Xbox head Phil Spencer has generated waves recently following his announcements that the upcoming Xbox Series X will not have any platform exclusives for at least a year. This follows alongside other statements made by Spencer that be believes platform exclusivity runs contrary to the very idea of gaming.
In his own words during an interview with the website Games Industry, Spencer says that the video gaming market “should applaud load times, fidelity of scenes, frame rate, and input latency. But that should not exclude people from being able to play”. Coming from the head of the Xbox brand, any claims such as these might need to be taken with a grain of salt. If we take a look beneath the surface, however, we could investigate exactly where Spencer is coming from.
A Matter of Damage Control?
The most pessimistic take on Spencer’s statements would be to draw them from a position of vulnerability. In terms of the IPs under the control of the three major console developers, most gamers would agree that Xbox has the weakest offerings.
More directly comparable to PlayStation than Nintendo, Xbox’s big names include Gears of War, Forza, and Halo. PlayStation, on the other hand, has God of War, The Last of Us, Uncharted, Spider-Man, Gran Turismo, Ratchet and Clank, and a couple of FromSoftware games like Bloodborne and Demon Souls, just to name a few. Of course, individual tastes vary heavily, but in terms of proportional interest, Sony largely comes out on top.
Again, taking the least generous interpretation, this could be seen as Microsoft not trying to compete in terms of series breadth. There are other factors at play that throw a wrench into this view though, which might end up giving Microsoft’s Xbox the ultimate edge.
The Microsoft Edge
One of the most fundamental differences between Microsoft and Sony lies in their primary areas of expertise. Ever since the release of the TR-55 transistor radio in 1955, Sony has largely been a hardware company. Microsoft exists on the other side of the spectrum, being primarily a software developer. Nowhere is Microsoft’s experience in this realm as obvious as it is with Windows, with around 80% of the global operating system market.
It is the ownership of Windows which gives Microsoft’s console division so much potential over the other console developers. In simple terms, they have a much easier means to transfer their games onto what is essentially the only serious desktop gaming platform, which they’re also not competing with. This level of integration, with the side effect of killing what we might otherwise know as platform exclusivity, is an enormous boon for users.
Success on this front, while still in the early ages for console gaming, has already been explored and paved by other forms of the entertainment industry. For example, consider the free table games like blackjack, craps, and roulette which are offered by online casinos. Formerly confined to desktops, the availability of these systems on mobiles has driven immense additional interest and success to the host companies.
It’s this idea which Microsoft hopes to leverage, allowing players on Xbox to similar enjoy their experience freely on their home PCs. By leaning into the idea of cross-purchases, or games bought on one system becoming accessible on another, this new push could open benefits to players on an unprecedented scale.
A New Generation
While we’re naturally excited about the games which are coming in the next console generation, ideas like Microsoft’s new approach to exclusivity are also worth watching closely. As a key driver of console sales, we’d never expect to see exclusive on all platforms disappear completely. However, as players with a love for the multiplatform experience, a greater emphasis on the Microsoft approach going forward could be fantastic for everyone except the most diehard of fanboys.