walked away with three awards including Best Art Direction, Best Independent Game, and Best Debut Indie Game. “Cuphead” was certainly the big winner of the night for Xbox.
Overall, the Game Awards may have been dominated by the PlayStation systems, but it was Xbox that ultimately flew away with the most awards. Microsoft should be proud of their successes, especially with how often their games tend to get overlooked or passed up. Through their accomplishments in the past year, Microsoft and Xbox have certainly earned their place alongside the other great video game developers of 2019.