Speaking to GameSpot today at the Brazil Game Show, Xbox boss Phil Spencer spoke out against the idea of companies like Microsoft paying to secure exclusive content in games. He immediately recognises the irony of this situation, given that Microsoft had the timed-exclusive deal with Call of Duty before it shifted to Sony. The company is also working with Activision on a timed-exclusivity deal for Destiny 2, while Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2 will have some content that’s exclusive to PS4, at least for a time.
But on Microsoft’s side, it sounds like you shouldn’t expect these kinds of deals to happen on Xbox. “People always knock me on this; I’ve been on record… I don’t love the idea or practice of us paying so other platforms can’t play or use a certain gun in a game or do a certain level,” he said. “I know I say that and, Xbox history–DLC exclusivity windows with Call of Duty–I understand the fingers are pointing right back to Xbox. I can only be who I am. It’s not the best PR answer. But I don’t like that.”
In terms of timed-exclusives for full games, Microsoft recently reached a deal with PUBG developer Bluehole to bring the game to Xbox One this year as a “console launch exclusive.” It could very well come to PlayStation 4 at some point down the road, but no announcements have been made about that. Microsoft’s deal with Bluehole, which presumably includes funds to help support the game’s development (and may reportedly get extended), is part of Microsoft’s aim to make the “best games possible” for Xbox.
“People ask, when’s that coming to PlayStation? I’ve got a deal, working with [Bluehole] to build the very best version of PUBG,” he said. “That’s where I am focused. Right now, we’re helping that game come to console. Our focus is on making the best games possible.”
Another recent example of a exclusivity deal Microsoft made is with StudioMHR for the well-received and very difficult platformer/run-and-gunner Cuphead. The game is exclusive on console to Xbox One forever (though it is also available on PC). It is never coming to PlayStation 4. Spencer said Microsoft invested in Cuphead because it saw potential in the title and wanted to help make it all that it could be.
“When there are games that come along, Cuphead is a good example, and the team had certain ambition about what they wanted to go do,” he said. “And together with them we wanted to invest more. We saw more opportunity. And what that turned into was us having an exclusive game on our platform. That’s a game that probably wouldn’t have happened the way it did if we didn’t invest the way we did.”
Console exclusives are a way to drive sales of a particular system. Microsoft has Halo and Gears of War and Forza, while Sony has Uncharted, God of War, Killzone, and others, just to name a few. While there will probably always be full exclusives like these, Spencer said the future of gaming lies in games that may not necessarily be tied to a specific device.
“If you define the gaming market as console and that’s all you’re focused on, then maybe that’s an important part of the business consideration,” Spencer said about console-exclusives driving system sales. “I’d say one of the reasons PC is still so strong, is because it’s an open platform. Through things like cross-play we’re working to allow people to play games together regardless of where you bought the games. if you’re really about trying to drive just a specific device and say I just looked at the gaming opportunity all up as a single device opportunity, maybe that’s an approach. We don’t see it that way.
“When we look at things that are really large in gaming today, we look at Twitch, Steam, PUBG, Minecraft. People on Minecraft on Switch are playing with people on an iPhone. They don’t own a Windows machine or an Xbox. But they own our game or are using Xbox Live across multiple devices, that’s what gaming in the future is about. Getting caught in a definition of gaming that’s about me trying to do everything I can to get you to buy one specific device to play one specific variant of games, is not really about growing the business.”
For lots more on our conversation with Spencer, see the stories linked below, and come back soon to check out the full Q&A.
- Microsoft On Xbox One X — “It’s Not For Everybody”
- Xbox Boss Is Unsure If Cross-Play With PS4 Will Ever Happen
- Xbox Boss Phil Spencer Hasn’t Beaten Cuphead Yet But He Has A Good Excuse
- Phil Spencer Talks His Destiny 2 Power Level And The Weapon He Wants
- It’s A Myth That Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Is Ignored
- Xbox One’s Original Xbox Backwards Compatibility Still Coming This Year