23/09/2020

For a while, at least

There once was a time where the launch of a new console generation meant being unable to play the newest, most exciting releases until you bought the latest, most expensive console. Microsoft has stated that won’t be the case with the launch of the new Xbox Series X as new games are planned to work across the Xbox family of devices.
In an interview with MCV, head of Xbox Game Studios, Matt Booty, has said that as “content comes out over the next year, two years, all of our games, sort of like PC, will play up and down that family of devices.” The plan is that “if someone invests in Xbox between now and [Series X] that they feel that they made a good investment and that we’re committed to them with content.”
This isn’t completely out of the blue—in the lead up to the launch of the next generation Microsoft has been emphasising its support of backwards compatibility (as has Sony with the PS5) and the Xbox Play Anywhere initiative has shown its commitment to making first-party releases available on Windows 10 as well as consoles. Even the cross-play compatibility approach of the Xbox One X was a sign of a change in the wind.
However, until now it hadn’t been clear that Microsoft isn’t planning to launch any Xbox Series X first-party exclusives alongside the new console. 
It’s already been confirmed that one of the most anticipated Xbox Series X compatible games, Halo Infinite, will run on the Series X, Xbox One and Windows 10. Now we know that will be the approach to all first-party exclusives. At least for a while. 
Booty’s comments do suggest that there could be a shift after a couple of years but this approach will give Xbox players time to move willingly onto the next generation rather than shoving them unceremoniously. 
While new games will work across all Xbox consoles, Microsoft is still planning to emphasise the benefit of playing them on the more powerful Xbox Series X. According to Booty the “approach is to pick one or two IP that we’re going to focus on and make sure that they’re there at the launch of the console, taking advantage of all the features. And for us that’s going to be Halo Infinite, which is a big opportunity.
“It’s the first time in over 15 years that we’ll have a Halo title launching in sync with a new console. And that team is definitely going to be doing things to take advantage of [Series X].”
It’s worth asking, however, whether that will be enough. Microsoft’s ‘forward compatible’ approach will certainly benefit players by making moving onto the new generation a much less disruptive process but it also takes away some of the incentive to upgrade straight away, especially for those who recently moved on to the Xbox One X. At the very least, it’s likely to keep software sales strong regardless of adoption rates.
Neither the Xbox Series X nor the PS5 have exact release dates at the moment but their release windows means we can expect the new generation will begin in the holiday period of 2020.