We all know that in order to stay in this industry, the only obligation that developers and publishers have is to sell games like hotcakes. Costs have risen so much over the years that games can’t afford to sell poorly.
Microsoft’s Xbox business needs to grow. The sales of Xbox Series S and X from the company continue to lag behind Sony’s PlayStation 5, and Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer has previously admitted that their Xbox Game Pass subscriptions were also slowing down.
He admitted it in 2022, a bad year for Xbox games after Microsoft’s Bethesda’s great exclusive game, Starfield, was delayed.
Xbox games to PS5 and Nintendo Switch
Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the company is preparing to release a select number of Xbox games on PS5 and Nintendo Switch.
Weeks of rumors point to the fact that Hi-Fi Rush, Sea of Thieves and even Bethesda titles like Starfield and Indiana Jones could appear on platforms other than Xbox.
The first two games that will appear on rival consoles are Hi-Fi Rush and Pentiment, according to sources. Microsoft is also planning to release Sea of Thieves on platforms other than Xbox later this year, and is also considering other first-party titles.
Releasing Xbox games on PlayStation or Nintendo Switch is a seismic strategy change that Microsoft wouldn’t have taken lightly. It will give Microsoft more reach for their first-party games and an opportunity to generate more gaming revenue, but it also comes with a lot of risks.
Microsoft’s global gaming business has just surpassed Windows in terms of revenue, thanks to the acquisition of Activision Blizzard. That massive $68.7 billion acquisition will weigh on Microsoft’s mind, especially considering that Call of Duty is a major cross-platform game that generates key revenue through these platforms and mobile.
Game Pass is not working as expected
The slowdown in Game Pass subscribers may also be part of why Microsoft is even considering more cross-platform games.
In May 2022, Microsoft had the ambitious goal of reaching 100 million Xbox Game Pass subscribers by 2030. At that time, the service, which allows Xbox owners to subscribe to a library of games, had 25 million subscribers, up from 18 million in 2021. It seemed poised to continue growing rapidly amidst Microsoft’s device-agnostic approach to consoles, PC, and cloud gaming.
But Xbox Game Pass started to stagnate. Starfield and Redfall, which were supposed to be the main Xbox exclusives, were delayed from 2022 to 2023, and Starfield missed a key Christmas holiday period.
In the months since then, Microsoft has not provided any updates on subscriber figures to investors. It has been over two years since the figure of 25 million was announced alongside the acquisition of Activision Blizzard by the company, and some analysts estimate that Microsoft only has around 33 million subscribers.
Microsoft has been looking for other avenues of revenue growth for Xbox Game Pass or games, particularly on mobile, a key reason behind its acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
What future awaits Xbox as a brand
All this means that adding a bunch of games to the Switch and PS5 won’t necessarily help Microsoft’s ambitions for the Xbox. That’s why it is suspected that Microsoft could give more clues about its future hardware vision.
Last week, Microsoft held an internal meeting for Xbox employees in which Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming, Matt Booty, head of Xbox game studios, and Sarah Bond, Xbox president, addressed the employees.
Although Xbox executives assured employees that Xbox hardware would continue, they did not directly address the elephant in the room: those persistent rumors about Xbox exclusives coming to Nintendo Switch and PS5.
Even rumors of this move made Xbox fans nervous, who feared that Microsoft would end up discarding Xbox console hardware, rendering Xbox digital libraries useless, and only publishing games on rival platforms.
But after more than 20 years of Xbox hardware, it seems inconceivable that Microsoft would suddenly abandon the ecosystem of devices that drives its gaming platform and revenue.