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Microsoft: four Xbox-exclusive games are coming to PS5 and Nintendo Switch

It’s official: Microsoft is bringing some Xbox-exclusive games to PS5 and Nintendo Switch. It’s part of a broader strategy shift inside Microsoft’s gaming business to grow games beyond just the company’s Xbox consoles.

“We’ve made the decision that we’re going to take four games to the other consoles,” reveals Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer on the official Xbox podcast. Bizarrely, Microsoft is refusing to name the four titles, but the company says that two are community-driven games and the other two are smaller titles.

Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell me the first two titles will be Hi-Fi Rush and Pentiment, followed by Sea of Thieves and Grounded. Spencer claims there hasn’t been a change to the company doing Xbox exclusives, yet, at the same time, he also thinks there will be fewer console exclusives across the industry over the next decade.

Sea of Thieves is part of the four Xbox games coming to rival platforms.
Sea of Thieves is part of the four Xbox games coming to rival platforms.
Image: Rare

“I do have a fundamental belief that over the next five or ten years exclusive games, games that are exclusive to one piece of hardware, are going to be a smaller and smaller part of the game industry,” says Spencer on the Xbox podcast.

Microsoft is framing this move as just four games that the company can learn from, testing the waters if you will. But rumors have suggested that Microsoft’s ambitions for multiplatform games go much deeper. Starfield was rumored for PS5, and I reported earlier this month that Microsoft has been considering launching Indiana Jones on PS5 months after its Xbox launch.

Spencer confirms that Starfield and Indiana Jones are not part of the first four games, but he doesn’t rule out the possibility for these titles to arrive on PS5 in the future. “I don’t think we should as an industry ever rule out a game going to any other platform,” says Spencer in an interview with The Verge. “We’re focused on these four games and learning from the experience. We don’t have work going on, on other franchises. But for anybody to stand up and say something’s never going to happen, I think it feels like creating more certainty in a world of gaming where you really want to respond to what customers want and what our players and creators are looking for.”

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So, not every Xbox game is suddenly going to appear on rival consoles, but Microsoft is clearly considering the potential for more in the future. I asked Spencer whether there will be more multiplatform games, especially if these four are successful:

Yeah, but we haven’t seen that yet. We’re obviously one of the biggest publishers on PlayStation and Nintendo today, when you think about the Activision Blizzard and Bethesda lineup of games. So we know what it means to ship games on Steam, PlayStation, Nintendo, and Xbox.

These are games that originally launched on Xbox. They were Xbox-branded games and we want to see what happens, because going and doing the development work to bring them to new platforms is real work. We want to make sure that the return makes sense. We want to make sure the audience that’s there has an appetite, maybe they don’t.

I understand that Microsoft has also previously been weighing up the idea of bringing Gears of War, Microsoft Flight Simulator, and even the next Doom game to rival platforms. Final decisions haven’t been made on these other games, but there’s bound to be more than just four. As this strategy evolves, it’s clear there will be some interesting decisions being made about the future of Xbox games and exclusivity.

So, why does Microsoft need to launch Xbox exclusives on rival platforms? The company talks of a need for Xbox to evolve “to ensure long-term success for both Xbox and the industry as a whole.” Microsoft’s gaming business just grew to be bigger than the Windows division thanks to the Activision Blizzard acquisition, so it’s not in trouble. The Xbox business as a whole still needs to get bigger, though. Microsoft’s Xbox Series S and X console sales lag behind Sony’s PlayStation 5, and Spencer previously admitted its Xbox Game Pass subscriptions were slowing down. Content revenue, then, could be a good source of growth.

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Microsoft is now seizing an opportunity to put its games elsewhere, or “Xbox Everywhere” as the company refers to it internally. “We’re making these decisions for some specific reasons,” says Spencer. “We make every decision with the long-term health of Xbox in mind, which means a growing platform, our games performing, building the best platform for creators, reaching as many players as we can. We’re always looking to learn as a leadership team and to grow, and we think this is an interesting point in time for us to use what some of the other platforms have right now to help grow our franchises.”

Xbox fan reactions will inform Microsoft’s next steps. “I always take the feedback from our most ardent fans very seriously,” admits Spencer, who’s not sold on the idea of exclusives always helping Xbox console sales. “We know today when people are playing, their affinity for their platform is as much about their friends and where their games library is as it is any kind of one exclusive game. I know there’s this fictitious world where people think that one exclusive game kind of kicks off the sales of a platform, but the industry just doesn’t really work that way today.”

Fans are also worried about the future of Xbox hardware, and Microsoft is teasing a next-gen console to help reassure them. “There’s some exciting stuff coming out in hardware that we’re going to share this holiday, and we’re also invested in the next-generation road map,” says Xbox president Sarah Bond on the Xbox podcast. “What we’re really focused on there is delivering the largest technical leap that you will have ever seen in a hardware generation.”

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There are even some “more console and controller options” for Xbox fans this holiday, and perhaps even an Xbox handheld in the future. You can read more about Microsoft’s Xbox hardware plans here.

I finished my interview with Phil Spencer by asking him what is Xbox to Microsoft now? “Xbox is our gaming platform and content business. It’s the number one consumer business that Microsoft has,” says Spencer. “It’s an important business, it’s a consumer category that is driven by technology and creativity.”

But he never mentions that Xbox is a console, a single piece of hardware, because it’s not anymore. Microsoft Gaming has grown way beyond the Xbox. Now the company is beginning to really show what its Xbox Everywhere vision is all about. If Microsoft is successful, it could change the way the entire game industry thinks about making games. If it’s not, then you can bet Microsoft will be back to the drawing board to figure out how it can continue to take Xbox everywhere.

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