After weeks of rumors, Microsoft says four games are going to “other consoles”

AI SaaS

After weeks of rumors around its strategy regarding Xbox console exclusives, Microsoft announced today that it is “going to take four games to the other consoles.” The company stopped short of announcing what those now non-exclusive games would be, but it did point out that neither Starfield nor Bethesda’s upcoming Indiana Jones and the Great Circle would be appearing on other consoles.

All four of the soon-to-be multi-platform titles are “over a year old,” Xbox chief Phil Spencer said in an “Updates on the Xbox Business” podcast video. The list includes a couple of “community-driven” games that are “first iterations of a franchise” that could show growth on non-Xbox consoles, as well as two others that Spencer said were “smaller games that were never really meant to be built as kind of platform exclusives… I think there is an interesting story for us of introducing Xbox franchises to players on other platforms to get them more interested in Xbox.”

The Verge cites “sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans” in reporting that Hi-Fi Rush, Pentiment, Sea of Thieves, and Grounded are the four multi-platform titles Microsoft is referencing today.

“The teams that are building those [multi-platform] games have announced plans that are not too far away,” Spencer said, “but I think when they come out, it’ll make sense.”

This is not completely new territory for Microsoft; Spencer noted in the podcast that the acquisitions of Activision Blizzard and Bethesda parent Zenimax mean that Microsoft is already “one of the largest game publishers on PlayStation.” Microsoft has also spent years pushing the ability to play Xbox games on other screens via Game Pass streaming.

Spencer stressed during the podcast that this limited multi-platform move does not represent “a change to our fundamental exclusive strategy.” He added that “we’re making these decisions for some specific reasons,” citing “the long-term health of Xbox and a desire to “use what some of the other platforms have right now to help grow our franchises.”

And Xbox hardware will continue to be the “developer target” for Microsoft’s multi-platform games, according to Microsoft President of Xbox Sarah Bond. “Our developers can build the specs of our hardware, and we invest to make sure when they do that the games are going to run great on our hardware, but they’re also going to be able to be accessed across any screen because of all the other investments we make,” Bond said.

Wave of the future

Spencer cited the recent expansion of multi-platform releases in stating “a fundamental belief that over the next five or ten years… games that are exclusive to one piece of hardware are going to be a smaller and smaller part of the game industry.”

“We’ve seen this inversion over the last five years where it used to be that the platform was the biggest thing, and the games would tuck in within the platform,” Head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty added. “Today, big games like a Roblox or a Fortnite could actually be bigger than any one platform, so that has really changed the way we think about those things” (oddly enough, Booty did not mention Microsoft’s own bigger-than-one-platform mega-hit, Minecraft, though Spencer mentioned it later in the presentation).

Bond added that “when you just step back and you look at the history of the industry, we’ve moved from a place where it used to be that someone built and launched a game to accelerate hardware, to actually the things we do with our hardware and with our platform are all in service of making those games bigger.”

Despite the opening up of select franchises, Booty clarified that “Game Pass will only be available on Xbox” and will continue to include all first-party Microsoft games “day one.” That will soon include games Microsoft acquired through the recently completed Activision Blizzard merger, starting with Diablo IV on March 28.

Microsoft’s limited multi-platform announcement comes as information from a Take-Two financial report suggests the PlayStation 5 has outsold the Xbox Series X/S by a roughly 2:1 margin. That’s similar to the sales lead the PS4 maintained over the Xbox One in the last console generation.

Elsewhere in the podcast, Spencer stressed that he wanted the Xbox ecosystem to continue to focus on backward compatibility, comparing it to PC gamers’ ability to still play Windows games released decades ago on modern hardware. “When we look at future hardware generations and what we’re going to support, making sure that we respect… the investments that people have made in Xbox going forward is fundamental.”

This story has been updated with more detailed information from and analysis of Microsoft’s announcement video.

Listing image by Barone Firenze | Shutterstock.com

AI SaaS

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