In a recent blog post on the Microsoft website, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer announced that future titles from Bethesda will be tied to PC and Xbox systems. As a persistent rumor which has been hanging around since Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda was announced in September of last year, many spectators are not surprised. Giving the company access to some of the biggest series on the planet, this move could do a great deal to pushing users away from Nintendo and Sony and towards Microsoft’s ecosystem.
A Matter of Competition
The idea of platform exclusives has always been a key factor in gaming, with each console manufacturer traditionally trying to make their system the only choice. While understandable from a business perspective, the actual implementation of this idea was often crude, harming players.
A common example of this could be found in a historical lack of cross-play, or the ability for users on one system to play with users on another. While presenting somewhat of a technical challenge, this concept has long been possible as demonstrated by the likes of Quake 3 and Final Fantasy 11 some twenty years ago. It’s only recently that the three major console developers started opening up to cross-play, with some hoping this might be more indicative of a more cooperative age.
Microsoft itself leaned into this idea as the new Xbox Series approached release. With Nintendo and Sony both boasting a strong list of exclusives, Microsoft announced it had no big plans for exclusivity, at least for a couple of years. This gave players hope that Microsoft might be finally pushing for a major change, but with the recent Bethesda announcement, it seems Microsoft’s claims were mostly based on PR.
At least, unlike the other two manufacturers, the availability of Windows means exclusivity isn’t the issue it could be otherwise. Bethesda’s biggest games series like the post-2016 Dooms, Fallout, and The Elder Scrolls were born from PC anyway, and this is where most of the diehard audience lies. Still, those who don’t own Xbox’s or a gaming PC will have to miss out, and that’s going to be a real annoyance come release day.
The Threat of Exclusivity
The major problem that users have with exclusivity is that it’s financially draining. While you can often find games for cheap these days, the same cannot be said about up-to-date gaming hardware. Even when the initial scalping period is passed, putting hundreds of dollars down for a console, especially to play just one or two titles, is not within most people’s budgets.
Complications here are further confounded by the fact that multi-platform games tend to be the best-selling titles of all time, especially in the modern age. Minecraft, GTA 5, and Tetris illustrate this fact, are home to not just multiple consoles, but multiple generations of consoles.
A similar pattern applies outside of video games, in other forms of interactive entertainment. In the contemporary online space, live online casino games are one of the most popular examples of the multiplatform concept in action. Originally designed for PCs, new live games like Immersive Roulette and Power Blackjack are now available on mobiles, tablets, and even some more advanced smart-TVs. The emphasis here is placed on helping the player, and this is something audiences openly support.
Bethesda’s move to Microsoft has been the boldest yet this generation, with implications that will take years to be fully explored. At least, announced so early in the new console lifespan, it gives players ample time to start saving if they’re diehard Bethesda fans. We can only hope that not all games take the exclusive route, or that timed exclusives rather than permanent efforts are the way forward. Make no mistake, multiplatform games on consoles are an inevitability in many ways, but that doesn’t mean the audience has to like them.