In the wake of Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax Media, there’s a lot of big questions. The potential for console exclusive games is very real, as is investment in brand new and returning video game franchises. While we don’t have all the answers about the impact of the acquisition and what this means for future next gen releases, it does bode well for the future of all ZeniMax properties. Microsoft is a massive company with a net worth of $1 trillion as of 2019. It also has over 23 game studios in its portfolio and a major stake in the next generation of gaming.
Microsoft’s purchase of ZeniMax for $US7.5 ($10) billion shows just how much value it places in video games and it’s logical to think this investment could blossom into new or returning IPs for Bethesda, Arkane, id Software and their companion studios. If Microsoft were to invest in their new portfolio, these are the franchises we’d love to see make a grand return.
Commander Keen is a classic platforming franchise starring Billy Blaze, an eight-year-old boy with a big imagination. In his adventures, he takes on aliens, strange worlds and galatic threats all while being the coolest boy in the galaxy. The first game in the series was developed in 1990 by id Software and spawned several fun sequels, all following the adventures of Blaze in his ‘Commander Keen’ persona.
At E3 2019, a shiny new trailer for a Commander Keen reboot debuted, but it’s fair to say people weren’t happy. The title was set to be a mobile release following the children of Billy Blaze and featured strategy elements fans were unhappy with. While it was scheduled for released in winter 2019, nothing else has been heard of the game and it’s assumed to either be cancelled or in the process of a rework.
Commander Keen is a childhood favourite of many and it’d be great to see Microsoft resurrect the IP in a new format. Whether that’s a reworked version of the Commander Keen reboot announced in 2019 or something new, we’d love to see Keen return.
Fallout: New Vegas 2
Fallout: New Vegas is frequently labelled the best of the Fallout series, and for good reason. With intriguing characters, deep mysteries and excellent writing, the Fallout franchise has never been better. Importantly, this 2010 Fallout spin-off was developed by Obsidian Entertainment, a company already owned by Microsoft. Current Fallout IP owners Bethesda are now under the same roof as Obsidian, so there’s potential a sequel could get underway if interest existed.
While the Fallout franchise has branched off in a different directions over the years (with near-universal rejection of their Fallout 76-shaped foray into online gaming) there’s still a lot of potential in the New Vegas setting. The Mojave Wasteland has secrets left to share and it would be fantastic to revisit this locale in the future.
Quake is in a weird place at the moment. Rather than developing a sequel to the critically-acclaimed Quake 4, id Software largely abandoned the franchise in the mid-2000s. A semi-resurrection came about in the form of free online multiplayer game Quake Champions in 2017, but it failed to pick up much of a solid fanbase and was bogged down by the ‘Overwatch clone’ era.
The Quake franchise has always excelled as a weird, grimdark adventure inspired by deep space sci-fi. Quake Champions felt too much like a way to package it in more friendly and accessible way. (A strategy which can totally work for some franchises!) Returning to Quake‘s roots with a fullblown sequel would put the franchise back on the map. Heck, even a remaster of the originals would go down well. It’s time to bring back Quake. Make it happen, Microsoft.
LMNO is one of gaming’s worst cases of unrealised potential. This action game was in development at Arkane Studios in partnership with EA and Steven Spielberg. It was set to follow an alien creature named Eve as she broke out of a government facility and entered a wide open world filled with action platforming, parkour and adventure. The combat was described as puzzle-heavy and would’ve focused on emotion and character choice, as well exploring the nature of existence. LMNO was mostly exciting for the involvement of Spielberg and anticipation built for the game until its public cancellation in 2010. LMNO looked like an intriguing adventure, and one with a lot of storytelling potential.
While Microsoft hasn’t acquired EA (yet) they do have a solid working relationship with all EA Play games finding their way to Xbox Game Pass earlier this year. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine Microsoft investing in a game with this much intrigue behind it.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein
In 2014, MachineGames rebooted Wolfenstein to rapturous applause. Wolfenstein: The New Order is an incredible game (and was followed by an incredible sequel) but it opted for a realistic approach to the strange world of the franchise. While Wolfenstein is largely about killing Nazis, a larger part of the classic games are all about magic, monsters and mayhem. The original Wolfenstein games were totally wild and often spotlighted magic zombies and wizards over political commentary or realism.
The Wolfenstein: The Old Blood spin-off dipped its toes into the wilds of Wolfensteins past with a tale of ancient zombies and golems, but it would be fantastic to see what a next gen balls-to-the-wall fantasy Wolfenstein would look like. Everybody loves killing Nazis, but it’s even better when they’re Nazi zombies. Bring on the chaos.
Which defunct ZeniMax franchise would you like to see make a grand return under Microsoft’s watchful eye? Were you really excited for the Commander Keen reboot? Tell us about it in the comments below.