Phil Spencer stated that there’s a major announcement coming soon regarding the Xbox brand and there’s a good chance that it could reveal a pivot to being a third-party publisher.
Xbox exclusives might be a thing of the past. Several notable figures in the industry report a multiplatform future for Xbox Game Studios titles, something that fans and owners of the console have taken poorly, worrying it may kill their favorite console. While this has long been a topic of speculation, there’s strong evidence suggesting it’s about to happen.
Data miners discovered that Hi-Fi Rush will get ported to PlayStation and Nintendo consoles after finding in-game cosmetics related to the platforms. Sea of Thieves is also reportedly set to come out on PlayStation consoles, while notable figures and reporters are speculating that Hellblade 2, Bethesda’s Indiana Jones, and even the iconic Halo franchise are all set to land on other consoles.
What would it mean if Xbox goes third-party?
Xbox becoming a third-party company would likely see the brand become a game publisher and the Game Pass service while dropping the manufacturing of consoles.
Numerous video game console manufacturers have made this move over the years, to varying degrees of success. Atari, SNK, and Sega have all made this move over the years, going from manufacturing gaming hardware to becoming a software publisher that releases games on their former competitors’ consoles.
Though Xbox is primarily known for its line of consoles, it has an enormous game development and publishing operation. Microsoft owned dozens of video game studios even before it acquired Bethesda Softworks, id Software, and Activision Blizzard. If Xbox made the move, it would instantly become the biggest third-party publisher of console games by a considerable margin.
Is Xbox announcement the reveal that it’s going third-party?
Microsoft has not officially confirmed Xbox is going third-party and indications are that it won’t be abandoning Xbox hardware entirely.
Phil Spencer claims to have heard the outcry from fans. He made the announcement of a business update event and promised it would shed more light on Xbox’s future. Notably, Microsoft’s gaming division saw a lot of changes in the span of a few weeks.
The layoffs of over 1,900 staff across multiple arms of the company changed development plans moving forward. Blizzard canceled an unannounced survival game similar to ARK: Survival Evolved, and there may be more cancelations as the effects of the layoffs become clearer. Microsoft is also slowly moving away from physical media, with plans for a diskless Xbox already in the works.
Despite this, there are reports of new Xbox hardware, possibly including a handheld, being greenlit. The fact that numerous Xbox exclusives are being ported means that there’s likely a major shift incoming, but it doesn’t seem like Xbox’s gaming hardware is going away.
Are all Xbox exclusives going to PlayStation?
Many major Xbox-exclusive games are likely headed to PlayStation and Nintendo consoles. This has fueled speculation of the Xbox brand becoming a third-party game publisher rather than a console manufacturer.
On top of the reports and evidence showing that first-party Xbox games are about to receive PS5 and Switch ports, Microsoft’s attitude toward multiplatform games leans positively. Xbox executives were discussing bringing Xbox Game Pass and their major releases to “every screen that can play games.”
When Microsoft acquired Activision-Blizzard, many speculated that Call of Duty would become an Xbox exclusive. However, Microsoft soon signed deals with Nintendo and Sony, ensuring it remains available on all major consoles for the foreseeable future. The deals killed any notion of Microsoft using Call of Duty’s exclusivity as a hook for players, and no games from the series have made their way to Xbox Game Pass.
The only thing that’s certain is that changes are coming. Whether that’s a good thing for Xbox fans remains to be seen.