Xbox fans (and gamers from all walks of life) are currently losing their mind over a series of rumors regarding potential ports of formerly exclusive Xbox games. While “gamers are upset about rumors” isn’t usually newsworthy even on a slow news day, these particular rumors recently got significantly more interesting. What happens next could prove to be one of the most consequential decisions in modern gaming history.
So if you’ve just caught a whiff of the discourse and are desperately trying to make sense of this increasingly bizarre situation, here’s a rundown of what is happening, what it means, why all of this is causing some gamers to lose their minds.
The Xbox Third-Party Publishing Rumors, Explained
On January 18, 2024, The Verge and other outlets reported that Xbox was considering porting some of their currently exclusive games to PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch. At that time, it was widely circulated that the two exclusives that were most likely to receive multi-platform ports were Hi-Fi Rush and Sea of Thieves.
While those rumors generated quite a bit of interest, they didn’t necessarily trigger the widespread outrage that we referenced above. Hi-Fi Rush was a beloved sleeper hit that could benefit from more exposure and Sea of Thieves is an older online multiplayer title that could similarly benefit from an influx of users in a cross-play environment. Again, there was a lot of curiosity about those possible ports but those rumors alone didn’t drive Xbox fans crazy.
However, that situation changed on February 4 when Verge writer Tom Warren reported that Xbox is also considering porting MachineGames’ Indiana Jones and the Great Circle to the PS5. Unlike Hi-Fi Rush and Sea of Thieves (which were both released before those port rumors emerged), Indiana Jones is one of Xbox’s biggest upcoming exclusives. Around the same time, Xbox Era reported that their sources had informed them that Microsoft was also considering porting Starfield to PlayStation 5 sometime in the near future (likely around the time of the release of Starfield‘s first expansion).
While Starfield is another previously released Xbox title, it has long been presented as one of Xbox’s biggest exclusives. The game received a decidedly mixed critical reception when it launched late last year, but it’s still one of the notable Xbox exclusives of the last couple of console generations. The idea it would ever appear on another console was previously unfathomable, especially since so much was made of the PS5 version of Starfield effectively being canceled when Microsoft acquired developer Bethesda’s parent company, ZeniMax Media.
Spread among all those reports were the seeds of an even more shocking rumor that suggested that Microsoft isn’t just thinking of porting a few Xbox games to other platforms but is currently considering shifting their long-term gaming strategy away from hardware production and towards third-party publishing, cloud services, and other multiplatform interests.
Which Xbox Games Are Reportedly Being Ported to PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch?
While nothing has been confirmed as of the time of this writing, these are the major games that Xbox is reportedly considering porting to PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, or some combination of those consoles:
- Hi-Fi Rush
- Sea of Thieves
- Indiana Jones and the Great Circle
- Gears of War
At the moment, a compelling amount of evidence does suggest that Hi-Fi Rush is going to be ported to PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch. Viable insider reports, datamined information, and logical conclusions all suggest as much. It’s also widely suspected that Sea of Thieves will make the jump to unconfirmed platforms, though there is slightly less information available to support those claims at this time.
Starfield and Indiana Jones are both firmly in the rumor mill at this time. Though the rumors of those games receiving multi-platform ports kicked off much of this controversy, the details regarding those ports are comparatively vague at the moment. That said, these reports from these sources at least suggest that there have indeed been discussions about either or both titles on some level at some point.
Reporter Jeff Grubb also recently suggested that there have even been talks of porting the Gears of War franchise to other platforms. However, Grubb emphasizes that he’s only heard of talks of those ports at this time. Among other things, that suggests that many of these discussions about ports may still be subject to change and could include a variety of other Xbox-related properties not referenced above.
Has Xbox Announced That They Are Becoming a Third-Party Publisher or Will Stop Making Consoles?
At the moment, Microsoft and Xbox representatives have not confirmed or denied the majority of the reports about this subject so far. The closest that the company has come to acknowledging those reports is this tweet from Xbox Head Phil Spencer:
While Spencer does not specifically reference the reports mentioned above in that tweet, the timing of his statement certainly doesn’t feel coincidental. Microsoft and Xbox are aware of the rumors( and some of the reactions to them), and they intend to formally address them during a currently unscheduled event sometime next week.
Logically, it is unlikely that the Xbox team would go to the trouble of hosting such an event if there wasn’t at least some truth to those reports. They would likely simply deny them and move on if that were the case. It seems much more likely that at least some of those reporters got the jump on announcements that Xbox representatives previously intended to make on their own time and in their own way.
However, I must emphasize that none of the specifics of those reports have been confirmed as of the time of this writing. As of right now, Microsoft has not confirmed that Xbox intends to become a full-time third-party publisher or stop making consoles. We’re about to discuss the dark side of jumping to conclusions, and I can assure you that it’s not worth making that leap quite yet.
For what it’s worth, though, we did previously report on a series of internal Xbox leaks that included (among other things) references to an upgraded version of the Xbox Series X hardware and plans for future Xbox hardware releases. While many of the details of those plans were never confirmed (and are subject to change), they at least illustrate how shocking these reports are given what we previously knew/suspected about Xbox’s plans.
How Xbox Fans Are Reacting To This News
Naturally, there are many gamers out there who have no notable reaction to these reports or are otherwise waiting to hear more official information about this situation. As is usually the case, though, the online portion of this conversation is currently being dominated by some of the more…extreme reactions.
That particular charge is currently being led by so-called “Xbox influencers.” Consider, for instance, the plight of an influencer known as “Timdog” who recently led a 7-hour discussion about how he is “not an Xbox fanboy anymore” due to these reports. Fellow Xbox influencer Klobrille stated he may retire his persona due to “all-time low” trust in the Xbox brand, while Xbox YouTuber Doc_Dark wrote and composed what could best be described as a three-minute ballad/diss track regarding the supposed death of the Xbox brand.
It’s not just drama-fuelled influencers contributing to the outrage, though. Xbox fans across social media have expressed varying degrees of disappointment in these rumors. Some are simply confused and worried about what they may mean, while others have gone so far as to at least make it look like they are returning their Xbox consoles and games as a result of this news. An Xbox social media manager also recently shared some of the hostile messages that he has received as a result of these reports.
On the other side of this whole thing are some PlayStation and Nintendo fans who are celebrating not just the possibility of those ports but the supposed death of the Xbox brand. Put it all together, and parts of the internet have devolved into the kind of gamer vs. gamer arguments typically not seen since the heyday of Sega vs. Nintendo playground debates. In this case, though, it’s less “my console vs. your console” and more the mourning of the apparent death of a brand, the celebrations over that death, and the retaliatory statements triggered by those celebrations. It goes on, and on, and on, and it doesn’t take long for the whole thing to feel slightly insane.
So what is all of this really about?
Why Xbox Fans Are So Upset About These Reports
As noted above, “fanboyism” is at the heart of this controversy.
There are those out there who see even the possibility of Xbox porting exclusive games (or former Xbox exclusives, as the case may be) to PlayStation and Nintendo platforms as a betrayal of their loyalty to the Xbox brand. In many cases, that loyalty is fuelled by the high cost of gaming platforms that usually limit many people to owning one console at a time. There’s also the long history of game companies pushing those competitive console narratives to advance their business interests at a different time for the industry. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough time to dive into how many elements of capitalistic culture are designed to make you feel an often terrifying emotional attachment to the products you buy, but that’s also certainly a factor.
There are a couple of more unique factors in this situation that extend beyond the usual fanboyism. Most notably, the Xbox brand has been struggling over the last two generations in terms of both the quantity and quality of its exclusives. While the Xbox brand has excelled in other areas during that time, the lack of notable Xbox exclusives has long been a sore spot among self-identifying Xbox fans (and fanboys) in the console culture wars.
Perhaps more importantly, some feel that Xbox’s lack of exclusive games over the last couple of console generations is the biggest reason why they’ve struggled to keep up with Nintendo and Sony’s hardware sales during that time (at least in the case of the Nintendo Switch). Again, if you feel an attachment to “your console” and you’re invested in the idea that its performance is a reflection of you, then you may feel that Xbox deciding to port exclusives to other platforms is a betrayal of your desire to see them win the modern idea of the console wars.
There’s also Xbox’s recent acquisitions of Activision Blizzard and ZeniMax Media to consider. Not only did some Xbox fans believe that those acquisitions would lead to Xbox platforms getting better exclusives (and more of them) in the future, but the topic of third-party support was a major sticking point during the Activision Blizzard acquisition.
Concerns over the potential future exclusivity of the Call of Duty franchise resulted in Xbox needing to make a lot of concessions to ensure that CoD would remain available on other platforms for the foreseeable future. At the time, the popular thought was that those concessions would allow Xbox to make other titles developed/published by those companies exclusive to Xbox platforms. These reports suggest that may not be the case.
In fact, a phrase you may hear quite a lot in regards to these rumors and that deal is “return on investment” (ROI). Essentially, there is now a strong argument to be made that Microsoft believes the best way to justify the money they spent to acquire Activision Blizzard would be to ensure the games that result from that deal reach as many people as possible. Whether because of their own hardware sales struggles or the realities of the modern market, these reports suggest that the best way for Microsoft to get a justifiable ROI on their historic acquisitions would be to go beyond the Xbox brand.
That theory goes against the sometimes popular assumption that Microsoft made those deals to bolster its library of exclusives and, in turn, use those exclusives to improve the global sales of Xbox hardware. However, these reports suggest that the company may be more interested in using those titles to advance some of the less hardware-focused initiatives they’ve started in recent years. That’s especially true of the potential Cloud releases of some of those aforementioned titles. Microsoft has made it clear that they see their Cloud service technology as a cornerstone of the company’s future, and the distribution of those games to other platforms via some version of those Cloud services could certainly prove to be a big part of that initiative.
It’s also incredibly important to understand that misinformation is playing a big role in these ongoing debates. Some fans believe that these reports mean that Xbox is exiting the hardware race and therefore conceding the console wars. As of right now, though, there have been no indications that is the case. For that matter, there have been no indications that Xbox intends to port all of its future exclusives to other platforms or even a significant number of its existing and future exclusives.
To be fair, this discourse isn’t entirely led by fanboys and misinformation. There have long been legitimate concerns about the homogenization of the video game industry and how much of the industry is controlled by a select few companies. While console wars can often be a bad thing, they are rooted in the competition that any industry relies on to stay healthy.
Yes, some are upset about this whole thing due to misplaced brand loyalty and the things that sadly sometimes go with that loyalty. However, there are several potentially helpful and potentially harmful scenarios that could play out in the coming years as a result of what Xbox and Microsoft do next.
Hopefully, we’ll all know much more about this situation next week after Xbox’s presentation event. Until then, maybe think three times before posting online and perhaps reconsider the benefits of proudly calling yourself a fanboy.