When it comes to Xbox games on PS5 and Nintendo Switch, Phil Spencer has been saying it all along

Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5
(Image credit: Future)

The Xbox community is an interesting place to be right now. That's putting it as politely as I can. The impending "business update" promised by Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer, the constantly swirling rumors of Xbox first-party titles heading to the PS5 and Nintendo Switch, and honestly, a number of folks out there on social media that really aren't helping themselves or the overall situation. 

But here's the deal. It shouldn't be a big deal. I'm old enough to have lived through the 'console wars,' and I'm tired of it. I've been console gaming for over 30 years now. I'm tired, cranky, and certainly have a different outlook on gaming than I once did. You are not the box under your TV, and you shouldn't succumb to tribalism over a piece of hardware. Be it a console, a PC, or the smartphone in your pocket. 

"When everybody plays, we all win." 

Phil Spencer has been saying it all along. He even printed it inside the Xbox 20th Anniversary controller.

Truer words never spoken

An important message from Phil Spencer that suddenly everyone seems to be forgetting.  (Image credit: Windows Central)

More people playing great games is a good thing. It's never, ever been a bad thing. Why should your choice of console or PC be a barrier to having a good time with your friends, family, or complete strangers over the internet? 

I'm going to use a personal example here. My son and I have had a lot of fun playing Minecraft Dungeons together. He would play on his Nintendo Switch, and I would play on my Xbox, but we could both play the same game, separately or together. At the time it came out, he didn't have an Xbox of his own. So, if this Microsoft-owned game had been an Xbox exclusive, we would have missed out on this time. 

But in the wider picture, how many others would have missed out had they not been able to play this game on their Switch or PS5? This is the key to the message. Even though he now has an Xbox Series S, my son still gravitates towards his Switch more often. This is in no small part because it's portable, and he can play it sitting in bed, on the sofa, or he can take it out of the house and play on it with his friends when they're together. 

In what universe is it a bad thing if more people, kids, and adults alike, get to experience great games? I bought a PS5 at launch but sold it recently because I just wasn't using it. Why's that? Because I have an Xbox Series X and a PC, and Sony is putting more and more of its games on the latter now. I can still enjoy some of those games (still waiting for Spider-Man 2, by the way, Sony) without the need to worry so much about which box I need to buy. This is a good thing. 

Microsoft has been expanding Xbox beyond the console for years anyway

Microsoft has been expanding Xbox beyond the physical console for years now.  (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft has its own hardware but is predominantly a software and services company. It's obviously doing a lot right, given its recent ascendancy to the lofty heights of a $3 trillion market cap and the title of the most valuable company on the planet. 

Take a step back and look at recent years, too. Microsoft didn't buy Activision to sell more Xbox consoles. The expansion of Xbox beyond the physical console has been happening for years, too, first to the PC, then to the cloud. Xbox isn't dying; it's positioning itself for the future. A future where more people than ever before can play its games. 

I'm not necessarily saying that everything Xbox makes should suddenly be thrown onto PS5 and Switch. After all, we're not getting Spider-Man or Gran Turismo, Zelda or Mario on Xbox any time soon, are we? Exclusives are still going to be a thing in gaming. I can't see a world in which either of the two Japanese console makers will start considering fewer exclusives. Nintendo's entire business strategy seems to be built on playing on the nostalgic fandom it has acquired over the decades. 

Microsoft is a smart, successful company. These kinds of decisions don't happen overnight. If, indeed, Xbox is going to start shipping more of its first-party titles to competing consoles, then it must mean they see an avenue for success. A successful Xbox means more money, more great games, and more jobs for people to make those games. 

Other console players having games to play shouldn't impact your own enjoyment

Don't be beholden to the box you play your games on. Enjoy yourself and be happy for the enjoyment of others.  (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

This may be my parent-head kicking in, but your own happiness and enjoyment of your games should not be linked to whether they're exclusive to the piece of hardware you decide to play them on. If you're having a good time, that's what matters, but also that others are having a good time, too. 

I hate tribalism. I hate that one side has to be better than the other. The reason I've stayed invested in the Xbox platform despite buying the other consoles is that I enjoy Xbox the most. I enjoy it more now because increasingly I don't have to play Xbox games on the box under my TV. I can play them on my laptop, my gaming PC, my Steam Deck, or even my phone. 

That's why I'd always recommend Xbox to others, too. I just think it has the better overall platform. You're not as locked into a device as you are with the others. I enjoy that freedom. 

Whatever you enjoy, more people potentially being able to play more great games definitely shouldn't impact your own experience. In theory, it should make the future better. It's certainly not a reason to throw away a thing you bought, and definitely not a reason to get angry on the internet. 

Always remember the wise words of Phil Spencer that inspired this very post. When everybody plays, we all win. 

Richard Devine
Managing Editor - Tech, Reviews

Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine

  • K Shan
    It's not about other consoles having the games. It's about Xbox being the only console not having exclusives and getting nothing in return for buying an Xbox. They did the same thing with Windows Phone and many other things before killing it. I am sick of getting burned by their MS Only, look how much money we are spending - > MS First, This will actually help you - > MS Best, No we aren't planning to kill it -> MS kind of supported, just following the uses - > Why are you still here?

    I'll wait until MS's announcement before deciding anything. These are all rumors and maybe they will still keep some exclusives or reasons to get an Xbox. But thinking on it and looking at everything it feels like MS is done with it. If MS thinks Xbox has a future, why is it the one thing MS is not shoving Copilot into it?
  • John McIlhinney
    I don't have a console and have always played games on PC, so I don't really have a dog in this fight. I do think that some Xbox fans are overreacting, at least until an official announcement has been made, but I do understand their feelings and their frustration. It's all well and good saying that we all win when we all play but, if you're the only one playing by those rules, you end being the only one losing. In reality, it doesn't hurt an Xbox gamer if every Xbox exclusive was made available on other consoles. They can still play all the same games they could, so what's the harm, right? Sure, but then what's the benefit to buying an Xbox? If all those games are available on PS and all the PS exclusives are too, why would they buy an Xbox over a PS? It was like this with Windows Phone, where Microsoft were making all their apps available on other platforms while other developers were not making theirs available on WP. After a while, some Microsoft apps were better on other platforms and then WP went the way of the dodo. I bought an Android phone and lost access to the few apps I'd paid for on WP and I'm sure many people had bought more than I did. There's a genuine concern that Microsoft will eventually discontinue the Xbox hardware and then anyone whop wants an actual console will have wasted a significant portion of their investment in the ecosystem.
  • Willpower
    This is not just bad for Xbox players, it's potentially bad for every console player be it Playstation or Switch users, hell even PC.

    I hate exclusives as much as the next guy, and despite having been an Xbox kid growing up I was initially real happy about these news. The idea that anyone could have access to get to experience games like Halo or Gears or I suppose future Elder Scrolls etc. is awesome. I could see some of my friends who haven't been able to play Bungie's Halo games maybe finally get the chance to. That's all great news and how it should be. Games arbitrarily held hostage on X platform you purchased shouldn't be what you "get in return" for buying a console. Your reward shouldn't be that other people besides you can't enjoy the same thing. Point being, exclusives suck. The reward should instead be found in the actual hardware you bought, the software experience around the games, the online infrastructure, the controller, basically everything surrounding the game experiencing which is what a console mostly is, a portal into the creative experiences of games themselves. That last bit shouldn't be exclusive to anyone, every game should be available to as many people as possible.

    HOWEVER, that's not how the console game industry works. These platforms live and die off of exclusives, that's their weapon and competition against one another. It's very unfortunate but true. If Microsoft decides to stop producing anything exclusive and releasing everywhere, it's not just out of pure user friendliness. It's short term profit to please shareholders. It's Microsoft potentially transitioning away from being one of the big three console manufacturers who influences the entire industry to an easier and more immediately profitable business: publishing. It's something they already do, but now they can back off more and more from the expensive and difficult hardware side of things. That's not good. That's 1/3 console manufacturers down, and 1/2 of the high end console experience gone. This affects everyone. Xbox is pretty much dead then, relegating their console to being just a random piece of hardware on life support, and not being pushed on the games side to create any killer apps. Sony isn't really pushed by anyone then, meaning less games, less jobs, worse Playstation hardware etc. and Nintendo similarly (albeit probably less) so. It could be a horrible domino effect for everyone.

    But that's ofc the most dramatic and exaggerated scenario and not necessarily what would happen. All we have is rumors, no one knows what their strategy coming up will be and it'll likely not be a big deal. I just hope that, as much as I want more people to have more access to more games, I also hope we don't lose one of the big core competitors in this industry.
  • fatpunkslim
    It is not that simple. If Xbox is the only one thinking like this, Xbox gamers lose and Xbox loses too. The equation is simple:

    No exclusives = no consoles = no gamepass = no third party games = fewer games sales = game over

    If there are no exclusive games, the consoles won't sell! If the consoles don't sell, no gamepass, most gamepass subscribers are on Xbox consoles. If there are no consoles, third-party publishers will stop making games for Xbox. If there are fewer third-party games, there are fewer games for the gamepass. If there are no or fewer Xbox consoles, it's difficult to promote the gamepass, we can't count on other platforms to do it. In terms of brand images, it would be terrible, even sales of Xbox games would suffer, even if they were available on more platforms.

    Afterwards, there is a balance to find, and this is what the Xbox team is working on in my opinion, finding the right balance to maximize profitability without shooting itself in the foot by wanting to be too greedy. There is a line that must not be crossed.

    For example, historically multi-platform licenses, leave them multi-platform. The new licenses, keep them exclusive while allowing the right to make certain small games multiplatform 2 years later. Historical and exclusive Xbox licenses, keep them exclusive, because otherwise it would send a very bad message and Xbox consoles would lose their interest and Xbox brand will suffer (+ the snowball effect explained above).

    In any case Phil Spencer must draw a clear and easily understandable line that we can anticipate for the next games without needing to ask the question "will the game be exclusive or not? If so for how long ?”

    The objective is to provide visibility for the future and avoid this type of false rumors. A clear message for the present and the future that restores confidence, good for business, and good for all players.

    "Good for all players", because even PlayStation players do not want a PlayStation monopoly which would mean, increase in the price of games, increase in the price of consoles, fewer AAA games. Indeed, why bother making AAA games if you can make do with third-party games? This is already what they are doing, in fact, only 1 first party game in 2 years, 0 games from PlayStation studios for 2024. We saw it clearly in the last state of play, many mediocre games which did not not the quality of first party games (apart from death stranding 2). But without Xbox it would be much worse.
  • coliander
    It seems that nobody is seeing Microsoft's long game here. Console gaming's days (as we know them) are numbered. Nvidia has demonstrated the potential of Gaming on Demand and it's been clear for some time now that this is where Sony and Microsoft are going to focus their efforts.
    Within 10 years, the vast majority of gamers will be streaming games via cloud services, in precisely the same manner as the vast majority of people with DVD/BluRay players now consume content via Video on Demand.
    Netflix/Prime/Max etc can not compete with the fidelity of a physical BluRay disc, but the quality is 'good enough' for the vast majority as demonstrated by the absolutely huge number of VoD subscribers vs BluRay consumers. There will still be an option for gamers to play games via a local device at the best available quality (PC acting as the enthusiast medium much as BluRay players currently do), but most will find the streaming services to be more than adequate to fill their needs. With the development of AV1 and its successors and Nvidia's clout in the AI space, Geforce Now - despite already proving impressive - will look positively archaic compared to the Gaming on Demand services available a decade from now.
    From a business perspective, it makes much more sense for Microsoft/Sony to channel their efforts into publishing and move away from hardware R&D. We've already reached a saturation point where consoles are sitting upon a cross-gen tightrope for well over 12 months - why not move exclusively onto PC architecture where technological advancement can be applied much more linearly and without releasing a new client device to the public every 5 or so years?
    I suspect that the PS5/Series X will be the final generation of traditional consoles, with Sony and Microsoft releasing Gaming on Demand streaming-specific clients at the end of the PS5/XSX life cycle. These client devices will have certain features (gaming capture, enhanced local streaming, app support) but will be locked to Sony/Microsoft's own game streaming services to ensure continued revenue.

    Microsoft publishing games for PlayStation in this sense is absolutely no different than Sony publishing games for PC. Both companies are trying to increase brand recognition and win new fans before moving to a far more affordable/accessible format. Why compete over who has the 'best console'? When you can instead offer a streaming device for £100 to the consumer and instead compete over who can offer the best streaming service, instead?