Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer wants PC gaming stores on Xbox

Phil Spencer
(Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Speaking with Polygon, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer noted that he'd like to see PC gaming stores like the Epic Games Store on Xbox consoles.
  • Spencer explained that with the console market not growing overall, providing options for players has value. 
  • There's nothing officially happening right now. 

Imagine sitting down, turning on your Xbox console, and loading up your...Epic Games Store library? According to Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer, it's something he'd like to see. 

In an interview with Polygon, Spencer talked about how the console market is flat overall (meaning that the same people are buying consoles, but the overall market isn't growing) and that one of the ways to provide more options for players would be to open consoles up. Hypothetically, this could mean allowing players using an Xbox console to buy games from the Xbox Store or from the Epic Games Store.

“[Consider] our history as the Windows company," Spencer said. "Nobody would blink twice if I said, ‘Hey, when you’re using a PC, you get to decide the type of experience you have [by picking where to buy games]. There’s real value in that.”

Spencer added that “if I want to play on a gaming PC, then I feel like I’m more a continuous part of a gaming ecosystem as a whole. As opposed to [on console], my gaming is kind of sharded — to use a gaming term — based on these different closed ecosystems that I have to play across.”

Microsoft is invested in PC gaming as well as Xbox

Microsoft is no stranger to PC gaming, and in recent years it has doubled-down, bringing every Xbox game to Steam and PC Game Pass at the same time as the console release. Players that purchase a first-party game digitally on Xbox are entitled to the Microsoft Store version for free, and vice-versa, via Xbox Play Anywhere.

The Xbox App for PC Game Pass, which has seen a fair bit of criticism over the past few years, has also garnered improvements recently for better functionality and ease of use. This support has also grown due to major acquisitions across the past couple of years, with Microsoft bringing ZeniMax Media and Activision Blizzard King in parts of the Xbox organization. 

Spencer has also previously talked at length about the need for better cross-save support across the gaming industry, wanting players to have their saves and progress regardless of where they choose to play a game.

Analysis: An idyllic future that won't be easily attained?

The idea of getting PC gaming stores on Xbox consoles is fascinating. It's also something that would be a gargantuan undertaking. At bare minimum, I assume it would require some sort of Steam Deck-esque verification system, with PC games rated as optimized, playable, or nonfunctional with Xbox hardware. 

It's a neat thought experiment, and I'll always applaud moves that provide more robust competition and benefits for players, but if this is the future, it's probably some years off at the earliest. 

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.

  • fdruid
    I have an idea. Just make the next console be a PC with a custom interface. Win/win. Unified platform, people still use PC, etc.
    Steam PCs was not a bad idea after all.
  • Gabe Szabo
    To be clear, he wasn't walking about "the" Epic Games Store being on consoles as is. He was talking about how he would like to see alternative storefronts available on consoles where you could purchase digital content.

    In this "dream scenario", none of the games on the current Epic Games Store would be compatible with an Xbox console, but Epic would be able to sell games, probably even exclusively in their own store. I'm guessing in this scenario Microsoft could still take a portion of the games sold on alternative storefronts, just as we currently see the response from Apple to the EU DMA.

    Actually though, this would require quite a few pieces of the puzzle to work from a technical standpoint: there would need to be a way to allow games originating from alternative storefronts (whitelist alternative public key signatures), an SDK to allow publishing games and supply the alternative storefront with content, the alternative storefront would need to call as-of-yet nonexistent system APIs and Microsoft's online APIs, and so on. Sure, it's technically possible, but a huge bit of work. I see this statement as more of a general "we're open to where the market wants us to go to, including the possibility of alternative storefronts". I'm guessing they're talking about the possibilities and viability of these alternatives nowadays.
  • fjtorres5591
    That was my read. Spencer wasn't talking about PC games but about other stores selling. XBOX games on the console.

    Right now Amazon and others sell XBOX games via digital codes but with Spencer's idea you'd buy the game and it would instantly install without having to enter the digital code. It shouldn't be hard to implement if all they do is via a separate store app (like Amazon's app store on amazon). All it requires it the app to access the user's game authentication list. The game coud install off the existing XBOX store just as Amazon Kindle fullfill's library rentals from the KDP store. Not hard. MS could collect a small vig (5%?) from the alternate store.

    (Given that he said that to POLYGON it might be a dig at SONY's court case in the UK.)

    Makes sense because different stores have different deals with the publishers and run their own sales at different times.

    Now, running PC games on XBOXes is a doable option via a dual boot app (extra cost, of course) to run full windows the way developer mode toggles. It would be most valuable for old PC games that don't exist as XBOX games.