The Xbox brand has been criticized in recent months for not acquiring a lot of marketing deals with third-party publishers like Sony has. On top of that, there are already some who believe that Xbox’s exclusive lineup of games this year was lacking, though they just had a fantastic release with Cuphead. The ethics of locking content behind marketing deals remains a point of contention within the gaming community, and Xbox head Phil Spencer has once again come out and stated that he does not like the idea of paying for exclusive content.
“People always knock me on this; I’ve been on record… I don’t love the idea or practice of us paying so other platforms can’t play or use a certain gun in a game or do a certain level,” Spencer told GameSpot at the Brazil Game Show. “I know I say that and, Xbox history–DLC exclusivity windows with Call of Duty–I understand the fingers are pointing right back to Xbox. I can only be who I am. It’s not the best PR answer. But I don’t like that.”
Spencer has always spoken candidly regarding these business practices. Still, Microsoft has reached deals with companies to bring their games to Xbox One as “console launch exclusives,” like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, in an effort to make the best games possible for the system. It will likely make its way to PlayStation 4 at some point, but right now the company is currently working with PUBG developer Bluehole to help bring it to Xbox One.
There are also times that games come along that give Spencer a reason to invest in them, like Cuphead. “When there are games that come along, Cuphead is a good example, and the team had certain ambition about what they wanted to go do, and together with them we wanted to invest more. We saw more opportunity. And what that turned into was us having an exclusive game on our platform. That’s a game that probably wouldn’t have happened the way it did if we didn’t invest the way we did.”
Though certain exclusive games do move hardware units, Spencer believes PC is so strong because it is an open platform. This is a big reason why Xbox has pushed the idea of cross-play functionality and Xbox Play Anywhere.
“If you define the gaming market as console and that’s all you’re focused on, then maybe that’s an important part of the business consideration,” Spencer said in regards to console-exclusives driving system sales. “I’d say one of the reasons PC is still so strong, is because it’s an open platform. Through things like cross-play we’re working to allow people to play games together regardless of where you bought the games. if you’re really about trying to drive just a specific device and say I just looked at the gaming opportunity all up as a single device opportunity, maybe that’s an approach. We don’t see it that way.
“When we look at things that are really large in gaming today, we look at Twitch, Steam, PUBG, Minecraft. People on Minecraft on Switch are playing with people on an iPhone. They don’t own a Windows machine or an Xbox. But they own our game or are using Xbox Live across multiple devices, that’s what gaming in the future is about. Getting caught in a definition of gaming that’s about me trying to do everything I can to get you to buy one specific device to play one specific variant of games, is not really about growing the business.”