With Gears 5 heading to Steam, plus Ori and the Blind Forest being converted to Switch, Aaron Greenberg, GM of games marketing, clarifies Xbox’s first-party strategy to MCV@gamescom
Two publishing announcements from Microsoft in the run-up to gamescom caught the eye: Gears 5 is now heading to Steam, just a few weeks before its release, and 2015’s Ori and Blind Forest is coming to Switch, in just four weeks time. So what do these announcements mean for Xbox’s publishing strategy as a whole?
We caught up with Aaron Greenberg on the Xbox booth to talk about the reasons and ramifications of these decisions. He quickly made it clear these are exceptions to the rule, not a change of direction.
“Going forward, all of our internal studios, and the new studios we’ve added, will be focused on making games for our platforms and we have no plans to expand our exclusive first-party games to any other consoles,” said the GM of games marketing at Microsoft.
“People should recognise how excited we are with our internal development studios more than doubling. Those teams, going forward, will be focused on making games for our platforms, so while we know there’s existing commitments in place, take The Outer Worlds as an example, there was already a commitment to make that game available as a multiplatform title and we’ll continue to honour that.”
Such commitments are an inevitable outcome of the spending spree of acquisitions that Microsoft has gone on lately, but they will end once those undertakings are spent.
“Thinking about the next game from Obsidian, InXile or Ninja Theory, all those studios, just like our existing internal studios, whether it’s 343 or Turn 10, they’re going to be focused on making those games for our platforms. So we have no plans to expand any of those exclusive first-party titles to any other consoles,” Greenberg stated categorically to MCV@gamescom.
That said, we’re curious as to why an older title, Ori and the Blind Forest, is coming to Switch next month.
“Ori is built by Moon Studios, which is an independent, external studio. They came to us with a desire to bring the original Ori to the Switch. We thought that made sense, and we’re happy to work with them to enable them to bring that to Switch,” Greenberg explained.
“We understand their desire to bring that game to Switch, and in this particular case we were happy to support them. And we think that makes sense for the original Ori,” he clarified, and we can only agree that the game is a perfect match for the hardware.”
However, going forward, Greenberg was keen to clarify this doesn’t set a precedent for the sequel: “Our plans with Ori and the Will of the Wisps is to launch it exclusively on Xbox One and on the PC.”
ALL STEAMED UP
While console is one thing, the more open nature of PC stores is another, with Microsoft happy to bring Gears 5 to a potentially far greater audience via Steam.
“We know there’s a big PC audience out there which may not own an Xbox and they want to be able to play some of our big IPs. And bringing Gears 5 to that audience makes a lot of sense,” Greenberg started explaining.
“Steam reaches PC gamers in a lot of markets that are traditionally not as console heavy, and [Steam] has relationships with those customers there. It’s a very engaged PC audience and so to be able to bring a title like Gears 5 at launch to PC players in Eastern Europe, Russia, and China, in these big PC markets – here in Germany even – for us it’s a great way to reach a broader audience,” he added.
“Between this holiday and E3 next year we have a record number of games coming out.”
However, Xbox was keen that this was done in a way that includes those new players in its larger Xbox community with crossplay and cross-device progression.
“We’ve always focused on putting the gamer at the centre of everything we’re doing. When we think about growing the amount of people playing our games, we want to do it in a way where we support crossplay, cross progression, with people playing on the console and the PC together. So the community of people you’re going to play with isn’t determined by where you actually bought the game,” he stated.
“We’ve been able to work with Steam so that we’ll enable that community to also be able to play across Windows 10 and console. And so we’re excited to be working with Steam and the pre-orders are up. It’s been exciting and we’re bringing Halo: Reach and The Master Chief Collection to Steam as well,” he reminded us.
But while Microsoft is happy to expand its reach using other retail platforms, it still believes it’s own offering is the best: “We’re creating a lot of choice; gamers can get the game on Steam, buy it on Xbox, or subscribe and get it at launch on Xbox Game Pass. Though if you are a PC or console player, we think the best value comes from Game Pass.”
Finally, while gamescom has long been a big show for Microsoft, as opposed to Sony for instance, the company just announced an even bigger stage for Xbox in the form of XO19 in London in less than three months.
Greenberg explained its importance: “We think of both E3 and XO19 as the big beats of the year, we unveiled a lot of big news at E3, and XO19 will be another key beat for us. We’re going to have a lot of surprises.”
But despite doing it’s own event, Microsoft is keen to support others too: “We want to support industry events, we plan to be at the Game Awards in December as well, the big beats where gamers are watching and showing up, we want to be there. That said, it’s always fun to be able to create your own show, and
our fans love that.”
Added to this, Greenberg explained the reasons London was chosen this year: “We thought: ‘what a great place to invite friends from around the world to the Copperbox Arena [part of London’s 2012 Olympic legacy]. We’ve got the Rare team, the Ninja Theory team, the Playground Games team, all of the top British creative teams there with their staff.”
“We have a huge spring planned, so between this holiday and E3 next year we have a record number of games coming out, so that event will be the perfect opportunity to showcase all those,” he concluded.