Earlier today, Microsoft announced that Remedy’s hotly anticipated new action game, Quantum Break, will be coming to PCs running Windows 10- and not only will it not be a late port, like so many of Microsoft’s Xbox One games have been, but it will be launching day and date with the Xbox One version. Not only that- the Windows 10 version seems like it will indeed be pushing PCs to their limits, judging by the recommended specs, and it will have cross compatibility with the Xbox One version.
In other words, this isn’t the kind of half hearted support that Microsoft have often provided the PC platform in the past, ever since the rise of the Xbox- this is them putting a major game on the PC, a game that PC players are bound to enjoy (a reminder for everybody that Remedy’s heritage lies in PC game development), on the PC day and date as the Xbox One version. It is, really, a far cry from the delayed ports of re-releases and free to play games such as Killer Instinct, Gears of War Ultimate, and Fable Legends, which have been all that Microsoft have had to show for their PC gaming strategy so far.
"From the days of the NES, exclusives are what have sold consoles, differentiating them not only from other consoles and handhelds, but from PCs as well."
On the one hand, this is good news- Microsoft are, for good or for bad, the most influential company in the PC market, and even in the PC gaming market, their influence continues to be felt, regardless of their attempts to distance themselves from it in recent years- after all, the importance of DirectX, or their universal controller APIs, or simply of Windows in providing a common platform for PC games to run on, cannot be overstated. But on the other hand, as we see more and more Xbox exclusives begin to jump ship – it started with Fable Legends, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Killer Instinct, continued on with Gears of War Ultimate, and is now coming to a head this year, with major, anticipated Xbox One exclusives, such as ReCore, Sea of Thieves, Halo Wars 2, and now, Quantum Break – we must ask ourselves the question: what is the point in purchasing an Xbox One any more at this point?
It is, after all, a pertinent question to ask- at this point, what reason does one have, really, to invest in an Xbox One?
This is a question that ultimately touches upon the fundamental reason for any console’s existence. Remember, from a purely objective software and hardware perspective, PCs are a far better platform, even for video games, than any console- they are open platforms, with far better and more powerful hardware than any console, and thus better graphics and tech, as well as far more flexible control schemes, far better control over one’s game experience via granular settings and mods, and in general, just far more options. The reason that consoles have always managed to define themselves as legitimate gaming platforms, even in the face of PCs, has been the fact that they offer games that cannot be had on PCs- in other words, exclusives.
From the days of the NES, exclusives are what have sold consoles, differentiating them not only from other consoles and handhelds, but from PCs as well. From Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid to Sonic the Hedgehog, Phantasy Star, and Streets of Rage, from Uncharted and Gran Turismo to even third party games such as Final Fantasy, Persona, and Metal Gear, consoles have always sold themselves on the promise of desirable titles that can only be played on those consoles- or at least, that can be played on them far earlier, and/or far better, than they can be on other systems, including PCs.
This is, in fact, a distinction that even continued with Microsoft’s own Xbox, even though it began to blur a little more- if you wanted to play Halo, Gears of War, or Fable, Xbox was the place to play them- these were generally well optimized, well supported versions of the games, and they came out far before these games’ PC versions, which, if they ever came out at all, were late, unoptimized, poorly supported, and unpleasant to play. But it is a distinction that now seems to be changing- with the Xbox One, even more than with the Xbox 360, where Microsoft ultimately stepped out of the exclusive games arms race, focusing instead on a few flagship brands, and on making Xbox 360 versions of multiplatform games, as well as the system itself, more appealing, Microsoft seem to have conceded the battle for system defining exclusives entirely.
"To date, almost all major Xbox One exclusives have had PC versions, or have PC versions in the works- Dead Rising 3, Titanfall, Ori and the Blind Forest, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Killer Instinct,, Screamride, Cobalt, and Quantum Break, with upcoming titles such as Fable Legends, Halo Wars 2, Sea of Thieves, and ReCore all due to get PC versions too."
To date, almost all major Xbox One exclusives have had PC versions, or have PC versions in the works- Dead Rising 3, Titanfall, Ori and the Blind Forest, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Killer Instinct,\, Screamride, Cobalt, and Quantum Break, with upcoming titles such as Fable Legends, Halo Wars 2, Sea of Thieves, and ReCore all due to get PC versions too. Essentially, unless you really like Forza Motorsport or Halo, as of this point, there is no reason to get an Xbox One anymore- a gaming PC will do just fine as a replacement.
Not only will it do just fine- it will do better. A reminder, that all these games will run far better on gaming PCs than on the Xbox One, which is the weakest of the high end systems of this generation. PCs will run these games with better graphics, and with more options, and with the chance to play these games either with the keyboard and mouse, or with any controller of your choice- if you prefer the Wii U Pro or the DualShock 4, you can now actually play through Quantum Break with those controllers. If these games, these exclusives, were the reason for you wanting to purchase an Xbox One to begin with, now you have no reason to get one- as we move further and further into this generation, it is becoming abundantly clear that Microsoft’s strategy is to create a Windows 10-Xbox One ‘ecosystem,’ and to secure ‘exclusive’ games for this ecosystem, rather than for any one of these two platforms.
In a way, it echoes a bit of what Sony does- they, too, after all, secure a lot of games, that come to either the PS Vita or the PS3 alongside the PS4, do they not? Then why does this criticism not apply to PS4, and only top the Xbox One?
There are, simply put, two important reasons:
The first reason is that there is not much market overlap between a handheld like the PS Vita and a high end home console like the PS4. Most people interested in a console are not going to want to play Dynasty Warriors or Final Fantasy on a handheld. This means that they can maintain their shared games as de facto exclusives for their consoles- and for the few who would prefer to play their games on a handheld, they add value to their overall ecosystem. This is not true for a console/PC divide, since these two platforms are always vying for the same market, and with the rise of Steam in the last few years, have similar demographics with far more overlap;
There is no one system the PS4 shares its games with as much as the Xbox One shares most of its games with the PC. Some PS4 games are shared with the Vita; some are shared with the PS3. Most remain exclusive to the PS4. Even if the shared games are all you wanted from the PS4, to be able to adequately substitute a PS4, you would need to purchase a PS3 and a PS Vita, and you’d be paying for inferior hardware, and worse versions of those games. Buying a PS4, which will also play the best versions of those games, is simply a more sensible decision. In the case of Xbox and PC, a PC can almost entirely substitute an Xbox, and it gets the better versions of most of the Xbox One exclusive games as well.
"Microsoft are gratuitously sharing the love- that’s awesome, it really is, and it benefits Microsoft, since it adds value to their very own Windows 10, and simultaneously also exposes these games and features to far wider audiences than the Xbox One’s paltry install base would afford them."
I have to admit, while I do appreciate Microsoft’s resolve to have a shared ecosystem, and on supporting PC gaming, I am a bit baffled here. I do not doubt that ultimately adding value to Windows 10, which is a far more important product to Microsoft’s bottom line than the Xbox, is a sensible strategy to take as a business- Microsoft as a company are far more likely to benefit by investing in Windows 10 than a relatively niche product (by comparison) like Xbox One.
But while I can see it being good for the company, I think this is terrible for the product. This lack of committed exclusive support is the exact same thing that killed Windows Phone against the iPhone and Android, which had exclusive support from their makers, and the backing of major companies with a focus on pushing them. Microsoft, on the other hand, ended up sharing almost every major, defining feature of Windows Phone, with iOS and Android- mobile Microsoft Office, Xbox compatibility, Cortana, even their keyboard. At this point, you can have a full Microsoft phone without ever buying a Windows Phone- there is no reason left to buy a Windows Phone. And yes, Microsoft benefitted from this as a company, but Windows Phone did not. Windows Phone is now dead as a result.
That is exactly what I see happening here, with Xbox One. Microsoft are gratuitously sharing the love- that’s awesome, it really is, and it benefits Microsoft, since it adds value to their very own Windows 10, and simultaneously also exposes these games and features to far wider audiences than the Xbox One’s paltry install base would afford them. But it means the Xbox has nothing left to define it, to differentiate it. Not from the PS4- the PS4 is a system with far better hardware, and far more first and third party support, for multiplatform and exclusive games, than the Xbox One is; and not from the PC either, with which it now shares all its games. Simply put, the Xbox One is now no longer in the conversation- it’s either PC, or PS4, or both. Frighteningly enough, even the Wii U enters conversation as a secondary system, thanks to its enviably long list of quality exclusives. But unless you simply want a poorer copy of the PS4, at this point, there is no reason left to consider the Xbox One. A PC can do everything that it can, and it can do it better.
And that’s what it comes down to- the Xbox is robbed of any reason to exist, or to be purchased. If my interest is in multiplatform games, the PS4 and PC play those better. If my interest is in exclusive titles, the PS4 has far more of them; if it’s specifically Xbox One exclusives, then those are all on PC, too. If I just wanted a secondary system, then PS4 would go far better with a PC than an Xbox One would, which does all the same things, but worse; the Wii U would go far better, if only because it has games no other system does.
"Microsoft is degrading Xbox’s value as a product. In the long run, this is far more beneficial to them as a company, of course- one would be foolish to deny that. Windows is a more important product, and each coveted game they put on it adds to Windows’ value."
That’s what I mean here- Microsoft is degrading Xbox’s value as a product. In the long run, this is far more beneficial to them as a company, of course- one would be foolish to deny that. Windows is a more important product, and each coveted game they put on it adds to Windows’ value. Each of these games, in turn, has a bigger install base to sell to. But while this is good for Microsoft, it is terrible for Xbox.
And it also makes me wonder just how or why they enter these different markets – MP3 players, smartphones, consoles – if they can’t, or don’t want to, commit to supporting their products and see them through to the end, in the long run.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.