Microsoft's Xbox-exclusive release schedule is looking a bit dry right now. With the delay of Starfield into 2023, there doesn't seem to be many exclusives coming for the console right now. Depending on when its release falls, the next major Xbox Series releases may be Minecraft Legends or Forza Motorsport in 2023, which is not ideal. Despite a strong showing at the Summer Game Fest, Microsoft, Bethesda, and their various other acquired studios all seem to be either supporting old games or working on distant projects.
Several games announced before the Xbox Series X and S came out are still waiting for follow-up news. Perfect Dark, Rare’s Everwild, and Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 are all still waiting for release windows, and only have one or two trailers apiece. Microsoft has a number of RPGs in the same boat, including Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls 6, and Obsidian’s Avowed and The Outer Worlds 2. When they’ll come out is as ambiguous as most of Microsoft’s projects, but they’re all being worked on steadily by independent studios. The one upcoming RPG project Xbox can call its own is Fable, a reboot that fans know almost nothing about. Fable only exists as a CGI teaser right now, but it may be more integral to Xbox's success than even The Elder Scrolls 6.
The History of Fable and Microsoft
While Fable is associated with Microsoft now, the series is actually the product of one of the publisher's oldest partnerships. The original game, simply titled Fable, was first teased in 2001. It was developed by Lionhead Studios, and its lead designer was Lionhead co-founder Peter Molyneux. Molyneux promised an experience like no other and a revolutionary RPG title in the lead up to the game’s 2004 launch. Fable was received well upon release, but Peter Molyneux’s overpromising put a damper on things. In addition, overambition and overestimated sales left Lionhead Studios with low stocks and debt. It needed to sign a deal with its publisher Microsoft Game Studios to stay afloat.
With Microsoft's support and the release of a significantly expanded version called Fable: The Lost Chapters in 2005, Fable became a commercial success. On April 6, 2006, Lionhead Studios was fully acquired by Microsoft, and Fable 2 released to critical and commercial success in 2008. Fable 3 followed in 2010 and the beat-'em-up spin-off Fable Heroes was released for Xbox Live Arcade in 2012. Fable made a name for itself by working open world and immersive sim elements into an otherwise standard fantasy action-adventure, setting it apart from other console RPGs of the time. Little else has emerged since the 2014 Fable Anniversary remaster, though fans would love to see the franchise return to its choice-filled roots.
Fable Must Prove Microsoft Can Still Make RPGs
As other games have caught up to it in terms of mechanical and narrative complexity, the main feature that distinguishes Fable is its status as the remaining legacy Microsoft RPG franchise. The previously mentioned Elder Scrolls, Avowed, and Outer Worlds are all coming from recently acquired studios, and rather surprisingly the new Fable will as well. Playground Games, acquired in 2018, has been developing the Forza Horizon series since the Xbox 360, and is now trying its hand at an RPG. However, legacy developer or not, Fable is attached to Xbox’s name, and that name has been dragged through the mud as of late.
Thanks to the constant troubles Halo Infinite’s live service elements have been in and the emphasis Microsoft has had on acquiring studios with ongoing projects, the company has begun developing a reputation. The public feel has noticed that the best modern Xbox exclusives are often gained from acquisitions, and various legacy franchises have been flagging behind. Fable registers as an iconic Xbox property, and its success or failure could sway fan perception. A failure in the face of several Bethesda and Obsidian RPGs would reinforce that Microsoft’s internal studios and properties can’t stand on their own anymore. However, a success could repair years of damage to the Xbox name, and it would almost feel poetic to see Fable leading the charge for a new generation of western RPGs.
Fable is in development for PC and Xbox Series X/S.