A reader argues that Microsoft making Xbox exclusives multiformat has been inevitable for a while and shouldn’t come as a surprise.
I keep thinking back to that email from Xbox boss Phil Spencer, that was made public during their FTC court trial, where he was talking, in very arrogant tones, about how he wanted to buy Nintendo. ‘It’s just taking a long time for Nintendo to see that their future exists off of their own hardware,’ he said. And yet here we are, less than three months later, and it’s Microsoft people are talking about as giving up making consoles.
Although the email wound me up, as I think it did many people, I’m not some rabid anti-Xbox fanboy. I had an Xbox 360, like seemingly all of my friends at the time, and would quite happily switch to Xbox again if it was significantly better than its PlayStation equivalent. But the last consoles haven’t been, they’ve been essentially the same in terms of horsepower and noticeably worse in terms of exclusives; I’d say that much was objectively true.
Another revelation at the end of last year was how badly the Xbox is selling in Japan and Europe, making it clear that it was never going to outsell the PlayStation 5 and probably not any future Sony console either. Thanks to Activision Blizzard they are now the biggest publisher around though, so going multiformat and giving up on hardware is a legitimate option, and it sounds like one they may already have taken.
The rumours this week suggest that one or more exclusive Xbox games will be going multiformat this year, probably Hi-Fi Rush and/or Sea Of Thieves. Now, it is only a rumour, and even if it’s true there’s no guarantee there’ll be more than one or two games this year, but to me it seems obvious that Microsoft is gearing up to give up hardware – or at least greatly diminish their reliance on it.
Consider the facts. Last November a Microsoft exec said they were about to undergo a ‘change of strategy’ and implied that Xbox content would begin to appear on PlayStation 5 and Switch. Phil Spencer later tried to pretend that’s not what he meant but here we are, barely more than a month later, and multiple, reliable sources are claiming that certain games are going multiformat.
And then, just a day after those rumours, Microsoft announces a Developer_Direct for next week. That is a hell of a coincidence.
Microsoft may now have changed their plans slightly – maybe they won’t announce the news this month, now that it’s partially leaked out – but it seems obvious it’s coming at some point. After all, it makes good business sense.
The weak sales of the Xbox console means that Microsoft is limiting its audience, so they probably were telling the truth when they said they didn’t want to make Call Of Duty an exclusive. But that means they’d also make much more money selling Hi-Fi Rush, Starfield, Forza, and everything else on PlayStation and Nintendo. They already know these games aren’t system sellers, so why not turn them into money-makers?
After all, EA doesn’t worry that it doesn’t make a console and neither did Activision Blizzard. They’re still industry giants without it and can influence and demand things of Sony simply because of their size and importance. Microsoft would end up having more control over the industry by not making consoles than it does now.
Of course, I don’t know what backroom deals might be made. Maybe Sony will say they don’t mind Microsoft continuing to make consoles as a side business, but by that point it won’t matter. Without any exclusives the Xbox will be even less desirable than before.
As a PlayStation owner I want this to happen, not because I dislike Xbox and want to see it fail but because I do want to play some of its games but am not sufficiently interested to buy a new console for it. This way we get closer to that one format future everyone’s already wanted and Microsoft finally gets to be a big player in the industry.
And yet I see online so many Xbox fans in denial, claiming all the rumours are wrong and ignoring the things that were said last year by Microsoft themselves. That’s only going to make the uproar worse when it does happen, and I am not looking forward to the console wars when even something as minor as Hi-Fi Rush goes multiformat.
Perhaps Microsoft should’ve have managed the reveal better than this, and got ahead of the leaks, but the whole thing is now so inevitable it’s really just a question of when and not if.
By reader Gooch
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