In gaming circles, Microsoft is almost synonymous with Xbox. To the general population, at least for a long while, it was more closely related with computers. Both of these platforms are capable of gaming, for sure, but as far as actual Microsoft games go, the Xbox One is its preferred medium, apparently. That’s strange to me, because computers are everywhere. I have a hunch, though, that the gap between these two options might close next generation. At the very least, it should.
Microsoft has been touting all of its acquisitions lately. This is likely because exclusives are a major deciding factor when gamers choose between their consoles. I’m particularly excited to see what Ninja Theory turns out. It doesn’t look like Microsoft will be forcing these developers to publish for specific platforms, though. In an interview with PC Gamer, Phil Spencer said “We want to empower game creators… to extend the reach of their games to the broadest global player base possible. That said, we…[understand] that there are certain types of games that may be best experienced within a specific context, or with a specific input method.” I would imagine a lot of studios would like to put their games on both, given the proper resources.
It's a powerful position to be in. Microsoft has two audiences but seems to focus primarily on just one of them. Historically speaking, developers like to produce for multiple platforms because their games can then reach a larger audience. That is, after all, why Microsoft and Sony acquire studios; they want exclusives, and acquisition is how they get them. If Microsoft can bridge the gap, then what it’s doing is creating options for both developers and players.
Spencer is correct when he says that certain games function better in certain contexts. There are often times where I just want to chill with a controller on my couch. There are times where I want to play with my friends, at which point I have to play on whatever platform they play on. There are times where I want a mouse, keyboard, and the full power of my PC. In most cases, Microsoft games are played on my Xbox One. That could change.
Already, there are reasons to play Microsoft games on the PC. I play Forza Horizon 4 there using a controller because I get access to it through Game Pass, which I consider to be a phenomenal deal. The deal is even better if I get access to two versions of a game, as I do with Forza Horizon 4 and a few others. I’d like to live in a world where this is even more common.
The other thing that Microsoft could do is offer cross-platform play across its platforms. That way game purchasing decisions aren’t a negotiation with the people you plan on playing with. It could also take a page from Sony’s book. On the PlayStation 4 and Vita, something called cross-save is possible on some titles. This means that gamers can carry their saves over between different versions of the game. This has been an awesome feature for my Final Fantasy X habit.
What this really comes down to is a matter of options and value. Assuming Game Pass continues to function the same way in the next generation, Microsoft can offer something its competitors don’t. There’s no reason I can see that it shouldn’t be using both of its audiences if they have the resources but I am not a business person. Instead, I am just a person who really likes video games, plays games on all available platforms, and would like to make this experience more seamless wherever possible. Is anyone else on board?