SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 16 — Microsoft yesterday shook up the video game world with word it is making some once-exclusive Xbox video games available for play on rival consoles.

Xbox head Phil Spencer did not specify which titles were expanding beyond the Xbox, but the Verge, citing unnamed sources, said they will be Hi-Fi Rush, Pentiment, Sea of Thieves and Grounded.

“I do have a fundamental belief that over the next five or 10 years, games that are exclusive to one piece of hardware are going to be a smaller and smaller part of the game industry,” Xbox head Phil Spencer said in a podcast.

In deciding to take four games to other consoles, Xbox did not decide to change its “fundamental exclusive strategy,” Spencer said.

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“Four games, no promise beyond that,” he said.

“So if you’re on those other platforms, and you see these four games coming, please don’t take it as some signal that everything’s coming. It’s not.”

The move comes as Microsoft looks to boost Xbox sales that have lagged those of Sony PlayStation consoles, and to ramp up revenue from subscriptions to its cloud gaming service.

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By putting its weight behind software and subscriptions, Xbox could be trying to match the success of streaming giant Netflix which upended the film and TV industry.

Microsoft makes Xbox consoles along with game software, with titles such as hit Halo exclusive to its hardware.

Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo have long competed to be the console of choice with exclusive blockbuster titles from their own studios or in deals with other game makers.

Outside studios, in contrast, typically seek to reach the broadest number of gamers with big-name titles playable on all consoles and Windows-powered computers (PCs).

“Why did Xbox wait one week and let their entire community have a meltdown if the only thing worth reporting was that four smallish titles are going to go multi-platform?” wrote a member of a Reddit forum devoted to the Spencer podcast.

Another member of the forum argued this is just the start of Xbox games heading for PlayStation and other rivals.

“This is a major deal,” the forum member wrote.

“When they started porting games to PC they said it would only be a few and now look at it.”

Circana video games executive director Mat Piscatella said Xbox is continuing a strategy of expanding access to titles, particularly those that make more money the bigger the online community of players.

If Microsoft-owned blockbusters such as Minecraft and Call of Duty remain playable on an array of platforms, freeing up small Xbox games in similar fashion is not industry shaking, Piscatella cautioned.

PlayStation challenger

Video games have become cultural phenomenon on par with blockbuster films, raking in fortunes from legions of devoted fans whose ire can be fierce if play disappoints.

Spending on video game content, hardware and accessories in the United States reached US$57.2 billion in 2023, up just 1 per cent from the previous year, according to market tracker Circana.

Money spent on video game hardware was US$6.6 billion, essentially the same as in 2022, with PlayStation 5 sales offsetting declines of Xbox and Nintendo Switch purchases, Circana reported.

Hogwarts Legacy, which is available on multiple platforms for play, was the top selling game of last year in the United States, Circana reported.

Since releasing the first PlayStation in 1994, Sony has grown into a titan of console gaming with Microsoft’s Xbox emerging as its main challenger.

Revenue from subscriptions has grown with the trend of video games being played online with content and features routinely updated.

Sales from Xbox content and services was up 61 per cent in the final three months of last year, driven mostly by Microsoft’s acquisition of Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard, according to quarterly earnings figures.

Microsoft launched its blockbuster takeover in January 2022, an acquisition that made it the world’s third-largest gaming company by revenue. — AFP