Microsoft’s Xbox division is facing challenges in its quest for expansion. Despite its efforts, sales of Xbox Series S and X consoles still trail behind Sony’s PlayStation 5, and the momentum of Xbox Game Pass subscriptions has slowed down. This decline was particularly notable in 2022, a year marked by the delay of Microsoft’s highly anticipated exclusive title, Bethesda’s Starfield.
In response to this stagnation, Microsoft appears to be considering a significant shift in strategy: making select Xbox games available on rival consoles such as the PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch. Reports suggest that titles like Hi-Fi Rush, Sea of Thieves, and even Bethesda’s Starfield and Indiana Jones may soon find their way onto non-Xbox platforms.
This decision marks a drastic departure from Microsoft’s traditional approach and underscores the company’s efforts to broaden the reach of its first-party games and increase gaming revenue. However, it also entails considerable risks.
Microsoft’s gaming division recently surpassed its Windows counterpart in revenue, largely due to its acquisition of Activision Blizzard. This acquisition, valued at $68.7 billion, introduces new considerations, especially concerning multiplatform games like Call of Duty, which generate significant revenue across various platforms.
The slowdown in Xbox Game Pass subscriptions is a key factor driving Microsoft’s exploration of multiplatform releases. In May 2022, Microsoft aimed for 100 million Xbox Game Pass subscribers by 2030 but encountered setbacks due to delays in exclusive releases and a gap of nearly 16 months between major game launches.
Despite these challenges, Microsoft has not disclosed updated subscriber numbers to investors, prompting speculation about the service’s growth trajectory. Analysts estimate modest growth, with Microsoft reportedly achieving only around 33 million subscribers—a far cry from its ambitious targets.
To offset these challenges, Microsoft has shifted its focus to PC Game Pass and explored opportunities for growth in mobile gaming. The company’s interest in mobile gaming is underscored by its acquisition of Activision Blizzard, which boasts popular mobile titles like Call of Duty Mobile and Candy Crush.
While expanding Xbox Game Pass to rival platforms may provide short-term gains, it remains uncertain whether this strategy aligns with Microsoft’s long-term vision for the Xbox ecosystem. Rumors of an Xbox handheld device and recent internal discussions suggest that Microsoft may be exploring alternative hardware solutions to complement its gaming portfolio.
In the face of uncertainty, Xbox fans are apprehensive about the implications of Microsoft’s multiplatform strategy. However, it seems unlikely that Microsoft would abandon its console hardware entirely, given its longstanding commitment to the Xbox ecosystem. Instead, the company may be gearing up to unveil new hardware innovations that offer a fresh perspective on the future of gaming.