Microsoft seems to be shifting its strategy in the gaming space, with reports claiming that the company is mulling the potential launch of its first party titles on rival consoles. Starfield, the space RPG from Microsoft-owned Bethesda Softworks that launched exclusively on Xbox and PC in September last year, could be coming to PS5. The Xbox parent is also considering bringing another upcoming Bethesda title to Sony’s console. Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, first revealed at Xbox’s Developer Direct showcase last month, could also reportedly launch on PS5.
The report about Starfield’s potential release outside the Xbox and PC ecosystem comes from XboxEra, citing anonymous sources who claim that Bethesda’s RPG is being considered for a PS5 launch. While there’s no detail on a release timeline, the report says it could happen after the Shattered Space expansion, announced in December last year, launches on Xbox consoles and PC sometime later this year.
Additionally, sources have told XboxEra that Microsoft has made “additional investment into PlayStation 5 dev kits to support ongoing development efforts.” The report also says that the shift in Microsoft’s stance to release first party titles on competing platforms has not come without some internal resistance. The company’s senior leadership has engaged in “fierce” internal discussions over the matter, with not everyone reportedly onboard with the new direction. But the financial incentive of releasing its biggest games on rival consoles like PS5 and Nintendo Switch cannot be ignored.
Aside from Starfield, Bethesda’s next big game, Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, is also being considered for a PS5 launch, according to The Verge. The report, citing a source privy to Microsoft’s plans, claims that the Indiana Jones game seems set to be joining a list of Xbox titles that could make their way to PS5 and Nintendo Switch.
Announced for Xbox Series S/X and PC, Indiana Jones will reportedly be a timed exclusive, with a potential PS5 launch being weighed for some months after the game arrives on Xbox and Windows. The report says that publisher Bethesda is looking at a December 2024 launch timeline for Microsoft consoles and PC.
Microsoft has not officially confirmed any details about its reported plans to release first party games on other platforms and its decision on certain exclusive titles going multi-platform could change. The new reports, however, follow rumours of other Xbox titles potentially coming to PS5 and Nintendo Switch. Exclusive titles like Hi-Fi Rush and Sea of Thieves could reportedly go multi-platform, with XboxEra sources saying that the former could be available on rival consoles in the first quarter of 2024.
Xbox’s previous position on its first-party titles was clear: exclusive launch on Xbox consoles and PC, with subscription access via Game Pass. Aaron Greenberg, vice-president for Xbox games marketing at Microsoft, had stressed on X (formerly Twitter) — long before Starfield launched — that the game would not be a timed exclusive, with no indication of it ever coming to PlayStation.
Starfield will be an launching exclusively on Xbox Series X|S and PC on November 11, 2022. Game Pass members can play it day one as well on Xbox & PC. I know we have said this all before and none of that has or will change. pic.twitter.com/CcNBcOKBeg
— Aaron Greenberg 🙅🏼♂️💚U (@aarongreenberg) August 30, 2021
Microsoft acquired Bethesda parent ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion (roughly Rs. 55,223 crore at the time of the deal) back in 2020, adding formidable franchises like The Elder Scrolls, Doom, Fallout and more to its first party portfolio. The company also reportedly scrapped a planned PS5 release for Arkane’s first-person shooter Redfall after the acquisition “We were acquired by Microsoft and it was a change with capital C. They came in and said, ‘No PlayStation 5’,” Redfall game director Harvey Smith had said in an interview in March last year. That strategy, clearly, seems to be changing.
Redfall later released to overwhelmingly negative critical reception, with Xbox chief Phil Spencer himself taking “full responsibility” for the game’s unceremonious launch. “I’m disappointed, I’m upset with myself,” Spencer had said on the Kinda Funny Xcast show in May last year. He had also candidly weighed in on Xbox’s position compared to its two big rivals in the console space, Sony and Nintendo, admitting that Xbox did not intend to “out-console” its competitors.
Microsoft did, however, acquire Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard last year for $69 billion (roughly Rs. 5,73,000 crore) after a long-running regulatory battle with the US’ Federal Trade Commission and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority. While the acquisition bolsters Microsoft’s position in the market, bringing lucrative franchises under its umbrella, the company has had to acquiesce to certain conditions to placate antitrust authorities. The Xbox parent signed an agreement to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation. Microsoft and Activision also agreed to sell non-European cloud streaming rights for their titles to Ubisoft.
Starfield, despite its overall mixed reception, has remained a strong performer for Microsoft, with the game emerging as one of Steam’s best-selling titles in 2023. In December last year, Spencer said the Bethesda RPG had hit 12 million players since launch.