No, This is Not the End of Xbox Exclusives

Posted on July 6, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One with 0 Comments

No, This is Not the End of Xbox Exclusives

It’s both amusing and sad to watch video game bloggers and enthusiasts continually misrepresent Microsoft’s new Xbox strategy. Here’s just one example: The belief that Xbox Play Anywhere signals an end to Xbox exclusive games.

Xbox Play Anywhere, as you may recall, is a new Xbox platform feature that will enable developers to great UWP (Universal Windows Platform) games that run on both Xbox One and Windows 10: When you buy such a game for one of these platforms, you get it for free on the other. Your progress, game saves, and achievements in these game are shared across the platforms, so you can mix and match where you play.

And, yes, Microsoft is serious about Xbox Play Anywhere: Every new Microsoft Studios title shown at E3 2016—including Gears of War 4—will support Xbox Play Anywhere, and Microsoft promises more titles are on the way.

Win-win, right?

Well. In the world of video game enthusiasts, you’re not allowed to mess with the formula. These guys resist change as readily as a porch-bound oldster, and they are not interested in listening to common sense, let alone good ideas.

Xbox Play Anywhere is a good idea. It dramatically expands the market for Xbox games by adding Windows 10’s 350 million (and counting) user base to the relatively paltry crowd of 20 million Xbox One users. (Compare that to the suddenly diminutive-looking 40 million PlayStation 4 user base as well.) That’s the point: It’s a win for users, obviously. And it’s a win for developers.

I’m not picking on this guy, but this Forbes editorial is a typical if restrained take on the old-fashioned thinking that dominates the video game world today. Microsoft isn’t just ruining the 8-year console cycle, it isn’t just pre-announcing a next-generation console and absolutelydestroying the market for the current-gen version, it has the temerity to kill off exclusive game titles too.

The shame.

“There is not really such a thing as an Xbox-exclusive game anymore, with all their first party titles also coming to PC as well,” the editorial explains. “The only exception I can even think of might be an Xbox-only game not published by Microsoft, but I’m drawing a blank on potential examples. It seems that anything ‘only on Xbox’ is now ‘only on Xbox and Windows 10’.”

I can help with this misconception. It goes like this.

“Only on Xbox” means … wait for it … “only on Xbox.”

Are you getting it? No?

OK. The problem here is that people see or hear the word “Xbox” and they think only of a hardware console or of the Xbox One specifically. That’s not what “Xbox” is. Xbox is a brand. Xbox is a platform. And theentire freaking point of this year’s strategy is to expand the Xbox brand and platform to include both dedicated consoles and Windows 10 PCs.

Open your eyes. Expand your mind. You can do this.

“Only on Xbox” is now better than it was before. It means a bigger audience for developers. And it means more great games for gamers, regardless of where they choose to play. Win-win, remember?

I have spent a good chunk of my adult life trying not to become too comfortable doing things the same way, over and over again. I constantly reevaluate the technology I use, for example, and it’s interesting how actually paying attention and trying new things can lead to productive and positive changes. Tradition is mindless. We should only keep doing things the same way when that way of doing things is in fact better. And the only way to know that for sure is to actually try different things.

Had Microsoft simply continued down the old path—focusing solely on Xbox One and its exclusive titles—then the Xbox One’s trajectory would have likewise continued unabated, with it being outsold by at least 2-to-1 by the PS4. By changing the rules of the game, however, Microsoft is potentially setting itself up for greater success. And that change will only benefit its developer partners and its customers. It is entirely unclear to me how or why anyone would complain about that.

Not everyone sees it that way, of course.

“Microsoft’s philosophy seems to be that if you’re playing the game on one of their platforms, either Windows 10 or Xbox, that’s good enough for them,” the Forbes contributor continues. “And yet, it seems like it’s handed some level of victory to Sony.”

Sure. Sony won the final battle of the traditional console wars. But the game is changing. And again, that is exactly the point.

None of this means that Microsoft will “win” going forward. But by implementing such an audacious strategy, Microsoft is at least demonstrating that it cares very deeply about gaming and about properly serving its fans.

And we should applaud that.