Xbox is making moves.
In a drawn out turn of events, Xbox is putting exclusivity on the back burner and looking to create a level of freedom for gamers instead. In a recent report, it’s rumored that Xbox is likely to announce Xbox Game Pass, their online games platform, will be coming to the Nintendo Switch.
In theory, this means you’ll be able to play Xbox games on your Nintendo Switch, including exclusives such as Halo, Gears Of War and Forza. This would put Xbox’s games on a third platform after the Xbox and PC. (4th if you count Xbox’s recent release of Halo onto Steam).
Now, in debating why Xbox might be making this move I’ve come to various conclusions. The first being that I think Xbox thinks it’s Game Pass product is the future of Microsoft’s survival in the gaming market and they’re doing everything they can to increase their subscriber base. With a cheap price point, loads of content, and with Game Pass now slowly making its way onto other platforms, it’s reminiscent of how Netflix became the juggernaut it is today. While the games are download only, for now, streaming would be the next step up when the technology finally catches up, which I’m sure is also in the plan.
My pessimistic side concludes that Xbox might be conceding that its portfolio of exclusives just isn’t strong enough to compete in the console market. Truth be told, if Game Pass is successful on other platforms, there might not need to be an Xbox console in the future. But with a new Halo and Gears Of War on the horizon, rumors of a new Fable, acquisitions of very talented studios and the collaborative new studio, the Coalition, being formed, Xbox certainly isn’t getting out of the console game without a fight.
Xbox also officially announced that its Xbox Live service would be coming to iOS and Android, giving mobile devs the opportunity to include achievements, parental settings, gamerscore and more. Could this be a move to get more Xbox content onto phones? Or a move to get more mobile content into the Xbox ecosystem? We’re certainly seeing more console companies getting into the mobile gaming space, most notably Sega and Nintendo. While we’ve never really seen Xbox Microsoft make an attempt at mobile content, it’s easy to forget they own Minecraft, a juggernaut on all platforms. I’m sure Microsoft sees the value of mobile and of course, Phil Spencer has been vocal on making Xbox content much more available.
In fact, back in December, Phil Spencer was claiming he plans on bringing Xbox Game Pass to every device on the market. Now, “every device” is pretty ambitious and leaves us to use our imagination, and with the announcements of Google Stadia and Apple Arcade, who both have billions of devices they can sell to, it still puts Xbox at a disadvantage. That being said, we don’t know the quality that Apple and Google will be bringing to the table, so for now, the idea of being able to play Xbox games on any device brings up a few thoughts.
The first being that while this seems really good for gamers as a whole, it leaves much to be desired for Xbox gamers specifically. While I’m fully for this “all games everywhere” thing, I have to feel for those who invested all that money into an Xbox because they had to choose one or the other when they could’ve just gone PlayStation 4 and got both PS4 and Xbox games. While that point may not be as relevant in this generation of consoles, it’s hard not to think it’ll become very relevant next generation when gamers inevitably have to decide between the two.
Ultimately when I think about whether this is a good or bad thing for gamers, it’s difficult to pinpoint the repercussions but I will say this: Xbox, or more specifically Microsoft, is in a race to gain subscriptions to its digital service. They’re doing all they can to increase that subscriber base so they can invest more into the program. Now we’ve debated the pro’s and con’s of ‘Netflix for games’ before, and ultimately we decided it’s good for gamers but not great for devs. While I’m always for innovation and pushing the industry, the question of cost is always prominent, and if it comes at the cost of the Xbox console, the future may look bright but the glare is certainly going to hurt.