Over the course of E3, Xbox head Phil Spencer intimated that the company had signed up a string of projects that wouldn't come to fruition for a few years. Over the weekend, an indication appeared as to what one of them might be.
A job listing on LinkedIn has surfaced from a member from the G3D recruitment and consultancy service. It's a couple of months old, but someone found it recently and the post asks for a lead environment artist for "Microsoft AAA Nextgen Title".
The style is listed as "similar to Horizon: Zero Dawn". Given that we're taking an environment artist here, that doesn't mean anyone can say with any certainty that Microsoft is looking to create a similar narrative-driven, open-world experience in the way Guerilla Games did. What's more likely is that the new title will feature a world ravaged that is in the process of rebuilding - or as a colleague put it, a post-post-post apocalyptic world (given what happens in Horizon).
It's certainly not enough to say that Xbox is making an open-world adventure, especially when you consider Phil Spencer has talked about the difficulty of funding projects that have limited replayability. In a lengthy chat with The Guardian, Spencer said the audience for "big story-driven games" were "not as consistent" because they were being cannibalised by games as services:
You’ll have things like Zelda or Horizon Zero Dawn that’ll come out, and they’ll do really well, but they don’t have the same impact that they used to have, because the big service-based games are capturing such a large amount of the audience. Sony’s first-party studios do a lot of these games, and they’re good at them, but outside of that, it’s difficult – they’re become more rare; it’s a difficult business decision for those teams, you’re fighting into more headwind.
“We’ve got to understand that if we enjoy those games, the business opportunity has to be there for them. I love story-based games. I just finished Thimbleweed Park – I thought it was a fantastic game. Inside was probably my game of last year. As an industry, I want to make sure both narrative-driven single-player games and service-based games have the opportunity to succeed. I think that’s critical for us.”
Spencer wasn't downplaying the success of singleplayer games though, and he took to Twitter after The Guardian interview was say as much. Spencer also revealed that Sony sent him a collector's edition of Horizon: Zero Dawn and that the platform holders will often share their first-party games with each other.