What a wild week. Many people are convinced that Xbox is pulling a Sega and exiting the console market. This stems from a few rumors from (now deleted) Reddit posts and picked up by several outlets, like Game Informer. The thought is that Microsoft will restructure how they approach console exclusives going forward. Phil Spencer’s latest announcement of a business update slated for the coming week has been vague, leading some to view this as Xbox giving up on their previous statements about continuing the Xbox brand. That begs the question, what is going on? Why would Microsoft put some first-party games on the PS5 and Nintendo Switch? Will only two players be in the space during the next console generation?

I do not believe Xbox plans on leaving the console business anytime soon. For one, it isn’t uncommon for console exclusives to head to other consoles. Ori and the Blind Forest was released on the Switch in 2019. Final Fantasy 7, albeit 22 years later, made its way onto the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One in 2019. Only two companies have transitioned from 1st party to 3rd party: Atari and Sega.

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Will Xbox Go Third Party?

Before answering the question, let us rewind the clock to 2003 when Sega announced its decision to exit the console market and become a third-party studio. This decision was mainly because of the poor sales of the Sega Saturn and the Dreamcast. At the time, Sega had tough competition with the PS1 and Nintendo 64.

Microsoft is generally behind Playstation and Nintendo in terms of hardware sales, but nowhere near as low as Sega Saturn or the Dreamcast, which sold just a bit over 9 million units. Microsoft going entirely 3rd party does not make sense, considering that Xbox has spent a lot on acquisitions and has been banking on its service, Game Pass, to bolster its “ecosystem” that CEO Phil Spencer has spoken about on several occasions. I do not see Microsoft abandoning ship completely, instead making deals with Playstation and Nintendo to bring some of their older IP to a wider audience.

State of IP

There have been several games rumored to go multi-platform:

Hi-Fi Rush: Among the games speculated to go multi-platform, Tango Gameworks’ Hi-Fi Rush appears to be the most likely to do so. It’s been reported that files have been datamined, suggesting that the rhythm-based action title will be on Nintendo Switch PS5. The developer, Tango GameWorks was a multi-platform studio before being acquired by ZeniMax (who are also now a part of Xbox) in 2021.

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Gears of War: The Coalition is still a part of the Xbox Game Studios umbrella. The most recent game, Gears 5, was released in 2019. The previous head of Studio, Rod Fergusson, departed in 2020, but there are still rumors of a Gears 6.  

If something like a Gears of War game, or Halo: Combat Evolved go multi-plat, they are older titles, so it’s no different than the upcoming Tomb Raider 1 and 2 remaster.

Sea of Thieves: This is more of a wild card, as there isn’t concrete proof, ala Hi-Fi Rush, but speculation of a PS5 port began with Giant Bomb’s Jeff Grub and has been corroborated by VGC and Stephen Totilo, from Game File. It will be interesting to see if this comes to fruition, not for Nintendo, as the company was one of their partners in the 90s, but considering that Rare has never published their games onto PlayStation. Sony does like their live-service games.

Microsoft’s Golden Goose: Game Pass

Leaked Microsoft slide showing "Brooklin" Xbox Series X

Xbox spearheaded the console subscription model and is arguably the most successful. Xbox CEO, Phil Spencer claims that Game Pass is a profitable venture, despite spending about a billion dollars a year on the service. Xbox could leave the console market and survive VIA Game Pass. However, there is a rumor regarding a digital-only console codenamed “Brooklin,” which is speculated to be a mid-generation “refresh”, like the Xbox One X was in 2017. With technology always advancing,

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Xbox Acquisitions

Xbox’s acquisitions over the last few years have been a big push towards expanding their Game Pass catalog, thus increasing subscribers. Microsoft put most of Bethesda’s games on the service immediately after the ZeniMax/Bethesda deal closed. The Activision Blizzard situation is different, as the deal closed in October 2023, and the games may not hit Gamepass until 2024.

What’s Next?

Xbox has not been the clearest in its PR messaging, which is understandably confusing. The term “ecosystem” that is constantly brought up, to me, does not indicate that Microsoft will bow out of the console market. Instead, extending an olive branch to owners of Playstation and Nintendo to cast a wider net. Xbox continuing to stay in the console market would be a pro-consumer move that benefits everyone for the sake of competition.

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