Microsoft and its future Xbox Series X have given a lot to talk about in recent days. They have done it with a decision that if finally confirmed could mark the future of a console that wants to compete with the PS5 but that will do so with a potential fundamental disadvantage: “there will be no exclusive games for Xbox Series X, at least in a year or two“as Matt Booty, one of the directors of Xbox Game Studios, indicated.
Booty’s phrase contrasts with the data given by one of Kotaku’s editors on the Splitscreen podcast: Sony will have exclusive games for the PS5 at launch, and that means for many to start the war of new generation consoles with a difference that could significantly mark the sales of both machines. Perhaps what marks, in addition, are two different ways of understanding these video game platforms from now on.
Beware of repeating the Xbox One launch disaster
When Microsoft announced the Xbox One in 2013 it did so with a campaign riddled with nonsense. Their managers, without a unified and clear message, filled users with doubts and confusion. They told us that the console would have to be connected 24 hours when in reality that did not end up being necessary, and they told us that they would not allow the sale of second-hand games when they finally did give that option.
But above all they ended up messing up with Kinect: that peripheral became an obligatory part of the purchase of the console, which caused that the PS4 was initially 100 euros cheaper than the Xbox One. By the time Microsoft reacted it was too late: the damage had been done, and the evolution of Sales, helped by other factors, was very favorable to the PS4. Kinect, by the way, would die a little later.
All those mistakes weighed down the launch from the Microsoft console, and it seems that their managers learned their lesson. Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, indicated that they did not want to repeat those gaffes with the Xbox Series X, but the recent statements of Matt Booty, director of Xbox Game Studios, do not seem to favor that goal.
Exclusive games as a sales pitch, yes or no?
Booty explained in that interview with MCVUK that “as our content comes out over the next year or two, all of our games, something like what happens on the PC, they can be played on all that family of devices. We want to make sure that if someone invests in Xbox from here to feel like you’ve made a good investment and that we are committed to content with them. “
As our SamaGame colleagues revealed, this strategy is certainly more respectful of current Xbox One users in any of its editions: “leaving behind the nearly 50 million Xbox One units sold also means leaving behind 50 million potential customers of the Xbox Game Pass service.”
Perhaps there is precisely the key for Microsoft with this potential decision. Not having exclusives at the Xbox Series X launch allows not excluding current players.
The scenario that arises is that of a more powerful console for those who want it, but What good will buying it if there are no games that take advantage of its potential?
Here Booty’s statements leave room for various interpretations. The speaker is the director of Xbox Game Studios, Microsoft’s own developer, but it may not speak for the entire industry And that other development houses do raise their titles as exclusive to the Xbox Series X.
The other option is that those future games can be played on all Xbox One and Xbox Series X, but with improved options for the latter. We already saw in ‘Forza Horizon 4’ how Microsoft offered two game modes: one 4K at 30 FPS and one 1080p at 60 FPS.
That could be an avenue for developers, which is the traditional way of playing on PC: the game offers a menu where you can choose the resolution and level of detail you want to play at: that your PC can then show a fluid experience with those preferences depends on the hardware, but in the end the user is in control: if you want to sacrifice detail to obtain more fluidity, you can do it, and if you want to do the opposite, you can also do it.
That vision makes sense if we consider that Booty says in his statements “something like what happens on the PC”, but it also seems consistent with what Phil Spencer when he spoke of Project Scarlett and his intention with that console: “I want compete, I want to compete in the right way, that is why we have given so much importance to cross play and backward compatibility“.
Sony and the incentives debate
While Microsoft seems to be willing not to have exclusive games for its future Xbox Series X, in Sony they propose precisely the opposite. At least that is what is reflected in the comments of Jason Schreier, editor of Kotaku, who in the aforementioned Splitscreen podcast (minute 29) mentioned that Sony will have exclusive games for the PS5 at its launch. Games that current PS4 users will not be able to play.
A priori, Sony’s strategy might seem much more logical than Microsoft’s: I buy a PS5 because otherwise I won’t be able to play game X or game Y. On the Xbox One that incentive does not exist because if those plans are fulfilled we will be able to play that game X or that game Y on the current Xbox One.
The advantages and disadvantages are clear. The problem for Sony is that it will divide its users into two factionsBut the advantage is that those who want the newest (and the best?) will have to buy a PS5.
That doesn’t seem to have been a problem in the past: each new generation of consoles has always broken with the previous one, and we’ve only seen a reconciliation of old and new consoles thanks to backward compatibility support. Microsoft has put a lot of emphasis on this, while Sony’s approach to this area has been more timid.
For Microsoft, however, precisely this problem of backward compatibility is added: there are rumors that reveal that the PS5 will be compatible with the PS4, so current users of this console will have one more incentive to make the jump to the new console: they will be able to play the exclusives of the PS5, but they will also be able to continue enjoying their library of games for the PS4.
In the Xbox Series X that incentive does not exist because, raised as Microsoft seems to be considering them, it does not matter what console we have (between the Xbox One and the Xbox Series X), we will be able to access a unified catalog of games. Buy a new console and make that investment will depend on much less direct factors.
Neither of the two positions is definitive, but of course two totally different strategies and two ways of understanding the future of video games are proposed here: one, Microsoft’s, focused on cross-play, backward compatibility and -of course- Game Pass-, and another, that of Sony, which turns into its successful catalog of exclusives.
In the absence of seeing what finally happens, we have before us a unique debate and a way of considering that future of consoles that could differentiate Microsoft from Sony more than ever in this segment.