Rumors are swirling that Microsoft is considering bringing some Xbox exclusives to competing PlayStation and Nintendo Switch platforms. Sea of thieves And HiFi rush Both are reportedly being considered cross-platform, and when you combine the rumors with recent comments from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Xbox CFO Tim Stuart, it’s clear that Microsoft is weighing its Xbox strategy now that the Activision Blizzard deal has been completed .
At a Wells Fargo summit in late November, Stuart explained what he described as “a little change of strategy” for Microsoft Gaming, the division that houses Xbox and Microsoft’s overall gaming efforts. “I’m not announcing anything in broad terms here, but our mission is to bring our first-hand experiences [and] our subscription services on every screen where games can be played,” said Stuart. “That means smart TVs, that means mobile devices, that means what we would have seen as competitors in the past, like PlayStation and Nintendo.”
Xbox chief Phil Spencer quickly responded to fans questioning Xbox’s future and made it clear Windows Central days later that Microsoft “has no plans to bring Xbox Game Pass to PlayStation or Nintendo.” That’s largely out of Microsoft’s control anyway, as Sony and Nintendo dictate what launches on their platforms, just like Microsoft does with Xbox.
Spencer did not refute Stuart’s comments about offering “our first-party experiences” to rivals. The comments have since fueled speculation that Microsoft may be switching to a third-party publisher. That speculation has only recently increased after rumors started circulating HiFi rush may be coming to Nintendo Switch. YouTuber Nate the Hate vaguely referenced the Xbox exclusive coming to Switch on a podcast earlier this month, and others filled in the blanks.
Days later, Jeff Grubb revealed on Giant Bomb that he had heard Microsoft was considering it Sea of thieves for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation. Stephen Totilo, a former Axios And Kotaku reporter who is now in excellent charge Game file newsletter, called hours later to confirm he had heard Microsoft had been considering the launch Sea of thieves on PlayStation.
Microsoft previously released two Ori games on Nintendo Switch, developed by Moon Studios and published by Xbox Game Studios. Sea of thieves was developed as a major Xbox exclusive by a Microsoft gaming studio, so if it eventually appears on PlayStation it would mark a new strategy for Xbox.
Microsoft hasn’t commented on the rumors, but CEO Satya Nadella recently spoke in broad terms about the company’s gaming ambitions. “With Activision, I think we have a chance to be a good publisher, frankly, on Sony, Nintendo, PCs and Xbox,” Nadella opined in an interview with Bloomberg this week. “We are enthusiastic about that [Activision Blizzard] Now that the acquisition has been completed, I am happy that we have come through.”
Nadella made similar comments in response to a question about Xbox’s future at Microsoft’s annual shareholder meeting in December. “We think we now have the opportunity to really do what we always set out to do, which is build great games and deliver them to people across all platforms, including Xbox and consoles, PC, and now mobile and cloud gaming . ” said Nadella.
Just hearing Nadella’s comments, it’s easy to dismiss them as the obvious reality that Microsoft is a publisher of games on PlayStation and now owns the Duty franchise. But when you combine them with the rumored Xbox exclusives like Sea of thieves And HiFi rush Between the arrival of rival platforms, Stuart’s previous comments and major leadership changes at Xbox, it’s clear that Microsoft has been considering some new strategic moves for its gaming division now that its massive $68.7 billion acquisition has been completed.
Sea of thieves is now six years old, so a release on PlayStation or Nintendo Switch would open up the live-service pirate game to millions of new players. It wouldn’t necessarily undermine Microsoft’s Xbox exclusives pitch, just as Sony released PlayStation exclusives on PC years later as a new revenue stream that wouldn’t undermine its console efforts. Microsoft’s biggest game, Minecraft is also available on multiple platforms and opens a live service game like Sea of thieves to other platforms seems a logical step.
HiFi rush is different. The rhythm-based action game is already available on PC, but it’s less than a year old, so a move to Switch or PS5 would certainly require some explaining from Microsoft to reassure Xbox fans that the platform and hardware are still worth it are worth investing in.
That reassurance is something Spencer admitted Microsoft hasn’t been good at in the past. “I don’t really like the idea of all our games having a little rumor going around ‘will it end up on Switch or not?’” Spencer said in a IGN interview in September 2020. “I think we should set better expectations for our fans than that.”
Microsoft has not yet commented on the Sea of thieves or HiFi rush rumors directly, and it’s not likely to be addressed during the company’s Xbox Developer Direct stream later today. But the reality is that Microsoft’s Xbox business hasn’t been about selling the most consoles for at least five years.
“I think it’s easy from the outside to judge the health of our business based on the number of consoles a company sells,” Spencer said in a 2019 interview with The edge. “Ultimately, how many subscribers you have to something like Game Pass, how many games people buy, those are much better measures of the health of the company.”
The Xbox chief made it even clearer last year. “Our goal is not to console Sony or console Nintendo,” Spencer said in an interview with Kinda Funny Games.
That’s understandable because Microsoft doesn’t just make money from selling Xbox hardware, as Xbox CEO Lori Wright admitted during the presentation Epic vs. Apple trial in 2021. “The console gaming business has traditionally been a hardware subsidy model,” a Microsoft spokesperson explained in response to Wright’s comments in 2021. “Gaming companies sell consoles at a loss to attract new customers. Profits are generated from the sale of games and subscriptions to online services.”
Xbox Series S/X sales are still lagging behind those of the PS5, and Spencer acknowledged last year that losing the previous Xbox One generation was “the worst generation to lose” because everyone during the previous generation was building his digital library of games. Some might argue that opening up some older Xbox exclusives to PlayStation and Nintendo Switch on a case-by-case basis only helps Microsoft improve Xbox Game Pass with more revenue it can invest into its studios to build more games.
Such a move could even work as stealth marketing for Xbox Game Pass since games like Sea of thieves And HiFi rush are both part of the monthly subscription price and are immediately available on Xbox consoles. Either way, when you look at Microsoft’s gaming business, it’s clear that the substantial growth won’t come from just selling Xbox consoles. Microsoft has made it clear in the past that it wants to target billions of players via the cloud, expanding PC Game Pass, and a new Xbox mobile store is also in the works.
This opportunity means we’ll see Microsoft, and even Sony, explore new ways for their games to be played. Sony has followed Microsoft into the gaming subscription era, launching multiple PlayStation exclusives on PC and opening up PS5 games to cloud streaming. It even has big ambitions for cross-platform live-service games, although some of that is being postponed due to “mixed levels of success.” The point is that both PlayStation and Xbox are experimenting with how they sell their games and where players experience them.
So it would be surprising to see some Xbox exclusives arriving on PlayStation or Nintendo Switch? Absolutely not. When it actually happens, the devil is in the details.