Microsoft mercifully did not wait any longer than Monday to announce the time and date for this week’s “Xbox Business Update,” something ominously promised last week after rumors (not denied by Microsoft) swirled that a number of its exclusives were heading to PlayStation and Nintendo Switch.
This, whatever this is, will be unveiled in a podcast format on Thursday, February 15 at 3 PM ET, where Phil Spencer, Matt Booty and Sarah Bond will share “updates on the Xbox business.” The announcement features just the Xbox logo on a black background, furthering the exceptionally weird vibe of this whole thing.
Normally when you see any company say they’re announcing something it’s hyped up with flashy graphics and at least some measure of detail about what’s being teased. Meanwhile, this has all the vibes of a funeral, and the non-denials of the rumors from last week indicates that at least some of them are true. The overall sense here is that yes, this will indeed be the announcement of Xbox exclusives going elsewhere. But which ones and when and what that means for exclusive policy going forward are the gaps that need to be filled in.
I did not even know there was an official Xbox podcast before this. To be clear this is not audio format, there is a video component to this podcast, hence the YouTube link, so we’ll see Phil, Matt and Sarah sitting around…doing what, exactly? Are they going to be discussing this with each other or just taking turns saying rehearsed statements at the camera? You rarely hear this many high level executives simply chatting it up organically, and I wouldn’t really expect that given the news we’re talking about here, so we’ll see.
The worst thing Xbox can do here is continue to raise uncertainty. I expect a small handful of titles to be announced as going multiplatform, likely Sea of Thieves, Hi-Fi Rush and now Pentiment to start with, but Microsoft has to be clear about the larger picture here. If they say something like “we will do this on a case-by-case basis,” then every single new Xbox release will have the specter of “well, will this just be on PlayStation next year?”
If this policy is kept to “smaller” games like the one mentioned, perhaps it won’t be as big a deal as it’s seemed. But if you take even one high profile game over there, a Starfield, for instance, that raises questions about every significant Xbox exclusive to come, especially with the big fuss Microsoft made in court about why some IPs were exclusive and some weren’t (Starfield was a new IP, unlike Call of Duty, so that would be Xbox exclusive, they said).
I don’t know if this is going to answer all the right questions, and given the nature of what’s happening here, I’m not sure this is something that can be answered decisively right now. We’ll see if they can figure out how to make it out of this intact.