Last week, Microsoft and THQ Nordic worked together to bring five Microsoft exclusive titles to Steam, Valve's PC gaming service. This has spawned a discussion in the gaming community about whether or not Microsoft should continue this direction with other titles. Here are the pros and cons of that happening.
Pros: Outreach, profit, and PC authority
If exclusives, especially popular ones like The Master Chief Collection or Gears of War 4 came to Steam, they would likely gain a lot of traction. Earlier this year. PC Gamer reported that Steam had 18 million players online at once, and Steam's own site advertises 100 million active accounts. Considering this is almost double the active user base of Xbox Live, bringing these games to Steam is a huge opportunity for franchise outreach.
Selling to this many people also opens the door for Microsoft to make a large profit, too. This is especially true for anything Halo related, as PC-only gamers have been waiting to play Halo 3 and beyond ever since the release of Halo 2 Vista in 2007. Lastly, moving exclusives to Steam could help Microsoft repair their damaged relationship with PC players, who, for good reason, have been extremely dissatisfied with the Microsoft Store.
Cons: Royalties, weaker console authority
While the opportunity for profit is there for Microsoft, Valve does force publishers to give a portion of sales revenue to them, and that's a large factor. A legal case involving SEGA and THQ in 2013 revealed that the specific amount Valve takes is 30%. There's no information on whether or not that has changed, but there isn't reason to think it has.
Additionally, this would weaken Microsoft's authority in the console market. Xbox One is already losing the battle with PlayStation 4 in terms of exclusives, so bringing the ones it does have to Steam would effectively be making the issue worse. It could be argued that Xbox already does that with Xbox Play Anywhere, but mainstream knowledge of the Microsoft Store's existence is in short supply, and those that are aware of it, generally know how bad it is.
Conclusion: Bring them to Steam down the line
Ultimately, I think Microsoft should bring exclusive titles to Steam a few years after they release on Xbox. While Valve's royalty fees are unfortunate for Redmond, exposing franchises to over 100 million active users is worth it in the long run, both financially and authoritatively. While it is true that more Steam releases will weaken the Xbox One's competitiveness, most games don't remain system sellers two or three years post-launch anyway.
Besides, Microsoft has been leaning towards a multiplatform focus for a while now. They should capitalize on the potential that Valve's service brings to the table.
What do you think Microsoft should do in regards to Steam? Let me know in the comments.
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