There’s been a lot of chatter across the industry regarding how developers will handle the launch of next-generation consoles. While “cross-generation” titles were common when the PS4 and Xbox One launched, there were still challenges for developers in dealing with the more unique designs of the Xbox 360 and PS3 while also programming for the Xbox One and PS4. As modern consoles are more similar to PCs and use X86 architecture however, that has helped to ease the transition. As we saw with the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, developers are able to simply optimize for the more powerful platforms similar to PC.
With the Xbox Series X and PS5 approaching, many are wondering how the companies’ first party studios will handle the transition. Microsoft has been speaking about the topic for a while now and have been as clear as they can be given the subject matter. It can be difficult for casual gamers to understand the difference in generational transitions given that consoles have had hard, generational lines for decades now. At E3 2019 when Project Scarlett was announced, Microsoft made it clear that forward compatibility would be in-place so that players who have invested in the ecosystem wouldn’t be left behind.
Matt Booty, Head of Xbox Game Studios, spoke with MCV recently on the topic and re-affirmed Xbox’s commitment to developing first party titles across generations.
“As our content comes out over the next year, two years, all of our games, sort of like PC, will play up and down that family of devices,” Booty explains. “We want to make sure that if someone invests in Xbox between now and [Series X] that they feel that they made a good investment and that we’re committed to them with content.”
When asked about how XGS plans to take advantage of the Series X, a concern often echoed by fans, Booty replied with the following:
“Our approach is to pick one or two IP that we’re going to focus on and make sure that they’re there at the launch of the console, taking advantage of all the features. And for us that’s going to be Halo Infinite, which is a big opportunity.
“It’s the first time in over 15 years that we’ll have a Halo title launching in sync with a new console. And that team is definitely going to be doing things to take advantage of [Series X].”
What’s also highly relevant to this topic then, is also how Game Pass plays a role with XGS now that all first party titles will launch into the service. After making it clear that the 15 Xbox Game Studios have full creative freedom, Booty provides a very intriguing answer that many likely aren’t considering:
“We don’t try to be directive on the content, but the great thing about Game Pass is that we don’t have to actually worry about that question,” he states intriguingly. “That’s because Game Pass becomes the service, Game Pass becomes the structure. And now, in our green light and concept review process, I don’t need to ask: ‘What’s your service plan, what’s your monetization plan, are you going to offer any DLC later, what is your monetization?’ We don’t have to ask any of that anymore, the teams can just go design the game that they want. And we can let Game Pass end up being the service.”
While the Xbox team is quite vocal about the Series X, Game Pass, and their plans for the future, Sony has been extremely quiet. While we’ll likely learn soon what their plans are, we fully expect cross-generational titles on the PS5 as well and it’s hard to imagine Sony leaving the 106+ million PS4 users in the cold on a big first party title during the launch window. But time will tell.
The Xbox team we’re witnessing at this point in time has been very different from the launch window of the Xbox One. They are confident in their direction, their products, and their services and it shows. Supporting their playerbase by allowing titles like Halo Infinite to release on the Xbox One family of devices along with the new Xbox(s) is a consumer focused approach that should be applauded.
The confidence in the direction also speaks to the Xbox’s team focus on the “ecosystem” rather than ensuring as many people as possible buy “their box”. It’s a very different market approach than we’ve all known for decades and many fans seem to be struggling with the concept. But given Xbox’s record revenue, and investment from parent Microsoft, we don’t believe fans should be concerned. Rather, focus on all of the games in the pipeline. After all, it’s always about the games in the end!