Why are major third-party games constantly skipping Xbox? (2024)

Why are major third-party games constantly skipping Xbox? (1)

In the last decade, the video games industry has grown staggeringly. In 2012, video games generated an estimated $63.3 billion in sales worldwide, and current projections predict 2022 will close at a mind-blowing $197.0 billion. With this increased revenue potential comes amplified investments from prominent industry figures. PlayStation, Nintendo, and Xbox want bigger slices of this tremendously lucrative pie.

While these legacy platform holders and passionate fans celebrate the importance of compelling first-party exclusive titles, history demonstrates that many third-party games are the most significant profit drivers year-over-year. Call of Duty, Madden, FIFA, Grand Theft Auto, and other juggernauts frequently dominate the sales charts. When it comes to the undeniable financial workhorses, Microsoft has ensured consistent content. However, there are apparent gaps in the platform's third-party support.

Time and time again, we've seen major publishers skip Xbox. Occasionally this can reasonably be linked to exclusivity deals or limited-timed publishing arrangements. Unfortunately, there are dozens of examples of global video game releases that come to every platform possible except for Xbox. As Microsoft has proven in recent years, platforms can survive and even thrive without universal backing. Still, it's impossible not to wonder why third-party industry partners, especially those from Asia, opt out of delivering Xbox releases.

Why is the Xbox third-party situation relevant?

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This isn't my first time discussing the shortcomings of third-party support on Xbox. Previously, I've detailed Team Green's complicated struggles to maintain growth in the Japanese market and highlighted an unfortunately long list of JRPG franchises not currently available on modern Xbox consoles. For enthusiasts feverishly following industry developments, this isn't exactly breaking news. However, recent rumblings have reignited frustrations from the community once again.

Xbox players are worried they'll be neglected yet again.

According to internet sleuths who snapped several screenshots from the ESRB website, Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster has been rated for PS4 and Nintendo Switch. While the ESRB has seemingly pulled these console listings, this development adds credence to the long-running rumors of console ports for this beloved collection of iconic RPGs. PlayStation and Nintendo fans celebrated the idea of playing Final Fantasy 1-6 on their favorite platforms, but Xbox players are worried they'll be neglected yet again.

Currently, console versions of Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster haven't been confirmed by Square Enix, so we can't say definitively whether this rumored release is confidently skipping Xbox. Sadly, disheartened community members don't have monumental optimism, given the inharmonious history of Square Enix titles on Xbox. This console omission probably wouldn't be worth scrutinizing in an isolated instance. However, the genuine lack of faith and enthusiasm vocalized by Xbox fans on social media following these reports was palpable.

As tensions climb between Xbox and fans regarding third-party inconsistencies, community members look to investigative journalists for answers. With few concrete stories published on what's incontrovertibly happening behind the scenes, certain critics have suggested that the media doesn't care about uncovering the truth. Like many players, I have a laundry list of questions and concerns surrounding video games I love, outright ignoring the Xbox platform.

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I've encountered plenty of passionate industry advocates doing their best to shed some light on the situation.

Throughout 2022, I've reached out to Atlus, Square Enix, Nihon Falcom, Capcom, Xbox, Koei Tecmo, and others for comment on multiplatform releases that aren't available on Xbox consoles. Unsurprisingly, many publishers didn't respond or merely provided a "We have nothing further to share at this time." message. I've also spoken to numerous industry professionals familiar with the business dynamics of ports and platform viability off the record in hopes of obtaining further insights.

I've publicly joked about Legend of Mana, one of my favorite games of all time, overlooking Xbox being the catalyst for my unending quest for third-party clarity. In my search, I've encountered many passionate industry advocates doing their best to shed some light on the situation. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts and active investigations, I still need definitive answers to provide discouraged Xbox players.

Dissecting the misconceptions

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Upset by uncertainty and eager for understanding, a segment of the community has replaced theory with reality. From villainizing publishers like Square Enix to making sweeping statements about exclusivity deals, the complex truth of Xbox's third-party shortcomings is muddied further by this conjecture. I want to address the most prevalent assumptions I've noticed gaining traction on social media.

Let's start by dissecting the idea that certain publishers "hate" Xbox or its fans. Obviously, this stems from an oversimplification of the business needs of different development teams and companies. In a capitalist-driven global economy, no rational enterprise would willingly exclude a potential customer base if notable financial gains were to be achieved. So, a publisher essentially ignoring a market or entire platform out of spite feels a little unlikely, given the allure of the mighty dollar.

Developers and publishers have to weigh the financial risks associated with ports.

A frequently used counter to this argument suggests it's cheaper and easier to port games to other platforms than ever. While it's unquestionably more affordable to deliver new versions of previously developed titles, many players grossly underestimate the resources required for such endeavors. Reports indicate that smaller-scale indie ports can take 3-6 months to build and typically start at around $50,000. This timeline and the financial investments dramatically increase regarding complex AAA releases.

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And some of you might be thinking, "well, they can just make up those costs with increased sales on the new platform." Theoretically, that is a possible reality. However, developers and publishers have to weigh the financial risks associated with ports. The critically and commercially acclaimed indie darling Shovel Knight infamously performed disappointingly on Xbox. When Yacht Club Games celebrated its 2-million-unit milestone in 2018, a pie chart showed the Xbox version sitting at less than 5% of total sales.

Examples like Shovel Knight often get used to weaponize the "[insert X genre] don't sell on Xbox" rhetoric, which occasionally has tangentially supportive data. JRPGs are often presented as the most damning evidence in Xbox's uphill battle to expand its market share and secure enriched third-party support. Early figures from the launch of the 2022 juggernaut Elden saw PS5/PS4 secure over 50% of total sales, with Xbox at 29%. On the surface, that is an interesting disparity. But when you factor in PlayStation's massively more substantial install base, Xbox performed valiantly.

To respect the wishes of the individuals I've spoken to about the situation, I won't share official quotes or comments. A common theme tendered during my industry outreach was intricacy. The explanations many fans and pundits supply for Xbox's lack of universal third-party support doesn't often represent the delicate nuance of sustainable business relationships. Financial goals, platform expectations, and the unpredictable human element are all likely candidates for this corporate conundrum.

What can Xbox do?

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Xbox's relationship with some major third-party partners is complicated and inconsistent. Microsoft is painfully aware of this. Phil Spencer has previously spoken about the company's need to "rebuild trust with Japanese creators" to bolster the appeal of the Xbox ecosystem. Additionally, Sarah Bond has publicly declared Square Enix as a vital partner, despite their output on Xbox being one of the most unreliable of the AAA publishers.

Ultimately, more than anything, Xbox just needs to be consistent.

Despite a relatively rocky past, it's vital to highlight Xbox's reinvigorated efforts to build a better future for third-party developers. We're currently witnessing Xbox deliver on its previous commitments to improve its standing with Japanese creators. From the noteworthy collaboration with legendary director Hideo Kojima to cleverly positioned Xbox Game Pass drops like Persona 5 Royal and Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, Xbox has clearly been putting in some leg work in this market.

Ultimately, more than anything, Xbox needs to be consistent. Messaging and commitments dwindled during the Xbox One generation, which presented opportunities for Nintendo and PlayStation to establish domineering relationships with major publishers and developers. In turn, audiences grew accustomed to playing certain games and franchises on non-Xbox hardware. So, to successfully course-correct, Xbox must slowly but steadily reestablish itself as a necessary platform for all third-party publishers.

Why are major third-party games constantly skipping Xbox? (7)

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Why are major third-party games constantly skipping Xbox? (8)

Miles Dompier

Miles Dompier is a Freelance Video Producer for Windows Central, focusing on video content for Windows Central Gaming. In addition to writing or producing news, reviews, and gaming guides, Miles delivers fun, community-focused videos for the Windows Central Gaming YouTube channel. Miles also hosts Xbox Chaturdays every Saturday, which serves as the Windows Central Gaming weekly podcast.

Why are major third-party games constantly skipping Xbox? (2024)


Why are major third-party games constantly skipping Xbox? ›

Time and time again, we've seen major publishers skip Xbox. Occasionally this can reasonably be linked to exclusivity deals or limited-timed publishing arrangements. Unfortunately, there are dozens of examples of global video game releases that come to every platform possible except for Xbox.

Why are developers skipping Xbox? ›

Batchelor added that because "the audience is so small", we might see more indie developers pass on developing for Xbox due to the cost, even prioritising Nintendo Switch.

Is Xbox becoming a 3rd party publisher? ›

Phil Spencer said this isn't happening (via GameIndustryBiz), but anything is subject to change. Of course, the only way we'll see Xbox Game Pass on PlayStation and Nintendo is if those entities allow it — and I don't see that happening, at least any time soon.

Is Microsoft getting rid of Xbox? ›

But in a practical sense, it is very unlikely that Xbox will shut down entirely; the brand name still commands attention, after all. It is more likely that we'll see a shift in purpose—that perhaps Xbox will become a third-party developer, or it will focus more on selling Game Pass than selling consoles.

Is Xbox declining? ›

Microsoft admitted that the big decline in Xbox hardware was “driven by lower volume of consoles sold.” However, CEO Satya Nadella was keen to point out they're expanding to new platforms and that “earlier in the month, we had 7 games among the Top 25 on the PlayStation store, more than any other publisher.”

Is Xbox going under? ›

In short, no. As anyone who remembers Sega's days as a hardware developer will know, it takes more than just a bad year or two for a company to abandon the hardware market entirely. And Sega still exists as a publisher and developer, so Microsoft isn't about to shutter its Xbox division.

Why is Xbox shutting down? ›

If your Xbox console is unexpectedly shutting down, it may be because it's not getting enough ventilation, or there may be a problem with the power supply.

Why is my Xbox game stuttering? ›

Image stutters or is slow to refresh

If the image on your TV or monitor is visibly slow to refresh, it may mean that your TV or monitor is stuck in a low refresh rate. If this happens, you'll need to restart your Xbox console.

What is the Xbox screen of death? ›

If you've ever turned on your Xbox One® console only to find yourself face-to-face with a black screen, then you know how frustrating the so-called “black screen of death" can be. This software glitch blacks out large portions of the dashboard, effectively rendering the console unusable.

What slows down Xbox downloads? ›

Things like congestion on your home network, your physical location in relation to the content server, the size of downloads or updates, whether you have a game running (even in the background), or Remote Play connections from your PC to your console, among other things.

What does QoS tagging do on Xbox? ›

Quality of Service (QoS) tagging is a feature that sets priority values on latency-sensitive outbound networking traffic such as party chat, console streaming, and multiplayer (in supported games).

How do I clear my Xbox cache? ›

Press and hold the Xbox button on your gaming controller and turn off the console. Once your Xbox is completely shut down, unplug it from the power source. Leave your console unplugged for about a minute. This pause allows the system to reset and clear its cache.

Is Xbox having technical issues? ›

User reports indicate no current problems at Xbox Live.

Why would an installation stop on Xbox? ›

If you're trying to install an Xbox game from a disc and the installation process stops at or near 0%, this could be caused by the console trying to download an update for the game while the game is still installing.

Is Microsoft not making Xbox? ›

The company isn't giving up on making Xbox consoles just yet

In a special edition of the Official Xbox Podcast published on 15 February, Phil Spencer, Microsoft's head of gaming, and Sarah Bond, president of Xbox, revealed that the company was working on a new Xbox console.

Why is everything disconnecting from my Xbox? ›

Random disconnects could be caused by interruptions to the Xbox service. If you've already verified that there are no service alerts or interruptions, then the issue could be your connection speed.

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