For all its monetary success with the Switch and Animal Crossing and even with the global pandemic, some fans were frustrated when yet another holiday season went by in 2020 with no whisper of Breath of the Wild 2, Metroid Prime 4, or Bayonetta 3. And it turns out, Microsoft may have been a bit perplexed as well.
As part of the ongoing Epic v. Apple trial, a new document was published as evidence that included a rough outline of both “high-profile” Xbox One releases for the third and fourth calendar quarters of 2020, as well as the company’s understanding of its competition’s biggest upcoming releases. The presentation, which is from August 2020, reveals that at the time Xbox believed Nintendo’s slate for October through December 2020 included The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2, Bayonetta 3, Metroid Prime 4, and Shin Megami Tensei 5 — none of which ended up coming out during that window.
It also mentions a few other titles we know got pushed but that did end up launching in 2021, such as No More Heroes 3 and Bravely Default 2. And it has a big ol’ redacted bar under a footnote about launch titles for the PS5, possibly indicating that Microsoft knew about an additional game originally planned for the PS5 launch which hasn’t yet been shown.
Also interesting is Xbox’s own strategy. Under their own release plan, Xbox has a total of three games redacted from its documents: one planned for the third calendar quarter of last year, and two from the first quarter. It also has huge swaths blocked off from the first quarter of this year, indicating that there are quite a few Xbox games that are either unannounced or with details that haven’t yet been highlighted that the company had expected would have already been out for six months or more by this time.
This data does include both first and third-party games, and as Xbox itself says in the document, its release dates are based on the information it’s been given from its publishing partners. It adds that it expects to see “significant movement” both due to the first quarter typically being very changeable every year, but also due to COVID-19. It’s worth noting is that there seem to be multiple typos as well across the document, notably conflating 2020 with 2021 in several places.
Ultimately, all of this is just internal speculation based on publicly available data, with Xbox’s knowledge of specific release windows likely less and less precise the further they are from the companies involved. But given Microsoft’s position in the industry, it’s interesting that their available knowledge as of last August had them planning their own release strategy around all three of those massive Nintendo titles coming by the end of the year. And critically, the entire presentation highlights both the constantly fluctuating release cycle of games, as well as at least some of the impact of COVID-19 on everyone’s release plans.
We currently have no release dates for Breath of the Wild 2, Metroid Prime 4, or Bayonetta 3, though Breath of the Wild 2 at least is expected to get some kind of news announcement “this year,” as is Bayonetta 3. Metroid news is still quiet, though Epic v. Apple did offer a curious look at Epic Games’ plans to put Samus in Fortnite (though it’s still not clear if Nintendo will ever let them). We’re also seeing other interesting tidbits from the trial, such as what Xbox thinks of The Last of Us Part 2. We’ll continue to cover news from the trial as it continues over the next three weeks.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.