Microsoft is going through something of a communication crisis that is being churned through the rumour mill at high speed. Frantic speculation began after rumours spread that Microsoft is planning to share details about its intentions to bring games such as Starfield, Hi-Fi Rush, Gears of War and other Xbox exclusives to the PS5 and Nintendo Switch consoles. Gossip wasn’t exactly subdued when Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox, hastily Tweeted out what I would call a less than reassuring message to the Xbox fanbase.
“We’re listening and we hear you,” wrote Spencer. “We’ve been planning a business update event for next week, where we look forward to sharing more details with you about our vision for the future of Xbox. Stay tuned.” If it didn’t come from a Microsoft executive, I’d be mistaken for taking it as a below-par break up message. It’s at least an appropriate tone to take if these rumours turn out to be true.
This rapidly evolving saga began after a report, corroborated by data-mined information, found that the Xbox exclusive Hi-Fi Rush is coming to PS5 and Nintendo Switch consoles. Subsequent leaks have pointed to upcoming titles such as Indiana Jones and the Great Circle is being considered for PS5. From there, gamers wondered whether huge Microsoft IPs such as Gears of War and Starfield would make the cross-platform jump, too. With speculation intensifying, Microsoft announced a “business update event” for next week, but the horse had bolted by this point.
Clear as mud, then. With little to no communication from Microsoft, Xbox users have expressed rightful anger and confusion. That’s understandable. Sure, gamers can be tribalistic people, defending multi-billion dollar corporations as if they were their own flesh and blood. The Sony vs Microsoft debate is the modern day equivalent of the 100 years war that endlessly plays out on Reddit forums and Discord communities. But still, people who invest time and money in a product do so with a pretty simple expectation. Keep the promise.
Take Starfield as an example. For years, Starfield promised a star hopping space epic…but only if you bought an Xbox. Many people did just that. Although the game didn’t quite live up to expectations, 12 million players picked up an Xbox controller to dive in. But if Starfield comes to PS5 after the initial hype has died down, that’s a slap in the face for those who’ve already opened their wallets.
For me, this all points to an identity crisis for Microsoft. It’s clear to see that PlayStation and the Nintendo Switch are winning this era’s console war against the Xbox. Would Sony allow The Last of Us or God of War to jump ship? Would Animal Crossing ever be available on Xbox Game Pass? The answer to both of those is a resounding no.
If Microsoft dropped its Xbox exclusives, it would demonstrate an entire shift in its entire ethos. I just don’t quite understand exactly why. Who would ever choose to buy an Xbox for Xbox games, when you can play Xbox and PlayStation games on a PS5? The Xbox community would likely evaporate, scolded by a promise that was dropped because it makes good business sense for investors. And that, I believe, is what would likely fuel this decision if was made. It’s all about the money, baby. It’s a risky gamble for Microsoft to make, but one that might strip the Xbox of its whole identity.