Microsoft might be considering Xbox exclusives on

Why Microsoft might be considering Xbox exclusives on PlayStation and Nintendo Switch

Rumors are swirling that Microsoft has been considering bringing some Xbox exclusives to rival PlayStation and Nintendo Switch systems. Sea of Thieves and Hi-Fi Rush have both reportedly been under cross-platform consideration, and when you combine the rumors with recent comments from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Xbox CFO Tim Stuart, it’s clear Microsoft is weighing its Xbox strategy now that the Activision Blizzard deal is complete.

Microsoft might be considering Xbox exclusives :

At a Wells Fargo summit in late November, Stuart detailed what he described as “a bit of a change of strategy” for Microsoft Gaming, the division that houses Xbox and Microsoft’s overall gaming activities. “Not announcing anything broadly here, but our mission is to bring our first-party experiences [and] our subscription services to every screen that can play games,” said Stuart. “That means smart TVs, that means mobile devices, that means what we would have thought of as competitors in the past like PlayStation and Nintendo.”

Xbox chief Phil Spencer was quick to react to fans questioning the future of Xbox, making it clear to Windows Central days later that Microsoft has “no plans to bring Xbox Game Pass to PlayStation or Nintendo.” That’s largely out of Microsoft’s hands anyway, as Sony and Nintendo dictate what launches on their platforms, just like Microsoft does with Xbox.

Sea of Thieves is nearly six years old. Image: Rare

Spencer didn’t refute Stuart’s words about bringing “our first-party experiences” to rivals, though. The words have fueled speculation ever since that Microsoft might be transitioning to a third-party publisher. That speculation has only grown recently after rumors emerged that Hi-Fi Rush might be coming to Nintendo Switch. YouTuber Nate the Hate vaguely refers to the Xbox exclusive coming to Switch on a podcast earlier this month, and others filled in the blanks.

Spencer didn’t refute Stuart’s words about bringing “our first-party experiences” to rivals, though. The words have fueled speculation ever since that Microsoft might be transitioning to a third-party publisher. That speculation has only grown recently after rumors emerged that Hi-Fi Rush might be coming to Nintendo Switch. YouTuber Nate the Hate vaguely refers to the Xbox exclusive coming to Switch on a podcast earlier this month, and others filled in the blanks.

When you hear Nadella’s comments alone, they could easily be dismissed as the obvious fact that Microsoft is a publisher of games on PlayStation, now having the Call of Duty franchise. But when you combine them with the rumors of Xbox exclusives like Sea of Thieves and Hi-Fi Rush coming to rival platforms, Stuart’s previous comments, and big leadership changes at Xbox, it’s clear Microsoft has been thinking about some new strategic moves for its gaming division now that its giant $68.7 billion acquisition is complete.

Sea of Thieves is now six years old, so a release on PlayStation or Nintendo Switch would open up the live-service pirate game to millions of new players. It wouldn’t exactly undermine Microsoft’s Xbox exclusives pitch, much like how Sony releasing PlayStation exclusives to PC years later serves as a new revenue stream that doesn’t undermine its console efforts. Microsoft’s biggest game, Minecraft, is also available across multiple platforms, and opening up a live-service game like Sea of Thieves to other platforms seems like a logical step.

Hi-Fi Rush is different, though. The rhythm-based action game is already available on PC, but it’s not even a year old, so a move to Switch or PS5 would certainly take some explaining from Microsoft to convince Xbox fans that the platform and hardware are still worth investing in.

That guarantee is something that Spencer has admitted Microsoft hasn’t been good at in the past. “I don’t really love this idea that for every one of our games, there becomes this little rumor on it ‘is it going to end up on the Switch or not,’” said Spencer in an IGN interview in September 2020. “I feel we should set a better expectation with our fans than that.”

Microsoft hasn’t touched on the Sea of Thieves or Hi-Fi Rush rumors directly, and it’s not likely to address this during the company’s Xbox Developer Direct stream later today. But the truth is that Microsoft’s Xbox business hasn’t been about selling the most consoles for at least five years now.

“I think it’s easy from the outside to judge the health of our business around how many consoles any company sells,” said Spencer in a 2019 conversation with The Verge. “In the end, how many subscribers you have to something like Game Pass, how many games people are buying, those are much better metrics on the health of the business.”

The Xbox chief made it even clearer last year. “We’re not in the business of out console-ing Sony or out console-ing Nintendo,” said Spencer in an interview with Kinda Funny Games.

Xbox Series S / X sales still lag behind the PS5. Photo by Tom Warren /

That’s reasonable because Microsoft doesn’t earn money from Xbox hardware sales alone, as Xbox executive Lori Wright admitted during the Epic v. Apple trial in 2021. “The console gaming business is traditionally a hardware subsidy model,” explained a Microsoft spokesperson in response to Wright’s comments in 2021. “Game companies sell consoles at a loss to attract new customers. Profits are created in game sales and online service subscriptions.”

Xbox Series S / X sales are still lagging behind the PS5, and Spencer recognised last year that losing the prior Xbox One generation was “the worst generation to lose” because everyone was building their digital library of games during the previous generation. Some might argue that opening up some older Xbox exclusives on a case-by-case basis to PlayStation and Nintendo Switch only helps Microsoft improve Xbox Game Pass with more revenue it can spend in its studios to build more games.

Such a move could even work as stealth marketing for Xbox Game Pass since games like Sea of Thieves and Hi-Fi Rush are both part of the monthly subscription price and are available instantly on Xbox consoles. Either way, when you look at Microsoft’s gaming business, it’s clear that for it to grow greatly, it won’t be through selling Xbox consoles alone. Microsoft has made it clear in the past that it wants to target billions of people through the cloud, expanding PC Game Pass, and a new Xbox mobile store is also in the works.

Sony is also experimenting with new ways to play PlayStation games. Photo by Antonio G. Di Benedetto /

This opportunity means we’re going to see Microsoft, and even Sony, try new ways for their games to be played. Sony has followed Microsoft into the game subscription age, launched multiple PlayStation exclusives on PC, and opened up PS5 games to cloud streaming. It even has big plans for cross-platform live-service games, although some of that is being pushed back due to “mixed levels of success.” The point is both PlayStation and Xbox are playing with how they sell their games and where players experience them.

So would it be surprising to see some Xbox exclusives come on PlayStation or Nintendo Switch? Absolutely not. If it actually happens, the devil will be in the details.

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