- Continue as is (Later ports for select titles)
- Release day and date with M+K mandated, add touch/controller support later if possible
- Delay and require parity
Since the announcement of Ara, I’ve been ruminating on this topic, and am curious what people think.
Xbox, obviously, is a mutli-pronged platform with a variety of different entry points. From your PC to your Cloud to your Console. In terms of exclusives, since 2018 iirc, the only games launched that are not playable on all entry points have been Age of Empires titles, the launch of Gears Tactics, the launch of MSFS and the forthcoming Ara game.
Obviously, as a platform, certain genres play better on certain control schemes. However, the prohibitive cost of many modern gaming rigs runs somewhat in opposition to Xbox’s Play Anywhere ecosystem wide approach. This is made all the more interesting by the forthcoming acquisition of Blizzard, although the bulk of their recent output has been multiplatform. This has lead me to wonder… how should Xbox handle PC exclusives going forward?
Here are three possible situations I could see play out.
- Stay the course of PC exclusives, and possible ports later down the line.
There are definite cases to be made for this. In its current state, PC Game Pass has less games than Console Game Pass. Developing games for the PC audience can help win over a largely separate market that can help boost GP numbers.
MS as a platform holder has for years developed franchises only for PC, and it is only now that ones like MSFS have even started to make the jump.
Additionally, the creation of a console port can be time consuming and costly, as considerations need to be made not only for the input device, but for the UI and the tastes of players as well. In Diablo 3, for instance, they added the dodge roll as they found console players jumped quickly in playtests due to a lack of the moment to moment stimulation common on several dungeon crawlers on the system.
Prorated launches can also help to ensure that QOL issues identified by PC players are reflected in the console release.
As for some games like Age (which, fwiw it is rumoured may eventually make the jump to console) there are too many inputs to naturally account for on a controller, meaning a separate version would need to be made or complexity would need to be cut, which can anger fans.
However, this method also cuts off 2 major entry points which represents the bulk of Game Pass users, and can lead to accusations of preferential treatment. Whether this is true or not (Xbox, for instance, has several “de facto” exclusives through back compat that can’t just be picked up and placed on PC) is debatable, but it is a factor for certain.
Additionally, restricting a series to one entry point can reduce overall popularity of some of their IPs.
- Release games on console and cloud day and date, with mandatory M+K controls. Maybe update with controllers at a later date.
Architectually, Series Consoles and PC are not incredibly different. Porting over a game to Series X and S and by proxy Cloud I do not think would be astronomically difficult for 1:1.
However, by restricting to Mouse and Keyboard at launch, you will alienate some players. Most games don’t tend to require peripherals, and M+K compatibility may differ.
On the other hand, this ensures each game hits every system on day one. It allows Console gamers to give specific feedback based on the SKU. It would theoretically allow for gamers with lower spec PC to play with higher quality graphics or even just play in general if they use the cloud. The door is also open for touch and controller support at a later date.
That said, requiring gamers to purchase a peripheral can be a big ask, but in a day and age when a compatible M+K setup can be bought for $25 whereas a competent PC build can easily run into the high 3 figues/low 4 figures, I think this is still a net good for players.
- Require launch parity, delay game release.
As is, a competent controller port tends to take ballpark 8 months to a year. To ensure a day and date launch would likely require a delay of this size.
This means that valuable feedback from the PC release may not be in the console one, the game won’t have a year to kickstart a community, and gaps may not be able to be filled on PC Game Pass. However, it also ensures parity across the ecosystem.
PC Gamers may also be concerned this will reduce complexity.
With this in mind, what would you do? Personally, I think it’s time for M+K only games with the option to add controls at a later date. While I understand the rationale, I still think the benefits to Cloud gamers as well as the money savings for Xbox Console Owners well outweighs the peripheral support somewhat restricting barrier to entry. I also think this can help assuage any fears for PC gamers since the input systems are identical.
How would you handle this situation?