Microsoft is unexpectedly starting to apply a PC vision to the world of console gaming. Putting aside announces like Forza Motorsport 6 free to play version, the release of Gears of War Ultimate Edition, the upcoming Quantum Break and Killer Instinct: Season Three, all stuff which has been discussed in the recent Xbox Spring Showcase for the press, we are witnessing today Phil Spencer’s statements that could be most certainly defined worrying.
Specifically, speaking to Polygon back on March 25, the Xbox head substantially said the current vision we have of console – hardware releasing on a certain date and never changing while the tech world around it is evolving day by day – doesn’t work anymore and will be obsolete in a matter of few years. Xbox One itself could “evolve” to have a more powerful hardware, not just a revision a la Xbox Slim we’ve dreamed about for a while.
Is this an issue for Xbox One owners? Not at all. What we’re saying here is that Microsoft is making it clear, on one hand, that they don’t want to give up onto the console business although Xbox One hasn’t been able to beat or stay close to PS4’s sales. On the other hand, we have them trying to change on their favor the console business itself, while carrying some of its most important titles to Windows 10 PC – now that Forza 6 is shipping to PC, Halo is simply, and clearly, the next step.
But in the short term future, today it is very evident, Microsoft is willing to make the PC and console gaming markets one. Now we care about the fact that Quantum Break is not an Xbox One exclusive anymore, tomorrow we won’t, as there won’t be any boundaries between the Xbox and Windows brand: they will just be one single platform. While on the hardware side it is yet to see how Microsoft ponders about this move – some sort of pre-assembled, modular device like the one we’ve seen patented by them and specifically by the Surface team? – software seems already set.
We’ll take a look at the hardware below, but for now let’s just focus on software. Bringing Xbox One exclusive games to PC is a move Microsoft strongly wanted to make those intellectual properties successful. For example, Quantum Break: Remedy already came up with a high quality title last gen, Alan Wake, which became profitable only when it reached PC – and it did with the Finnish studio acting independently.
So basically this is an effort to avoid similar situations, where brand new IP’s existence was put to risk by the “exclusive game” label that wasn’t enough to grant the investment to return in terms of budgets and income. Looking at it from this perspective, I’m fine with it, Microsoft is right doing so – Quantum Break and Remedy, just to make two names, deserve to be successful, and Xbox One don’t have to be so egoistic to waste their chances and efforts to be successful.
What we’re witnessing now, by the way, is slightly different. By carrying titles like Forza Motorsport and Gears of War onto Windows 10 PC, Microsoft is admitting Xbox One is not the profitable platform they thought it could become in a couple years from launch. Forza Motorsport 6: Apex is just another way to prepare Xbox One to the idea they’ll have to give up their exclusive games and share them with high end PC gamers.
By discussing an upgradable Xbox One, furthermore, Phil Spencer shows one of these two things: 1. he is a visionary, one who is predicting and acting before the future actually comes. I think he could be someone who could predict what’s next, I think he is a smart and elegant Microsoft guy, but the timing of such discussions is at least fairly suspicious; 2. Microsoft has really stopped caring and believing in Xbox One, and is preparing to unify PC and console gaming under one single brand (logically it would be the Xbox label, but we wouldn’t take for granted).
Whatever it ends up being, I think people should really stop thinking at those boundaries and get back to enjoying the games they love. It could seem some trivial thought but I don’t see it like a matter of “the more play one game, the better”, not only like that, at least. We have to focus on Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo like we would on any other business company that wants its affairs to be profitable.
Sony and Nintendo have continuously tried to connect their handheld and home platforms, in the effort to make both of them successful, often failing (PlayStation Vita, Japan set aside, is right there showcasing it). Microsoft doesn’t have any handheld gaming platform, they have something more: they have Windows. When it comes to PC operative systems, right now Windows 10 has an installed base of about 16%, and Microsoft wants both to push on gaming to raise that percentage and take advantage of those numbers to make Xbox intellectual properties profitable.
They see this as a great opportunity and, for better or for worse, gamers will have to understand that both on the short and on the long run. I don’t think you should see it as an opportunity as well – although grabbing a free Windows 10 copy pre-ordering Quantum Break on Xbox One really is an opportunity – but at least you should understand that and stop thinking about your exclusive titles.