Gamers Should Not Fear Options

I have been playing console video games for nearly all of my life and let me tell you something- few companies in this industry have the ability to stir up passions more than Microsoft. For some people these feelings manifest into something I refer to as Microsoft Derangement Syndrome. These are the people who make it a mission to stalk gaming and shopping websites to make their dislike of Microsoft, Xbox or anything related to these brands known. Maybe we’ll talk about them sometime.

Today we need to talk about Microsoft’s recent Quantum Break announcement and the reactions from Xbox fans. More specifically, the announcement that Quantum Break -formerly labeled as an Xbox One exclusive – would also be released on Windows 10. Players who pre-order the digital version of the game from the Xbox Marketplace would receive the Windows 10 version for free along with both Alan Wake games and DLC. I didn’t get much work done on Thursday or Friday; I was far too busy rubber-necking at angry outbursts on one social media platform after another. I also listened to a few podcasts by angry Xbox One owners ranting about this announcement. Some of these podcasts exceeded two hours. That is a lot of ranting.

While I genuinely believe that this will ultimately be a good thing for gamers, the gaming industry and the Xbox brand, I can sympathize with at least one group of people who are frustrated by this announcement. If you already had a powerful gaming PC and bought an Xbox One specifically for Quantum Break, I feel your pain. Microsoft could (and should) have handled the timing of the Windows 10 announcement with a bit more consideration. You are not the gamers I have in mind as I share my thoughts in this editorial.

This brings me to another type of gamer- the one who believes Microsoft is giving up on the Xbox brand or trying to push us into PC gaming. I respectfully disagree with you. I think this move is necessary to move gaming forward. Maybe you will think I am wrong but hopefully you will at least consider my reasons. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Xbox is more than just a box.

There, I said it. There was once a time when our gaming experiences were constrained to those little plastic boxes we call home consoles. That was primarily due to technological limitations of the previous decades. There were some exceptions such as the Turbo Express handheld from NEC and even the Sega Game Gear could be made to play Master System games with an adapter. These instances are the exception rather than the rule. We do not live in that world anymore.

Some gamers represent an odd contradiction. While video games are often at the forefront of emerging technologies, a large number of gamers are surprisingly resistant to using modern capabilities to advance our hobby. Xbox is and should be an ecosystem for games that is not constrained to a single plastic box.

Like most gaming websites, The Inner Circle has an ongoing chat for the staff. My contributions to this chat usually involve snarky comments, challenging the other staff members to fights, submitting spectacular typos and (once in a while) offering a few eloquent thoughts. During a recent episode of Super Podshots, our host Kor X Kal El read one of my comments from the team chat during the podcast. Let me paraphrase it here.

Those who argue to contain their game experiences to a single platform are in fact arguing for a smaller gaming world. Sony may have set multiple sales records in the console industry but in reality their reach does not extend very far beyond consoles. Microsoft is the only company in the world with a presence in PCs, consoles and mobile operating systems.

Let’s look at the numbers. We know that there are over 200 million devices running Windows 10 now. Not all of those will be capable of running modern console games so let us turn to Steam. Approximately 30% of Steam users are running Windows 10 and we know there are over 125 million Steam accounts. It would not be a stretch to say there at least thirty million Windows 10 PCs on Steam.

Now let’s look at Ubisoft. According to their most recent quarterly earnings report, approximately 41% of their third quarter game sales were on the PS4 versus 27% of Xbox One. That is quite a sales gap. However, if you add in PC game sales and add them to the Xbox One sales we have a total of 39% versus Sony’s 41%. We can see that game sales from Microsoft platforms are now very close to those from Sony platforms.

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Why should you care? Well that makes things a lot easier for Microsoft to negotiate in-game content and marketing deals for their platforms. It gives Microsoft a larger install base to sell their games to and increases both the chances of getting a sequel to a beloved franchise or introduce more new IPs. Cross-platform play extends the size and longevity of an game’s online community and cross-buy makes it easier for you to play your games when you are away from your Xbox One.

Some of you will tell me that you are strictly console gamers and have no desire to play your games on a PC or play against PC gamers. To that I would say that you can still limit your experience to a console if you want to. Your ability to play and enjoy your games has not changed. To those who believe that putting Quantum Break on PC will hurt the Xbox One, why did pre-orders for the game increase by over 2,000% on Amazon after the announcement? Keep in mind that is for the physical copy of the game and does not include the Windows 10 version.

Why is it that when we buy a song or a movie or a book on our tablets we expect that content to follow us to our phones or our streaming devices but our console games must not be allowed to follow us across our devices? That approach does not make sense in today’s world and even Sony recognizes this. Did you know that Sony has put games such as The Last of Us and Uncharted 2 on Samsung TVs? You don’t need a Playstation console to play those and I certainly don’t recall any backlash from Playstation fans. I dare say that it won’t end there. You don’t really believe that Sony spent $180 million on GaiKai just to stream older games, do you? Sony has put Helldivers on Steam and it is safe to say that Sony will eventually branch out and put their games on platforms beyond consoles. They will have to in order to keep up. I also suspect that when they do there will not be a reaction as drastic as we saw to Microsoft Quantum Break announcement.

In all honesty the negativity I have seen about Xbox One games on PC seems to be mostly relegated to the internet. Microsoft will certainly lose some Xbox One console sales but they will also pick up software sales from gamers with powerful PCs. Game sales have historically been much higher on consoles than on PCs. I predict most people will opt for the low cost and simple approach to playing games like Quantum Break and that is the Xbox One. The type of person who reacts to a $50 price drop on a console is not going to suddenly put down $600 for a GPU strong enough to play Quantum Break on Ultra settings.

The future of gaming doesn’t have to be full of doom and gloom. More options are not a bad thing. That said, never stop giving feedback to Microsoft. At the end of the day consumers hold the power and voting with your wallet is the loudest statement you can make. Just know that in the near future it will be a rare thing to see an AAA game released only for a single console and nowhere else.

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