Xbox Play Anywhere Gets an Asterisk

Posted on July 9, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10, Xbox, Xbox One with 0 Comments

Xbox Play Anywhere Gets an Asterisk

Microsoft’s promise to publish all future in-house games via Xbox Play Anywhere—meaning they will work on both Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs—may be less certain thanks to a quiet rewording of the original announcement. Naturally, conspiracy theories abound.

I spent a great deal of time trying to track down the source of this information, and for a brief side-track, allow me to complain about how lazy bloggers can be. I heard about this story from Engadget, which credits TechRader, which credits IGN, which in turn credits a VideoGamer tweet that points to a YouTube video … that is not the original source of this story. Seriously.

So, apologies to whoever had this first. I owe you a beer. And the Internet owes you an apology.

Anyway. Here’s the story.

On June 29, Microsoft announced that the Windows 10 Anniversary update would ship to customers on August 2. As part of that announcement, Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi noted the following about Xbox Play Anywhere:

With the Xbox Play Anywhere program, you can buy a game once and play on your Windows 10 PC and Xbox One with shared progress, shared game saves and shared achievements. Every new title published from Microsoft Studios will support Xbox Play Anywhere and will be easily accessible in the Windows Store.

That emphasis is mine. Because, if you were to go read that post today, it reads as follows:

With the Xbox Play Anywhere program, you can buy a game once and play on your Windows 10 PC and Xbox One with shared progress, shared game saves and shared achievements. Every new title published from Microsoft Studios that we showed onstage at E3 this year will support Xbox Play Anywhere and will be easily accessible in the Windows Store.

Again, emphasis mine.

So you can see the subtle but important difference. Microsoft had previously promised that every single game published by Microsoft Studios would be Xbox Play Anywhere compatible. But now they are only committing to publishing those few games they demonstrated at E3 via Xbox Play Anywhere.

We can debate why Microsoft made this change, not that any of us have actual facts to defend those assertions. What we cannot debate is how unfortunate it is that Microsoft made such a major change without telling anyone. The firm literally edited its original post and didn’t mention the change.

That is not OK.

OK, let’s speculate. As you may or may not realize, Microsoft Studios is really the front-end for almost 20 game studios that publish games under the Microsoft brand. Some are famous—343 Industries, for example, is in charge of the Halo brand now, while Turn 10 handles the Forza Motorsport series—and … some are not. These studios are all over the world, with some in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe, and in Canada. And then there are many more second party partners located in even more diverse locations: The U.S., Europe, Canada, and Asia and Oceania.

I’ve seen some people guess that this is Microsoft’s way of subtly informing the world that it intends to keep the Halo series on Xbox consoles, but I bet this has more to do with international licensing/legal issues with regards to those studios outside the United States. And that Microsoft is simply hedging its legal bets.

If only there were some way for Microsoft to explain itself.