In recent years Xbox has gone from being a significant player in the console space to taking important steps towards becoming a staple of the PC gaming experience. After Phil Spencer took over as Head of Xbox in 2014, the company introduced the Play Anywhere initiative, which allowed players to own the PC and Xbox copies of a single title without paying extra. On top of that, Xbox brought their ever-growing Game Pass catalogue to PC in 2019. While these new features have received a warm welcome from players on the platform, Xbox on PC still has a long way to go before it can stand among the heavy hitters of PC gaming.
Better Games on Game Pass
Game Pass on PC is an incredible program with one unfortunate flaw not shared by its console counterpart: the lackluster nature of the games. While the console portion of Game Pass has featured AAA games such as Outriders and MLB The Show 21 on release date, the PC side has struggled to offer similarly high-profile titles for their player base. Overcoming the limited scope of its library wouldn’t be a complicated matter for Game Pass’ PC program, though it requires Xbox to put in the effort to bolster the existing collection of games.
One possible complication that may get in the way of improving Game Pass on PC is the reality of business deals between Xbox and other publishers, which often have to account for a finite player base and obligations to other marketplaces. For instance, Square Enix’s Outriders is only available on the console side of Game Pass, likely to avoid cutting into the sales of the version being sold on Steam and Epic Game Store. This need to account for behind-the-scenes dealings and broader market concerns is a profound hindrance to Xbox’s sincere efforts in trying to make Game Pass a more robust service, especially considering the strides Xbox has made in terms of securing big releases.
Xbox has managed to secure a number of major titles for the PC side of Game Pass that aren’t first party exclusives. Setting aside the recent inclusion of Bethesda’s catalogue and the games featured on EA Play, there has been an assortment of good games available to those with Game Pass Ultimate. Within the past few weeks, titles like Dragon Quest Builders 2 and Destroy All Humans! have been featured on both the PC service and the console service. That said, such great additions are only possible because of Xbox’s willingness to spend crucial funds on quality and variety.
The only way to bring more AAA games to the service is through money, a concept that Xbox appears to grasp. The company has been generous when it comes to funding games that need help, in exchange for the game having an exclusivity period on Xbox’s platforms. If Xbox is able to deliver that money to a game that is highly anticipated, it might help bring that game to Game Pass on PC.
Bigger Part of Xbox Ecosystem
With the release of Halo Infinite later this year, we will see cross-progression and cross-play between the two platforms. While playing Halo multiplayer on Xbox against PC players might prove to be an insurmountable challenge, the prospect of starting Infinite’s campaign on PC and continuing to play through it on an Xbox system is incredibly enticing. Infinite’s promised cross-platform features suggest a shift towards an Xbox ecosystem where one’s platform of choice matters less over time.
Another feature that could allow Xbox’s PC presence to be improved is xCloud. Besides facilitating play of a given person’s favorite Xbox games on their phone and tablet, xCloud is also accessible via people’s PCs. In theory, this should allow PC players who don’t own an Xbox to play the great AAA games associated with Game Pass on their computers. Regardless of any technical tradeoffs, xCloud offers a lot to Xbox in terms of reaching out to the computer gaming community.
Better PC Integration
To become an essential aspect of the PC experience, Xbox needs to put its name next to PC staples such as Steam and Discord. Xbox has made strides in this direction with the decision to release their first party titles on Steam. This strategy has proven successful for Microsoft, who have seen at least one of their games in Steam’s monthly list of the top 10 best-selling titles since then. Taking into account the good that has come from Xbox integrating itself further with Steam, it makes sense that Xbox would grow more ambitious on this front.
Recent rumors have pointed to the possibility of Game Pass finding its way onto Steam, a scenario that could be beneficial to all involved. Such a move could lead to a large intake of new players who refused to download the Xbox client in the past. It could also open up the partnerships between Xbox and the developers of certain titles already featured on Steam. To be frank, it is ridiculous to assume that Xbox hasn’t given serious consideration to building a closer relationship with Steam, considering the multitude of advantages this potential union offers.
Another partnership that was close to becoming a reality was Xbox and Discord. Recently, Discord reached out to Microsoft hoping to be acquired by the company. Talk of a buyout was soon dismissed, however, when Discord accepted investment money from Sony. While this abrupt investment may have cut short an intriguing deal for Xbox, there remains the foundation of a worthwhile idea that Xbox could explore for themselves.
Knowing that Discord will be able to connect to PlayStation accounts when it becomes integrated next year, it doesn’t feel unreasonable to assume that Xbox could take the concept a step further by exploring cross-platform party chat. PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo players all talking to one another in the same private chat lobby may seem absurd, but it could happen in the near future. It would be incredible if Xbox managed to bridge the divide between brands in this way, while still staking their claim in the market.