One of the key differentiators between Microsoft and Sony for their next-generation strategies is that Microsoft is not releasing exclusives for its Series X console out of the gate, while Sony plans to do that with PlayStation 5. Microsoft’s strategy and messaging is that Xbox is not tied to one device, but rather a wider ecosystem.
The games you buy should be yours to play no matter what console you play on within the Xbox family, or even beyond to mobile devices with the rise of xCloud. Xbox boss Phil Spencer has now reiterated Microsoft’s stance on this front, confirming that Microsoft will not release any first-party games exclusively on the Series X for the “next couple of years.”
“You won’t be forced into the next generation. We want every Xbox player to play all the new games from Xbox Game Studios,” Spencer said in a blog post. “That’s why Xbox Game Studios titles we release in the next couple of years–like Halo Infinite–will be available and play great on Xbox Series X and Xbox One. We won’t force you to upgrade to Xbox Series X at launch to play Xbox exclusives.”
Spencer’s comments line up with what Xbox Game Studios boss Matt Booty said earlier in 2020. “As our content comes out over the next year, two years, all of our games, sort of like PC, will play up and down that family of devices,” Booty said. “We want to make sure that if someone invests in Xbox between now and [Series X] that they feel that they made a good investment and that we’re committed to them with content.”
Microsoft’s approach is more akin to a phone upgrade. Games still release across devices, but you’ll get a better performance with the newer hardware. As Booty alluded to, this has been standard on PC for decades.
While Microsoft does not plan to launch Series X exclusives anytime soon, other developers are. Two titles shown during the Microsoft event in May, Scorn and The Medium, will bypass last-generation consoles and release exclusively on new machines and PC.
Spencer said in an earlier interview that he’s so passionate about his strategy because he wants to make Microsoft’s games available to people no matter what device they have. Forcing people to buy new hardware is against what the spirit of gaming is all about, Spencer said.
“As a player you are the centre of our strategy,” Spencer said. “Our device is not the centre of our strategy, our game is not the centre of the strategy. We want to enable you to play the games you want to play, with the friends you want to play with, on any device. On TV, the Xbox console is going to be the best way to play console games.”
He added: “I find it completely counter to what gaming is about to say that part of that is to lock people away from being able to experience those games. Or to force someone to buy my specific device on the day that I want them to go buy it, in order to partake in what gaming is about.”
NPD analyst Mat Piscatella has been predicting for a long time that gaming in the 2020s will be more focused on ecosystems instead of platforms specifically. “By the end of the decade, I doubt any company will tie content exclusively to one device,” he said. “Particular hardware will be a nice to have, not a need to have.”
Sony is also getting on board with bringing its exclusives beyond the PlayStation family of consoles. The PS4 game Horizon: Zero Dawn is coming to PC in August.
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