Microsoft is slowly building a future where ‘every screen is an Xbox’

Taken on their own, today’s gaming announcements from Microsoft might not seem all that earth-shattering. A handful of unspecified Xbox games are coming to competing platforms, Game Pass subscriber numbers have grown, Diablo IV will lead the rush of Activision Blizzard titles on Game Pass, with more hardware to come, including a powerful next-gen console and possibly a handheld. But they all point to a future that Microsoft isn’t exactly shy about: making Xbox more than just a console.

In an internal memo to employees, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer explained the strategy as follows:

We have a different vision of the future of gaming. A future where players have a unified experience across devices. A future where players can easily discover a wide range of games with a diverse spectrum of business models. A future where more creators have the opportunity to realize their creative vision, reach global audiences, unite their communities and achieve commercial success. A future where every screen is an Xbox.

It’s a bold idea, especially since the word Xbox is currently synonymous with a console that sits underneath your TV. So if not a physical machine, what is Xbox?

In an interview with The edge, Spencer said that “Xbox is our gaming platform and content company.” It is striking that he did not use the word ‘console’. Instead, Xbox is an idea, a platform that spans multiple fronts. It started as a console, and now PC and the cloud are a big part of the Xbox strategy, as is the Game Pass subscription service. With the addition of Activision Blizzard (and its games like Candy Crush And Call of Duty mobile), in addition to the potential for a Microsoft mobile app store, you can also add mobile devices to it. One day we might be able to add a handheld to that mix. And following on from the success of previous multiplatform games, in particular Minecraftrival platforms like the PS5 and Nintendo Switch are becoming more and more part of the overall concept of Xbox.

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Microsoft appears to be taking measured steps to achieve this vision of the future. It’s not all involved in any one part of the strategy: it’s selling hardware along with games and subscriptions, and steadily opening up where you can play those games and subscriptions. It’s not necessary for every Xbox gamer to sign up for Game Pass or buy a console, but having both options, along with all the other ongoing initiatives like cloud and mobile, creates the core of what the brand is now and where it’s going go. .

“I like that there is a mix of things happening in our company,” Spencer explains. “Our business model isn’t just about selling hardware, it’s not just about selling first-party games. It’s a diverse business model that leads to the business success we see today, which I think is kind of a testament to the path we’ve been on over the last few years.”

“I will learn more about our collaboration with other platforms.”

Take the launch on other platforms as an example. Microsoft says it’s bringing four existing Xbox games to the PS5 and Switch (it doesn’t say which four, but they’re not that hard to guess), and the company is treating them as a test of sorts. “I’ll be learning more about our collaboration with other platforms,” Spencer said. “I’m going to learn what’s happening with our players.” Instead of committing to every major Xbox game that’s also available on other platforms, and the uproar that will inevitably arise if Starfield hits the PS5, the company is testing the waters with a few smaller single-player releases and live service games that could use a boost in players

If this turns out to be a dead end for the Xbox brand, it can’t hurt. But if titles like Pentiment or Sea of ​​thieves become multiplatform hits, it’s easy to see the initiative expanding to include games from other Xbox studios like Bethesda. “We just want to make sure it’s good for the long-term health of Xbox,” Spencer said.

The question, of course, is whether this is a strategy that will ultimately work, and it’s clearly far too early to tell. What is clear is that something has to change. Microsoft has been a steady third place compared to its biggest rivals for years, and both PlayStation and Nintendo have largely stuck to the idea of ​​selling consoles with big exclusives. Sony sees opportunities in other platforms such as the PCNintendo is expanding into different forms of entertainment, and both are trying out subscriptions. But at this point, their core strategies haven’t strayed far from the traditional console business.

For all its resources, Microsoft hasn’t been able to compete that way, so it’s now trying something completely different – ​​with the potential to become much bigger.

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