Reaction: Xbox threads the needle for an evolving strategy

Tina Amini, Phil Spencer, Sarah Bond, and Matt Booty on the Official Xbox Podcast
(Image credit: Official Xbox Podcast)

The eventful day Xbox players were waiting for has come and gone, and here we all are.

During a special episode of the Official Xbox Podcast, Microsoft Gaming leadership talked over a number of topics, including the future of Xbox hardware and Xbox Game Pass, as well as the fact that yes, four Xbox first-party games are heading to other consoles. While Team Xbox declined to name the games, The Verge reports that the titles in question are Sea of Thieves, Hi-Fi Rush, Pentiment, and Grounded, hailing from the Xbox teams at Rare, Tango Gameworks, and Obsidian Entertainment, respectively. 

This comes after weeks of speculation, rumors, and reports reached a boiling point, with theories ranging from the idea of Xbox completely ceasing to exist to simply porting every game to another platform. Setting aside for a moment how a fair bit of this hysteria was never based in reality, many players had genuine concerns, and it would've been easy for this "business update event" to go poorly. 

Instead, the gaming team navigated murky waters with aplomb, tackling most of the question marks that were circulating on social media, even though many of said questions were never brought up by any meaningful reporting. 

Hi-Fi Rush has reached three million players on Xbox and PC.  (Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Xbox hardware isn't going away, with the team working on the next generation systems right now, focusing on delivering a huge leap while also keeping in mind backward compatibility. Xbox first-party games are continuing to head to Xbox Game Pass on day one. As for games, there's still a number of exclusive titles, but that's less of a focus and the teams are open to bringing games over once they aren't really selling or have reached a saturated audience across Xbox consoles and Windows PC.

In a quote that stood out to me, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said he has 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."

Ever since bringing in Minecraft back in 2014, Microsoft has been both a first and third-party platform. That has been amplified through the back catalog from acquisitions of companies like ZeniMax Media and especially Activision Blizzard King. If a game is no longer serving a point for a platform exclusively, then bringing it to more players (and generating more revenue) just makes sense. 

The proof is in the execution

Obviously, things could change in the future. Who knows what Xbox — or the rest of the gaming industry, for that matter — will look like in the next five years. But at this moment in time, I appreciate the candor of the Xbox team, business-driven that it might be, in why the company is making this change while still committing to its core audience. 

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.