The lack of ‘exclusive’ titles has haunted the Xbox brand for the past decade, and Microsoft, under the charismatic Phil Spencer, has made moves to secure studios over past the few years in order to change that fact.
But perception is a very hard thing to change, especially when we are just a few months shy from the arrival of the next generation consoles, and for the most part Microsoft still is banking on Halo Infinite to counter a wide library of exclusives that have been, or are expected to be announced for the PlayStation 5.
On July 23rd Microsoft is expected to have a bigger game reveal than their previous one a few months ago. Perhaps gamers will have a few more exclusives titles to look forward to, in order to feel compelled to return into the Xbox ecosystem.
A massive interview with Gameindustry.biz gave us an insight into Microsoft’s ground breaking strategy for its next gen games.
In the interview Phil Spencer addressed a key strategy involving the lack of actual Xbox Series X exclusives as a next gen system, as Halo Infinite, and every other Microsoft first party game will run on every Xbox One console. The concern is that Sony is making Next Gen games for the PS5 (games that can’t run on the PS4, PS4 Pro and consequently the Xbox One S, One X hardware configurations), and Microsoft isn’t as games will be held back by the Xbox One Hardware.
To that concern, Phil Spencer said:
“Frankly, held back is a meme that gets created by people who are too caught up in device competition. I just look at Windows. It’s almost certain if the developer is building a Windows version of their game, then the most powerful and highest fidelity version is the PC version. You can even see that with some of our first-party console games going to PC, even from our competitors, that the richest version is the PC version. Yet the PC ecosystem is the most diverse when it comes to hardware, when you think about the CPUs and GPUs from years ago that are there.” – Microsoft’s executive vice president of gaming, and Xbox chief, Phil Spencer
Clearly, Microsoft has created an ecosystem in which the current consoles can pretty much play Original Xbox games with some massive improvements free of cost to the consumer. An example of this is Panzer Dragoon Orta, which runs now at 4K on the Xbox One X, and you do not have to pay a single dime, as long as you own the original copy of the game.
Microsoft hasn’t exactly thrived with this approach, as they have lost major ground to Sony and Nintendo in this generation, but perhaps Microsoft is playing for the long haul. Microsoft’s backward compatibility program has created a loyal costumer base. Who doesn’t feel excited to pop back in a beloved old game into a new system and get massive “remastered” like improvements at no cost? The Xbox One eco system provides for that right now, and Microsoft intends for this featured to live on for at least the next decade on the Xbox Series X console.
But Microsoft intends to go further with this costumer friendly approach in allowing “Forward Compatibility” with “Next Gen” games on your current Xbox One. Halo Infinite will be available to a 48 million user base that currently owns Xbox One systems across the globe. Microsoft will benefit from this, the double edged sword of course is that apart from better graphics, and performance there isn’t much incentive to go, and grab an Xbox Series X at launch.
Microsoft seems to be okay with that, as it is part of their strategy, the issue then, is the loyal costumers who do go out and buy a Series X. Will they feel cheated? No matter what Phil Says, games are hindered by hardware limitations. The PS4 Pro and Xbox One X have been held back by their base consoles. Still, Phil feels that they are taking the correct approach to this situation,
“As a player you are the centre of our strategy. 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. Xbox Series X is the most powerful console out there and it will have absolutely the best versions of our console games. But that’s not to exclude other people from being able to play.”- Phil Spencer.
It will be interesting to see how long Microsoft sticks to their guns on this policy, then again, The Witcher 3 was scaled down enough for it to run on Switch Hardware, which tech wise is a bridge between PS3/360 and current consoles. So, perhaps Phil is right, and with some big compromises current Xbox One owners will be able to play next gen Xbox Series X games that are competitive with anything that Sony has to offer on the PS5.