In the wake of swirling rumors about large changes coming to Microsoft’s Xbox business, with an official announcement next week, it seems there is already some internal damage control to be done.
Journalist Shannon Liao reports that there was a townhall at Xbox this past Tuesday in which Phil Spencer assured employees that they were not getting out of the console hardware market, and would continue to make Xboxes going forward. Xbox strategy continues to employ “multiple kinds of devices,” he said.
How do you even get to the place where you have to ensure Xbox employees you’re still making Xboxes? This is part of the idea that Microsoft is going to continue to put increasingly less focus on console sales, even more than they have already, in favor of an “Xbox Everywhere” philosophy. That has included console, PC and mobile devices that can play via the cloud, but the rumors are that to some extent, that will now include PlayStation and Nintendo devices as well.
The purpose of the announcement next week seems to be to introduce this philosophy, but it seems unlikely Microsoft will actually do this with all its games. The ones that seem almost certain are Hi-Fi Rush and Sea of Thieves, but recently a rumor about Starfield has been retracted by some sources, though others remain about games like Indiana Jones and Gears of Wars being in consideration for multiplatform release.
The concern was that if Microsoft is essentially going third party, that would mean little reason to keep making Xbox hardware, which is already being outsold by PS5 at a 2:1 ratio for the second generation in a row, and Phil Spencer has said outright that Xbox has effectively lost the console war to Sony. Microsoft has not reported official Xbox sales in years now, but they’ve also stopped reporting Game Pass subscriptions as well.
The most likely answer to what Spencer is addressing is that Microsoft is going to keep the Xbox as a hardware option indefinitely for those who want the easiest access to all Microsoft games, all day one launches, on a dedicated device, to be played on a TV. That’s the function it has now, and even if more games appear elsewhere, that shouldn’t change, so it stands to reason they’re not going to just kill off their entire console division. Not yet, in any case.
But the fact that this had to be addressed at an internal town hall at all speaks to how much uncertainty there appears to be, even within the company, much less among fans who are trying to guess at what’s happening from outside the situation. As we’re in the weekend now, we still do not have a date or time for Microsoft’s promised “Xbox Business Update” next week, but we should know soon.
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