In an interview with the Second Request Podcast, Team Xbox head Phil Spencer went on the defensive about how they managed exclusivity for Zenimax’s games.
This is a particular sticking point for Phil because the FTC actually directly names Zenimax, and the way Microsoft managed exclusivity for their games, in their administrative complaint against the company, blocking their acquisition of Activision Blizzard King.
FTC points out that immediately after the acquisition, Microsoft moved to make Starfield, Redfall, and an unnamed third title, all exclusive to Xbox and PC, including Game Pass.
Phil did not name these games themselves in his response. Still, he makes a reasonable argument that people may choose to take one way or the other.
This is what Phil Spencer had to say on the topic:
“It is true that in the console business, exclusives are part of the history of how people sell consoles. Sony has great exclusive games, Nintendo has great exclusive games, and Microsoft does.
When we think about large franchises like Minecraft, Call of Duty, where they have established player bases on other platforms, how we grow and nurture those franchises, meet the players that are currently playing those games expecting the next version of those games, and to grow those franchises, pulling a game like Call of Duty off of the largest console platform is totally at odds with all of that.
And if you go back to the Zenimax titles, all of the Zenimax games that we said are gonna ship on PlayStation, we have shipped on PlayStation. All of the games when we acquired Zenimax that were available on PlayStation, at the time that we acquired them, we have continued to do content updates on PlayStation and PC.
So if you think about Elder Scrolls Online, Fallout 76, there’s not a single game that we’ve had at Zenimax that we’ve pulled from Playstation. We’ve continued to update every game that’s available on PlayStation, keeping them in sync.
In fact, the first two games we shipped from Zenimax were actually PlayStation 5 exclusive games, not Xbox exclusive games, and those were just contractual commitments between Sony and Zenimax. Sony signed a deal to exclude those games from Xbox. And we lived up to the commitment that Zenimax made prior to us acquiring.
So, we haven’t pulled any games from Sony. In fact, we’ve expanded our footprint of games that we shipped on Sony’s PlayStation since our closing of Zenimax. And the same thing since our closing of Minecraft, which is much earlier, but we’ve extended that franchise.”
Now, it is true that at the moment Microsoft revealed their acquisition of Zenimax, people were worried that Microsoft would no longer honor any prior commitments, or move to make the company’s greatest franchises exclusive, but it really hasn’t played out that way at all.
Deathloop by Arkane Studios was signed by PlayStation as a timed exclusive. Microsoft honored that agreement to keep the game out of Xbox consoles for a little over a year. They did not even make an official confirmation of the game eventually making it to their platforms, but when it did, it also immediately hit Game Pass, making what had previously been a full retail game, immediately accessible to a larger number of players, even on streaming.
It was great that PlayStation had faith in Arkane Studios to produce a game that was willing to take some risks like Deathloop. It was also great that after its critical and commercial success, Microsoft moved to make the game as easy to get and play for consumers as quickly and as easily as they could make it.
We may have taken it for granted, but it’s also true that Microsoft made no moves against PlayStation or other platforms when it comes to the Zenimax games that had already been published on their platforms.
Now, Microsoft may choose to keep future games in some franchises exclusive, but they have also made the case that it does not make sense for them to do so in many cases, such as Call of Duty. It also cannot be denied that they have demonstrated a sincere desire to make their games multiplatform, when you consider how Minecraft has been brought to every such platform, and the many gentleman’s agreements the company has made with Nintendo for Rare games.
Source: Second Request Podcast