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Next Xbox will be dead on arrival – Microsoft has made sure of that

OPINION: You think the Xbox Series S/X have had a rough time against the PS5? Just wait until people think they can get next-gen Xbox games on the next PlayStation console!

Do you think it matters Microsoft is already promising the biggest technical leap ever for a console generation, when the successor to the Xbox Series X rolls around? I sure as hell don’t.

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If the console gaming public believes that by buying a PS6 they’ll be able to have the best of both worlds, even Xbox die-hards would struggle to resist a Sony machine.

In my view, the big takeaway from this week’s announcement that some Xbox and PC games will lose their exclusivity is that the future looks grim for Xbox hardware as we know it.

Or, even grimmer than it already is.

The sales gap is currently thought to be 2:1 in PlayStation’s favour and Microsoft’s announcement this week practically assures there’s little chance of closing that gap next time around – especially when it has already promised that Call of Duty will be available everywhere to get its big Activision Blizzard deal over the line.

Even though Microsoft isn’t naming the games it’ll be offering up to PS5 and Nintendo Switch gamers yet, it doesn’t really matter. All people will hear from yesterday is “Xbox exclusives are coming to PS5.” It’ll be hard for Microsoft to convince gamers otherwise now the seal has been broken.

The Xbox team aimed to assuage concerns that Starfield and Indiana Jones won’t be among the games crossing the console divide, but how long will it be before the resolve to keep anything exclusive ebbs away?

Despite Phil Spencer making no promises beyond those initial four games, the smart money is on a lot more titles losing their platform exclusivity as time goes on.

The initial titles are designed to maximise revenue on games that have reached their potential on Xbox and PC, but there will be more of these, and the names of the games will get bigger.

The eventuality I envisage is first party games arriving for Xbox and Game Pass subscribers on day one, and available as a standalone purchase everywhere else you play a few months later. The only exclusives will be timed exclusives; even on the biggest Xbox franchises like Forza, Halo, Gears of War and others from Bethesda and the various first party studios.

This initial move strikes me as simply dipping a toe in the water before the big cold plunge that ends the console wars for good. And Microsoft has been preparing for life without console tribalism for this entire generation.

It has already made Game Pass available in as many places as currently possible and/or permitted. And Spencer has already talked up a future where ‘every screen is an Xbox’ so who is going to spend £500 on a black box when it isn’t necessary?

By the time the next generation rolls around, Xbox Cloud Gaming is likely to be in the 4K/120fps realm and there’ll truly be even less need for the dedicated Xbox hardware.

Microsoft’s biggest successes have been as a software company offering the best experiences on third-party hardware, enjoying fruitful partnerships with manufacturers. Even the PC gaming industry is predicated on running Windows, and you can play PlayStation Games there too!

Look, I don’t wish to envisage a future where console gamers have to be online and have to stream their games over the cloud. And, I hope for those people who play traditionally and seek the best experience from a pure hardware perspective, that Microsoft’s next Xbox is everything they want it to be.

However, the events of this week have made it clear the next Xbox console will be dead on arrival – a niche device at best.

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