Microsoft executives talk about expanding game services, game accessibility, inclusivity, and first-party releases

"As a company, Microsoft’s all-in on gaming"

    
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The head execs at Microsoft have some lofty plans for the wider gaming world if several statements are anything to go by. The company held a pre-brief ahead of this year’s E3 showcase featuring a number of gaming executives, all of whom talked up big strategies to expand Microsoft’s reach into the gaming market – one that includes exclusives like Starfield.

First, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated Microsoft’s push to go “all-in on gaming” with the goal of “[playing] a leading role in democratizing gaming and defining that future of interactive entertainment, quite frankly, at scale.” The plan is effectively threefold: lead the way in cloud gaming, build Xbox Game Pass value, and focus on empowering creators.

On the first point, corporate VP of gaming experiences Liz Hamren talked about plans to bring Microsoft’s xCloud and Game Pass services to more countries and more devices, including development of its own streaming device; introducing games streaming to Edge, Chrome and Safari browsers in the next few weeks; expanding the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service to Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and Japan later this year; and expanding Game Pass subscription offerings to provide different services for different countries and budgets.

This outward growth of Microsoft’s game services was further echoed by Microsoft CFO Tim Stuart, who stated that the company “[needs] to expand [its] audience beyond console to new demographics and geographies [the company hasn’t] reached before and provide meaningful value for that audience to choose to spend their money with us.” Additionally, work is being done to include more accessibility options, accessibility guidelines for developers, and partnerships with underrepresented communities and groups among other things.

Finally, Xbox Game Studios head Matt Booty acknowledges that Microsoft has not been releasing many first-party games, but that’s about to change. “We want to get to a point of releasing a new game every quarter,” says Booty. “We know that a thriving entertainment service needs a consistent and exciting flow of new content so our portfolio will continue to grow as our service grows.”

For those who would rather not blip through all of the source links for all of the granular details, Xbox Wire has effectively summed up the company’s goals as well as shared a variety of stats about Game Pass, which should all be interesting to the armchair industry analyst.

sources: Xbox Wire (1, 2, GamesIndustry.biz (1, 2)
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Bruno Brito

I am not really knowledgeable about consoles nor do i care for them.

The only thing i know about exclusivity is that it killed both Killer Instinct and Gigantic. The former struggled to hold popularity as a spread fighting game because not all competitive gamers had xboxes, and the later was to be a Win10 and Xbox exclusive, which didn’t help with popularity also. It didn’t help that Gigantic had a 6gb ram minimum requirement, which also was a relic of it’s crossplay/win10/xbox-designed-for times.

So, yeah. I’m not fond of console companies talking. Unless it is “we’ll break down exclusivity and make games not demand so much from your equipment”, i don’t care.

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Loopy

The way i’m reading this article (and some previous statements from Xbox gaming heads), Microsoft seems to want to move away from exclusivity in its current form. Maybe i’m drinking too much cool-aid but it feels like MS is banking on disturbing the status quo as their primary driver for expanding their foothold.

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Bruno Brito

They’ve been doing that for a while now, apparently.

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Stilvan

Heh for sure – I wouldn’t call GamePass the status quo.

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SwordBreaker35

“game accessibility” Yet here we are still being stupid with hey want to play this game then you MUST own our console. I hate console exclusive games becuse I think every one should be able to play the game they want no matter if they have a PC,PS5,Xbox or so on.

And I will always say if your console can´t sell it self and you need games to sell you console then maybe it´s high time to just remove all platforms and only have 1 instead of needing to own 4 damn systems.

The Weeb formerly known as Sray
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The Weeb formerly known as Sray

The thing about Microsoft exclusives about to start coming quarterly raises a big question: can Microsoft publish games like a platform holder, or will they continue to behave like every other Triple A publisher? The thing that distinguishes a Sony game from a Microsoft game is that Sony games exist to attract ayers to their platform, and being profitable is secondary; whereas a Microsoft exclusive is not really any different than an EA or Activision game in that they’re loaded up with microtransactions, multiplayer shenanigans and fully expected to be a live service. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft can just make system sellers that don’t necessarily have to turn a direct profit themselves.

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angrakhan

A lot of PS5 Sony first party titles cost $59.99-$69.99. If you think Sony is some sort of altruistic charity that exists solely to make players happy and profit be damned, then I want some of whatever you’re smoking.

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Greaterdivinity

I don’t think that’s what they were getting at, necessarily. At the end of the day they’re still a business, after all. But look at some of the games Sony studios develop like Dreams.

Dreams is likely massively in the red overall (didn’t crack the NPD top 20 list on launch month, and Sony has released no sales info) given the amount of development time it received and how little it’s sold. It’s not some huge mass market game, nor is it some tiny underfunded venture. It’s an amazing creative tool developed over years and years and functionally released just to be that. Not to bring in loads of cash, but to help differentiate PlayStation and make it stand out, and to win some awards along the way in shit.

And look at most of their first party titles/exclusives throughout last gen – Bloodborne, Last of Us 2, God of War, Spider-Man, Horizon, Until Dawn, Gravity Rush etc? All largely single player, narrative focused games (with plenty of action) and some interesting oddities mixed in, largely out of step with what big publishers have been doing all generation with pushing more online features and more add-ons that didn’t really appear in Sony titles with the same frequency.

Compare that to Microsoft, who started off fairly strong with Ryse: Son of Rome, Sunset Overdrive, and ReCore, but largely outside of that their games followed the industry. Halo and Gears 4/5 maintained the huge focus on MP and included lovely MTX, Forza continued to push online and MTX as well, Sea of Thieves was chasing the open world survival sandbox (though neat!), Crackdown 3 was…a mess, Bleeding Edge chased the hero shooter trend to a quick end, etc.

Microsoft very much followed a lot more of the industry trends with their much smaller lineup of first party/exclusive titles last generation, whereas Sony seemed less interested in that and more interested in pushing experiences with big single player games. I think/hope they finally learned to stop chasing trends after getting trounced left and right in the PS3 era (even if they did open with Killzone as a PS4 launch title : P), and hopefully Microsoft seems to be taking the same lesson into this generation.

Same goes for Nintendo and the games they make (though the whole platform is out of step with the industry but that’s why folks love it and it’s rad!), they’re doing shit that nobody else really does with any kind of budget in the industry nowadays. And when they do occasionally step into the industry trends like a multiplayer shooter, they come outta nowhere with one of the most innovative shooters I’ve seen in decades: Splatoon. They’re not gold all the time either, but their formula works and it works well.

The Weeb formerly known as Sray
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The Weeb formerly known as Sray

Exactly what I’m getting at GD.

I’ll also point out that Sony’s games aren’t just narrative driven single player affairs, but they’re also complete experiences with virtually no microtransactions, which further distinguishes Sony’s from things like Assassin’s Creed (also single player and narrative driven). Sony could load up God of War and Days Gone with microtransactions, but they don’t because while making money directly with those games is great, their direct purpose isn’t to be a money printing machine: they are the tools by which the Playstation platform is a money printing machine.

The Weeb formerly known as Sray
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The Weeb formerly known as Sray

I never said they were giving them away or that Sony doesn’t exist to make a profit. I said that Sony games exist primarily to attract players to their platform, and that those games turning a profit is a secondary concern. Sony loves it when God of War or Horizon Zero Dawn sell 10 million copies, but they’re more concerned that those games get new players to buy their consoles and/or existing owners to continue using their platform (ultimately generating profit from their 30% cut of all.sales.on the platform). By contrast, first party Microsoft games are developed and operated in a manner that is pretty much indistinguishable from an EA or Activision microtransaction driven live service game.

And yes, most Sony games cost the exact same everything else on the market because despite their existence not being profit driven, they also don’t exist for Sony to flush money down the toilet.