Xbox is reportedly going to release Starfield on PlayStation 5 — is the death of Xbox-exclusive games nigh? (Update)

A stunning view of a sunset behind the spaceship on Starfield
(Image credit: https://www.reddit.com/user/gr8whitebraddah/)

What you need to know

  • Rumors are swirling that Xbox is gearing up to end its console-exclusive games run, with a wide array of titles slated to hit its main console rival, Sony's PlayStation 5. 
  • Sea of Thieves and Hi-Fi Rush have both been rumored for the multi-platform treatment, owing to both games' saturation on Xbox and PC. Hi-Fi Rush also had in-game t-shirts datamined, which seem to hint at a run on PlayStation and Nintendo Switch. 
  • We started hearing rumors about Microsoft's multiplatform ambitions back in early December, which were then effectively confirmed by Xbox CFO Tim Stuart at a Wells Fargo meeting a short while ago. 
  • It was unclear whether or not it would be select titles, or many titles, but this latest report from XboxEra suggests that even flagship exclusives like Starfield are destined for PlayStation too. 
  • UPDATE: Reportedly Indiana Jones, and even Gears of War are being considered for multi-platform treatment, amid continuing radio silence from Microsoft. 

It's a bold new world for Xbox, and the death of the term "Xbox exclusive" may be rapidly approaching. 

Recent reports have suggested heavily that Microsoft is planning to take games like Hi-Fi Rush and Sea of Thieves beyond Xbox and Windows, with PlayStation and Nintendo Switch versions planned. Microsoft would usually be eager to shut down rumors like this, but the total radio silence has become deafening in recent weeks, lending further credence to the rumors. 

For what it's worth, our sources have been indicating to us since early December that Sea of Thieves was slated for a multi-platform release, although we were unable to fully verify it at the time. Later on, various outlet's reports and rumors began to swirl that Hi-Fi Rush, last year's surprise hit action game is also slated for multi-platform treatment. The rumor gained additional credence when datamined assets hinted at PlayStation blue, and Nintendo red in-game t-shirts to celebrate the multiplatform approach. 

UPDATE (Feb 5, 2024): Reportedly, Indiana Jones (via The Verge) and even long-time Xbox staple Gears of War (via Jeff Grubb) are also being considered for multiplatform treatment. Microsoft has so far declined to comment. 

Fans have been wondering and waiting to find out if and when Microsoft would confirm or deny these rumors. We've also been speculating about exactly what types of games would go exclusive and what wouldn't. Sea of Thieves makes sense on paper, perhaps the game has achieved all it can on Xbox and PC, and going further afield could give the game a fresh audience (and fresh cash in the process). Hi-Fi Rush is a little more confusing, since, while the game "achieved" millions of players, the bulk of this was likely via Xbox Game Pass "for free" and not via retail sales. Hi-Fi Rush only managed a 6000-player all-time peak on Steam, suggesting that retail appetite was probably not exactly hot for the game. Either way, grabbing new players on new platforms will certainly help the game's profitability, so it's not exactly illogical either. However, a new report from XboxEra seems to suggest that even Xbox's flagship exclusives are also heading to competing platforms too. 

Starfield

Starfield enjoyed a warm critical reception at launch, but Steam users have granted it a "mostly negative" review rating in recent weeks, owing at least in part to the game's weak longevity compared to the likes of Skyrim or Fallout.  (Image credit: u/Punidue on Reddit)

It seems that Starfield itself may be slated for PlayStation 5, according to the report. XboxEra claims that Starfield will launch on PlayStation 5 some time after the release of Starfield's first DLC, "Shattered Space," which is supposedly slated as an upcoming Xbox game for 2024. 

As of writing, I'm unable to verify the specificity of Starfield coming to PlayStation, but I can confirm that Microsoft as of right this second is planning to launch more and more of its "Xbox exclusives" onto PlayStation and Nintendo Switch where applicable. The part of the report from XboxEra I can corroborate is that the decision to do this has been the subject of stringent internal debate, and even now, seems to be perceived as a huge risk.

The logic for doing this, and the risks

Xbox Series S

(Image credit: Jennifer Young / Windows Central)

Microsoft is banking on the idea that its large base of users across Xbox One and the Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S platform, which account for roughly half of the active console install base apiece according to my sources, will remain unphased by the change. The vast majority of the casual console audience tend to stick to a few games per year, revolving around staples like FIFA, Call of Duty, Fortnite, and Minecraft, and similar. For so-called "core" games, the Xbox and PC audiences alone may simply not be large enough to achieve the margins Microsoft needs to deliver the quality Xbox fans have long been asking for. PlayStation's larger audience may be able to help improve profitability on that side of the equation, which Microsoft can then use to fund timed exclusives for the Xbox ecosystem — that at least in theory — achieve a higher bar.

However, you have to wonder if ditching exclusive games, or even obfuscating the concept could lead to a large backlash from core, long-suffering Xbox fans who have stuck through Microsoft despite years of repeated missteps, mishaps, and failed projects. Additionally, Microsoft runs the risk of perpetuating a meme that Xbox no longer has anything exclusive, and that PlayStation is now, without a shadow of a doubt, the default console of choice for the vast majority.

It's going to be a bad look if Xbox fans spent the past 2 plus years "beta testing" Starfield, only for a "finished" Definitive Edition to launch later on something like the rumored PlayStation 5 Pro, while potentially running better too. 

In a perfect world, it would be celebrated that Starfield is going to PS5. But PlayStation isn't going to offer anything in return, obviously, to ensure Xbox stays even vaguely competitive. It's hard to imagine a universe where this could benefit the Xbox ecosystem and thus keep it competitive in an era where competition is already strained. Xbox customers stand to lose decades-worth of investments in Microsoft's ecosystem if it eventually decides to call it quits in hardware. 

"PlayStation uses the money they make off of Xbox Games on PS5 to pay for other games to block on the Xbox Platform."

Xbox CEO, Phil Spencer

Common sense would dictate that Sony will in no way, shape, or form, but games like God of War on Xbox — even if they are experiencing a similar profit margin squeeze. Furthermore, Sony will also take 30% of everything Microsoft does on PlayStation, and they will use that money to further squeeze Xbox hardware, and the Xbox ecosystem out of existence. Xbox CEO Phil Spencer said himself during the regulatory proceedings over Activision-Blizzard that Sony takes a cut of games like Minecraft, and then uses the funds to procure timed exclusivity deals on games like Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Rebirth, specifically to damage Xbox. 

Related: Why Xbox fans are right to doubt Microsoft's multi-platform strategy

So, by Microsoft's own arguments, it seems like common sense that this move predicts a potential future where Xbox hardware is no longer desirable, third-party support dwindles, and a self-perpetuating, self-created policy leads to Xbox customers' losing decades of investment in content. But perhaps Microsoft knows something we don't. 

One thing is for sure, for Xbox customers, Microsoft needs to come out and clarify all of this ASAP. 

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • dennarai
    All I get from this is Microsoft is trying to make their own gaming ecosystem fail. People already have very little reason to get an Xbox and now they are just giving people less.
    Reply
  • Jez Corden
    dennarai said:
    All I get from this is Microsoft is trying to make their own gaming ecosystem fail. People already have very little reason to get an Xbox and now they are just giving people less.
    microsoft lets money-men run the company, and it's why they fail at consumer products so hard.
    Reply
  • CrashTest
    Feel like its time to cut losses. Sell the Xbox, cancel GP and move to a different platform.

    Not excited about investing further into the ecosystem at this point, I don't want to be the last guy left when they pull the plug
    Reply
  • Ron-F
    I may not like it, but I can see how this could work for Microsoft. They would place their games in all platforms and stream it through Gamepass' subscriptions. The problem is that will kill the Xbox console and streaming will need to grow to replace the revenue from selling games in the Xbox marketplace.

    However, at this point, I would recommend a Switch and/or a Playstation to anyone interested in getting in console gaming.
    Reply
  • Ron-F
    Jez Corden said:
    microsoft lets money-men run the company, and it's why they fail at consumer products so hard.
    To be fair, although I know about the original pitch, I never quite understood how Xbox would ever fit well in Microsoft's business.
    Reply
  • Luuthian
    People have probably already seen my other posts around here but this really stings... I was huge in to the 360 and, following a ten year move to Steam, my choice of hardware from 2018 on was Xbox. This might sound dramatic but I feel foolish investing in a platform that never invested back in its fans. Gamepass has been very kind to me for what I paid back when the Gold conversion was a thing (three years of service for $180 Canadian which is insane). But when that subscription ends this December I'll probably cut all ties with the xbox brand. My Series X is already sold and I've already got a Steam Deck and that covers largely all my needs.

    Really, really sad if this ends up being true because the brand as we know it, at least as far as hardware goes, is probably is living on numbered days. I'll keep buying Microsoft's games though. Just not within their own platform it seems.
    Reply
  • Sean Endicott
    Jez Corden said:
    microsoft lets money-men run the company, and it's why they fail at consumer products so hard.
    Microsoft's actions over the years make it clear the company would prefer two PlayStation customers over one loyal Xbox user who has been in the Microsoft ecosystem for years.

    I understand from a business sense that two is greater than one, but I wonder what the consequences of continuing this plan are.
    Reply
  • fatpunkslim
    This would be a problem not only for the consoles, but for the brand image and ultimately for the sale of games. I think that accountants at Microsoft are not aware of the specificities of the video game industry. The marketing around Xbox and its games exists because there is an Xbox console and because there are Xbox gamers attached to their consoles, Xbox sites talking about Xbox, mainstream sites talking about Xbox. If they remove this, it's over, Xbox will become a small publisher like any other and they will lose visibility, loose money in the medium and long term.

    Furthermore, the cloud works with Xbox series, if there are no more Xbox consoles, third-party publishers will stop making games for Xbox, therefore fewer games for the gamepass and for the cloud! All this is not at all coherent, I expect an official communication from Phil Spencer tomorrow or at worst during the week. And the rumors about a portable Xbox? What's the point if Xbox releases its games everywhere ?
    Reply
  • fatpunkslim
    Jez Corden said:
    microsoft lets money-men run the company, and it's why they fail at consumer products so hard.
    This would be a problem not only for the consoles, but for the brand image and ultimately for the sale of games. I think that accountants at Microsoft are not aware of the specificities of the video game industry. The marketing around Xbox and its games exists because there is an Xbox console and because there are Xbox gamers attached to their consoles, Xbox sites talking about Xbox, mainstream sites talking about Xbox. If they remove this, it's over, Xbox will become a small publisher like any other and they will lose visibility, loose money in the medium and long term.
    Reply
  • TBBudak
    Xbox fanboys don't want to admit that Xbox going third party will elevate the brand to nea heights.

    Xbox sales have literally collapsed, even with a $250 Series S, nobody is buying Xbox'. GamePass has failed to reach growth goal for 3 years straight.

    Microsoft spent $100 billion dollars IN CASH on Xbox since 2020. That's an amount of money we truly cannot comprehend. With its current strategy, it'll take a century to make that money back.

    Microsoft has so many studios, so many amazing IPs, that hardware is no longer needed, and if hardware is not needed, neither is exclusivity.

    Why purposely handicap the success of your games by locking them behind a dying brand? Microsoft will become one of the biggest third party publishers in the world, most likely outgrowing PS in the process.

    I don't know if these rumors are true, but if they are, good job on Microsoft for not allowing themselves to kill Xbox (unlike these so called fans.)

    Would you rather have Halo on Playstation? Or no Halo at all.

    I welcome this strategy.
    Reply