In the infamous console wars of yore, all of the major players were dead set on fending for themselves. To that end Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft all set about creating distinctive hardware and games that would serve to solidify their respective brands.
The results of that mentality can be seen among the three corporations to this day. Nintendo usually strays from the pack with its focus on bringing more engaging creations to the gaming industry, like the Wii. Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft have continued to go head-to-head in competition for a hypothetical Best Console Award.
However, with Sony’s PlayStation 4 system taking a demanding lead during the eighth console generation, Microsoft shifted gears a little. In addition to wanting to sell their own consoles and exclusive games, Microsoft began to emphasize people being able to play their most cherished games anywhere, even if that means on other companies’ consoles.
Play Xbox Anywhere
In the past few years, Microsoft has been more open to bringing its exclusive titles to other platforms, creating a gaming environment that would have been thought impossible a decade ago.
After Microsoft acquired Mojang Studios in 2014, the Microsoft-owned Minecraft became available on every platform, including Sony and Nintendo consoles. This proved the first big step in Microsoft’s ongoing process of softening the barriers between consoles.
As they grew more open-minded with regards to how and where games should be played, Microsoft opened the floodgates further. One of Microsoft’s bolder moves was their decision to allow for cross-platform play in the popular battle-royale game Fortnite. This meant that Xbox and Nintendo players were able to play together, while Sony players were left with matchmaking on its own platform.
Cross-play gave way to further collaborations between Microsoft and Nintendo. Titles like Cuphead and the Ori series were permitted to release on the Nintendo Switch after their initial launch on Xbox systems. On top of that, Steve from Minecraft and Banjo-Kazooie were integrated into the roster of Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Since this friendship between the companies is still in its early days and has plenty of room to grow with time, how far could it possibly go?
Game Pass on Nintendo Switch
There have been rumors suggesting the possibility of Xbox Game Pass being brought to the Nintendo Switch. This move would bring with it over 100 games, some having never been released on a Nintendo console.
One hurdle to clear in this intriguing plan, however, would be Phil Spencer’s wish to not only carry over Game Pass but a wider Xbox ecosystem, including Xbox Live. Knowing Nintendo’s cautious approach to online play and communication between anonymous players, this might end up being both a red flag for the company and a solid justification for preventing Game Pass’ intrusion onto Nintendo systems.
That said, this issue could be fixed if Xbox Live for Switch was tweaked to ensure that profanity and disrespectful behavior were censored for the Nintendo audience. Such a reworking of Xbox Live would be a significant undertaking for all involved, though, and has the potential to result in an early end to the online service’s presence on the platform. As such, this addition brings with it a high degree of risk that Nintendo may not feel comfortable undertaking.
Future Relationship Growth
While the dream of having Xbox Live and Game Pass available on the Switch may remain just that, there are other ways for Nintendo and Microsoft to reinforce their business relationship and continue their mission to bring new experiences to gamers on both companies’ platforms.
For instance, they could garner a great deal of positive press by bringing Rare Replay to the Nintendo Switch. A collection of games developed by Rare, Rare Replay is in essence a weapons-grade dose of nostalgia for long-time gaming fans. More fascinating, and potentially more important, is the fact that many of Rare Replay’s titles were first released on a Nintendo console. Allowing this large museum of games to find their way back home to a Nintendo console would be amazing and would definitely help Microsoft sell a few more copies of this 2015 compilation.
When it comes to determining which Xbox games can make their way to the Switch in the near future, the issue of advancing hardware may add one extra wrinkle to proceedings. Xbox Game Studios are working on games that will take full advantage of the Xbox Series X’s technical capabilities. That would mean visually enhanced titles like Halo Infinite and Everwild might be limited to the Series X out of necessity.
All that said, the effort by certain studios to bring game streaming to the console may be an aid here.
Within the past year, games like Hitman 3 and Control have come to the Switch through cloud gaming. Taking into account the Switch’s obvious limitations where details like frame rate are concerned, these games do run fairly well on the system. As such, this development could open the way for other blockbuster games to find their way onto the Switch while circumventing certain inherent technical hurdles.
Old Friends in New Places
Microsoft is continuing to allow its properties to be used in other titles, a trend which does not appear to be subsiding any time soon.
As mentioned before, Super Smash Bros Ultimate has brought together characters from a wide variety of developers like Capcom, Square Enix, and Mojang among others. One character that fans have been eager to see receive one of the iconic Smash invitations is Master Chief, from the Halo series. Microsoft hasn’t been shy about this style of crossover, having already allowed some of their characters into Ultimate and even offering Master Chief as a purchasable skin in Fortnite. Thus, it seems plausible that another Smash Bros collaboration could be in the works.
In addition to Master Chief, the Cuphead characters are making their way to other titles. They first showed up as costumes for the Mii Gunner fighter in Ultimate, with a more recent appearance in the form of skins in Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout.
What Can Nintendo Do For You
Perhaps the most difficult thing to gauge about this relationship is what Nintendo can offer Microsoft, specifically where content for Xbox consoles are concerned. For the most part, Nintendo has been firm in its belief that someone wants to play a Nintendo game, they have to use a Nintendo console.
A key exception, though, can be seen in Nintendo’s mobile game development. Within the past five years, Nintendo has increasingly embraced the mobile gaming scene with titles like Mario Kart Tour, Super Mario Run, and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp.
It may seem that this friendship is one-sided with Microsoft being more open to its content being on the Switch console and Nintendo not giving much in return. However, those paying close attention will recall that Microsoft is not involved in this relationship for that reason.
Since Phil Spencer took over as Head of Xbox, his goal was to bring the Xbox brand to as many places as possible. Part of that effort includes bringing Game Pass to the cloud with xCloud so people can join the subscription service on their mobile device. The aforementioned release of several of its games to other platforms and permitting of Microsoft-owned characters to appear elsewhere are just as crucial in the grand scheme of things.
These days, Xbox is all about working together and bringing games to as many players as possible. Having Nintendo and the Switch along for the ride should help Xbox achieve that goal.