Evidence is mounting that Microsoft will release a host of its Xbox console exclusives on PlayStation, potentially marking the end of a tradition nearly as old as the medium: the viciously partisan console war. Xbox head Phil Spencer has tacitly acknowledged the rumors and reports too, and if the partial end of Xbox console exclusivity is really looming, then we'll find out how as soon as next week.
Last week, dataminers discovered evidence of an imminent PS5 and Nintendo Switch release for Tango Gameworks' cel-shaded rhythm action Hi-Fi Rush. Not long after, The Verge reported that Bethesda's Indiana Jones and the Great Circle will release on PS5, albeit after a short period of Xbox exclusivity.
It's no big deal that Hi-Fi Rush will release for Nintendo Switch, because Microsoft has released several of its first-party games on that platform already. But Microsoft has directly competed with Sony for over 20 years. Nowadays the so-called console war is fought between these brands, with Nintendo minding its own business at the edge of the playground.
More potentially earthshaking is XboxEra's report that Starfield may come to PS5. More than any other Microsoft first-party release, Starfield was expected to help shift Xbox Series X | S units, which lag well behind the PS5. Add to that January reports of a PS5 release for Sea of Thieves, and it's starting to look like Microsoft's publishing future is comprehensively multiplatform, leaving its big 'ol $500 box looking somewhat less enticing.
That's not to say Microsoft doesn't have a strategic advantage following its $68 billion acquisition of Activision-Blizzard, and relatedly, Microsoft has pledged to release Call of Duty games on Sony consoles for years to come. For a long time Xbox has positioned itself as an eco-system rather than a hardware-centric platform, which is most evident in its Game Pass subscription platform, its smart device-friendly cloud gaming services, and its Play Anywhere initiative.
But releasing Microsoft games on PS5 would be a bold move. For enthusiasts with an investment in the brand, it will clock as a concession to defeat in the console war. It also calls into question whether any further console hardware will come from Microsoft, a company which nowadays doesn't report on console sales but instead engagement.
Xbox CFO Tim Stuart justified this move late last year at the Wells Fargo summit (via IGN). "About six or seven years ago, we stopped giving console volume externally,” Stuart said. "And at first, it was like, 'what are you doing?' You're the Xbox business, you're not giving us consoles, that makes no sense. But it was really the first point of us saying, no, no, it's about content services."
As you can imagine, Xbox diehards are not having a good time right now, which is probably part of the reason why Phil Spencer had to tweet about it.
"We're listening and we hear you," he said. "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."