Over the last five years, Microsoft has embarked on an era of openness. The company is increasingly embracing open source through integrations and available of its services. Furthermore, Microsoft has become a cross-platform app developer. However, on the Xbox game front, the company has been a little more reluctant to share the goods.
According to Xbox Game Studios chief Matt Booty, that may be about to change. In an interview, he said Microsoft would be willing to release cross-platform versions of its games if it “makes sense”.
It is worth noting Microsoft has played nice in some gaming areas. The company's Minecraft title is available across form factors and platforms. So much so the game can also be played through the Cross-Play feature where people can share sessions across those platforms (excluding PlayStation).
However, Minecraft is not an Xbox Game Studios titles and was never an exclusive before Microsoft purchased the game. In terms of first-party games, Microsoft has not sent titles across platforms. That's an industry standard model as Nintendo and Sony also don't share many IPs across platforms.
There has been plenty of sense in retaining control of first-party titles. While major triple A games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto are available across platform, console makers can attract users by having a good array of exclusives.
Nintendo has built its whole company on first-party exclusives, such as Mario and Zelda. Xbox has its own fair share of classic exclusives, such as Forza, Halo, Gears of War, and more. Booty says moving titles across platforms would only happen if it makes sense. We guess it makes zero sense for Gears, Forza, or Halo to be available away from Xbox, so don't expect to be picking those titles up on PS4 anytime soon.
“I think we would. I think that the question is less binary about, ‘should it be on Switch, should it be on PlayStation?' and more, ‘does it make sense for the franchise?” Booty explained.
“In other words, is it a kind of game where it would benefit from the network effect of being on a bunch of different platforms, or is it a game where we can best support it by putting resources and making sure that our platforms, things like xCloud and Game Pass and Xbox Live, are really leaning in to support the game?”
“With something like Minecraft, I think it was a no-brainer that we were never going to try and take anything from players that existed on those platforms, and certainly we've added platforms since that acquisition,” Booty added. “But then obviously we're going to have our big franchises like Forza, Halo and Sea of Thieves, where those games are designed from the outset to really exist on Xbox, I think that will continue.”