Xbox doesn’t have the legacy of Nintendo or PlayStation. Despite Microsoft’s video game platform turning 23 this year, there’s no denying that for most people the Xbox’s legacy is little more than Halo. That’s clearly not true, but Xbox plays third fiddle to almost everyone who doesn’t like to shout a lot on social media and @PhilSpencer like they are old school buddies.
With the rumor that Xbox games are going to start coming to other platforms in quite a big way, and the inevitable whiplash reaction along the lines of “Xbox is dead,” I looked at my own history with the systems and I do have some concerns.
I imported a US Xbox for the November 15, 2001 launch. That makes me what you might call an ‘OG’; I’ve been here for 22 years. I beta tested Xbox Live. I’ve owned at least one version of every Xbox released. I’m a paid up Game Pass Ultimate member. I use my Xbox Series X approximately 10 times as much as I use the PS5, even though a lot of my favorite games over the years have been PlayStation exclusives. Playing games inside the Xbox ecosystem and infrastructure has, for me, just been a better experience.
Xbox has generally had better features, better online functionality, better services, better rewards, and more recently hardware that didn’t need a coin toss to decide if it would work or not. Red Ring of Death in the Xbox 360 era was a bad time, for sure, but I might be one of the few who had more issues with the PlayStation 3’s Yellow Light of Death.
Xbox releasing its games on other platforms like PS5 and Switch doesn’t bother me. If more people get to play Sea of Thieves or get into Halo thanks to the superb Master Chief Collection, that’s surely a big win for Xbox. But what happens to the actual Xboxes? What happens to my digital library if Microsoft focuses on being a third-party publisher?
This is a concern I’ve seen several times while browsing internet hangouts since the rumor broke, but it’s something I’ve convinced myself doesn’t really make sense. One argument is that no one will buy a new Xbox console if the games are all on other platforms. That might be true for some people, but I think this ignores all the other reasons people choose a certain console. I expect Xbox will continue to go low-end/high-end with its devices. I think this is key, as it targets two opposite ends of the market – something Sony hasn’t bothered with. Cost and performance are big reasons to buy a certain console.
People seem to assume Game Pass is going to come to other systems, too, but I can’t see it happening. So, Xbox consoles (and PC/Streaming) would be where that lives. Sure, I could buy what is likely to become an avalanche of Xbox/Bethesda/Activision Blizzard first-party games on PlayStation, but I’d much rather have the console that gets them as part of Game Pass. You might not want that, but I do and I’m sure plenty of others feel the same.
Microsoft could announce it’s pulling out of the console hardware business and make me look like a complete fool, but I just can’t see a reason for this to happen. Build up a new audience on other platforms, make lots more money from some of the biggest triple-A games around, and then suggest that these people get all those for a relatively small monthly payment if they jump over to an Xbox console. Xbox has for years struggled to shake off an image that its games aren’t very good and that there aren’t many of them. I don’t believe this, and hardcore PlayStation and Nintendo fans might be about to come to this realization too.
And let’s be clear that we’re making some big assumptions about this rumor. The classic “exclusive” isn’t what it used to be, with only Nintendo truly remaining a walled city in that regard. Is Starfield or Doom coming to PlayStation six-12 months after Xbox (and PC) really that big a deal? PlayStation exclusives coming to PC are now part of Sony’s strategy, and the Sony-developed MLB The Show comes to Xbox as part of Game Pass. We don’t even know to what extent the full Xbox-owned library is coming to other platforms. The next Halo might remain only on Xbox/PC. Fable and Forza might never feel the touch of an adaptive trigger.
In the moments before I went to bed following the Xbox third-party publishing rumor I was concerned. But I’m not any more. I’m pretty confident my Xbox library will carry forward onto whatever Xbox console comes next and I’ll happily play Game Pass games on that console while others buy the games outright on their systems. Now let’s publish this before I’m made to look like an idiot.