Hellblade 2 Proves Microsoft Needs to Give Games More Visibility

In the spotlight.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2

This month saw the release of a major exclusive for Xbox from one of its most critically acclaimed studios, but you’d be forgiven if you had no idea. Originally announced five years ago, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 has slipped under the radar most of the years since, outside of the occasional trailer. This has been true even up to the game’s release, resulting in a disturbingly quiet launch for Hellblade 2, made all the worse in the wake of multiple Xbox studios being shut down. If Xbox wants to succeed, it needs to start giving its games a bigger platform.

At the beginning of May, Xbox shut down Tango Gameworks and Arkane Austin, the studios behind Hi-Fi Rush and Redfall respectively. This led to massive fan backlash, with many instantly bringing up fears for the other studios. Unfortunately, with Hellblade 2 as the next Xbox game on the horizon, a lot of those questions fell on developer Ninja Theory.

Xbox Game Pass obviously has an effect on the sales of Xbox games, but even with Hellblade 2 launching on the service it’s lack of pre-launch marketing feels strange.


In January, Xbox announced the release date for Hellblade 2, with the announcement feeling a bit unceremonious after how quiet the game had been for years (outside of a trailer at The Game Awards).

Again, the silence around Hellblade 2 permeated up until launch drew extremely close. Six days before the game was released Xbox released a promotional video breaking down the first game’s story. It was the first major trailer we’d seen since January. Now, nearly a week after release Xbox has also added a mandatory ad screen when you boot up your Xbox, advertising Hellblade 2. This all feels especially odd when you factor in how barren Xbox’s first-party release slate already is this year.

Outside of releasing former exclusives on other platforms, Hellblade 2 is actually the first Xbox Game Studios-published title to release this year. The second half of the year has planned releases like Avowed, Indiana Jones and The Great Circle, and Age of Mythology Retold, but we don’t have dates for those.

It’s baffling that the first big exclusive of the year wouldn’t get a bigger push, and it’s starting to become clear that’s had an effect on Hellblade 2’s success and discoverability. After its launch Hellblade 2 debuted as 23rd on Xbox’s list of most-played games, putting it right behind Dead By Daylight and Elden Ring. While we likely won’t ever known sales numbers, that’s not a fantastic showing for a brand new first-party exclusive.

Helldivers 2 had a massive push in nearly every Sony presentation for almost two years, and it paid off.


Yes, Hellblade 2 is a relatively short story-focused experience, so it’s not going to have the mass appeal that other titles on the most-played list do, but it’s hard to deny that Microsoft has mishandled its release.

It’s been talked about for a while how Xbox Game Pass cannibalizes a game’s sales, and that’s clearly happening with Hellblade 2. But much more than that, the game simply didn’t get the attention and platform it deserved. It’s especially clear when you compare Xbox’s efforts to that of its biggest competitor, PlayStation.

To be clear, PlayStation has suffered from its own swathe of issues, including drawing massive backlash by requiring PS Plus accounts for Helldivers 2 on PC. But Sony does a much better job of making its games visible, ensuring they remain in players’ brains in the months leading up to launch. Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth had an entire State of Play devoted to it, and Stellar Blade received a public demo and a wealth of info from the PS Blog. There are a lot of complex factors to consider, of course, but Stellar Blade drew interest leading up to its release, and still manages to be in the conversation today with its updates.

Having dedicated presentations for new games, like Sony and Nintendo both do, could help Microsoft spread its games to a larger audience.

Square Enix

Granted Hellblade 2 isn’t Stellar Blade, they’re very different games, but it genuinely feels like the former came and went with almost zero fanfare. The real problem is how the lack of attention reads to Microsoft in general. Fans are already upset and hesitant about Xbox’s success after the closures, and seeing a first-party exclusive get so little attention only helps to even further cement those fears. Luckily, Ninja Theory’s next game has apparently been greenlit, hopefully assuaging some of the fears about the studio’s future.

But with that in mind, it simply feels like Xbox and Microsoft need to do more for its games. The Developer Directs the company holds are a great first step, but for exclusives to really succeed, there needs to be a more constant stream of details and looks, whether that’s trailers, press interviews, social media updates, or anything else. The future of Xbox is already looking grim after recent events, and having a game like Hellblade 2 release into the void, to an underwhelming response, doesn’t help.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 is available on Xbox Series X|S and PC.

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