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What Exactly Did We Learn from the Xbox “Business Update Event”?


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Blimey. It’s quite the thing having the opportunity to watch the reaction to rumours and leaks play out in real time on social media. If you’ve dipped your toe into these murky waters recently, you’ll have no doubt seen all sorts of wild speculation which escalated to a level beyond parody. Who would have guessed?

After the cooking pot of conjecture bubbled over for a little while, it was announced something was coming. It probably didn’t help matters because of how formal “Business Update Event” sounds, with many claiming it was all over for Xbox. Apparently Phil and the gang were doing a SEGA, packing up the hardware and getting out.

What we did learn at the top of the podcast that played out was probably the biggest news, and accounted for the majority of the rumours. Yes, four games are going multi-platform. These were not confirmed, although Starfield and Indiana Jones were ruled out. It seems the money is currently on Grounded, Sea of Thieves, Pentiment and Hi-Fi Rush as the likely candidates.

Phil Spencer didn’t make any guarantees for the future, but did say this was not the floodgates opening for Xbox games to land on other platforms. It does allow the teams to drive more business value from these releases, and this may mean sequels in the future.

Matt Booty hyped up the games coming to Xbox this year, such as Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II as a reminder of their commitment to the first party offering. More information about what’s coming will be front and centre of the Xbox June showcase.

It was also made clear that Xbox would not indeed be abandoning hardware, and Sarah Bond doubled down on it being a key part of the strategy. In fact, she teased that the next generational leap would be the biggest ever, with more information on the way this coming holiday season (or Winter time for us on this side of the pond). Could this mean a handheld console is in the works too? Time will tell.

One part of the discussion I found particularly interesting was around games themselves potentially becoming bigger than a single platform in the modern age. Titles such as Fortnite are an example of this, which is a reversal of how it used to work where games were engineered with a specific platform in mind.

It wouldn’t be an Xbox event without a little reveal snuck in there however. We did learn that Diablo IV is coming to Game Pass on March 28th, the first Activision Blizzard game to make the transition since the acquisition. There was also a promise of more to come.

Other rumours were swiftly closed down, such as Game Pass coming to other consoles, and commitments were made around hot topics such as game preservation. Nothing new there, but a clear message that the mission is still to give gamers and creators as much choice as possible in how to play.

It felt very much like business as usual, fitting in with the team’s long held strategy when it comes to the Xbox brand being bigger than the box sat by your telly. We did learn that Xbox Game Pass now has 34 million subscribers, which only reinforced this. Sure, the timeline may have changed thanks to the noise coming from the community, but the direction of travel has not.

Nothing we heard went against Xbox’s belief, “When Everyone Plays, We All Win”. Given how tough it’s been for folks in the gaming industry of late, surely that’s a mantra we can all get behind.

What we saw from Phil, Sarah and Matt was calm reassurance about their collective vision for Xbox. Yes, it’s newsworthy that four (still unannounced) games are making their way to other platforms soon, but it’s hardly a doomsday scenario for Xbox like many were proclaiming.

However, perhaps the most interesting insight from the chat was how the games industry, and way we play, is changing. There has been news coming out of the PlayStation camp recently around big franchise releases reportedly drying up for a while, and how they may be changing their strategy too with talk of the PlayStation 5 being in the “latter stage” of its life cycle. What’s happening out there is bigger than Xbox, it really feels to me that we are at a milestone when it comes to the industry and where it goes from here.

I’m all for it too. I get why exclusives are sought after, but Phil argues they are becoming less and less important as the industry changes. Agree or not, this is a key consideration when it comes to how Xbox evolves. Put that to one side and there may be a slim chance we can finally put all the tribalist console war rubbish behind us. It’s exhausting. 

This is all against a backdrop of an incredibly tough time for the industry, where so many talented people have lost their jobs. Gaming is a business, like any other sector, and this means it is subject to the same economic pressures and challenges that face countries all over the world. This was also recognised in the discussion as without business success, there can be no growth for the Xbox brand. To do this, expansion plans are geared towards targeting new players instead of further monetising existing ones.

So, to answer the question at the top of the article, we didn’t really learn much at all from the Xbox Business Update Event. Colour me shocked. I would argue we mostly heard a recap of a strategy laid out many years ago. Can we now please all calm down and return to a lowered state of alert. I’m off to play some more Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft anyhow. Argue amongst yourselves.

Darren Edwards
Darren Edwards
I have been playing games since a very early age, thanks to my Dad's encouragement. I've been an Xbox gamer since the very beginning, the Master Chief is to thank for that. I'm also a big Nintendo geek, and my other half is a PlayStation nut. I'll play pretty much anything in any genre (although FIFA and COD maybe pushing it).
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