In a move which some may have interpreted as a sign of the coming apocalypse, Microsoft’s gaming division has shifted its focus away from the corporation’s own proprietary hardware and digital storefront in favor of a more broadened, consumer-friendly strategy. With cross-platform support already available on PC in the form of Xbox Game Pass, and apparently on the horizon for the Nintendo Switch as well as iOS and Android-accessible devices, the term “Xbox” should now be thought of as more of a service than a specific gaming console.
What’s more, the absolutely unthinkable suddenly became a reality when Microsoft announced that certain first-party AAA games previously consigned to their own specific systems would be making their way to Steam. Since that announcement, we’ve all been waiting for the release of Gears 5, Halo: Master Chief Collection, and, Gaben willing, even Minecraft on Steam. What would have seemed like an absurd pipe dream a few years ago will shortly be a reality, and it’s an undisputed miracle for PC diehards who’ve never had a chance to play these games previously.
That said, the Gears 5 PC port appears, at least initially, to have come with a bit of a caveat. This Steam listing states that an Xbox Live account is required to play the game, which, if true, would be extremely annoying and make purchasing the game on Valve’s platform somewhat redundant. Those who’ve seen the listing may have had flashbacks to the horrendous Games for Windows Live days when every property to which Microsoft could stake a claim couldn’t be played on Steam without jumping through a series of hoops and signing up for a bunch of different third-party accounts. Players who still have the original Dark Souls: Prepare to Die PC port languishing in their games lists will know that pain all too well.
Despite the unclear, borderline false info displayed on the Steam Storefront, Gears 5 won’t require an Xbox Live account when it launches in September. Those who do happen to have an account with Microsoft will be able to sign in to the service, but that’s only if they're interested in accessing things like Xbox servers and Xbox Live achievements via Steam. As it stands right now, no player will be forced into signing up for anything they don’t want to, and it’s a stark contrast to Microsoft’s attitudes in years prior.
Of course, Microsoft’s new buddy-buddy relationship with every non-Sony gaming outlet may cause some to question the necessity of purchasing an Xbox console in the future. Though rumors of their upcoming Xbox Scarlett sound promising, there won’t be much of a point in buying one if most of the console’s exclusive titles will be playable elsewhere.
In truth, it does seem like they’re shooting themselves in the foot just a bit with this move, but their goal is to get their games in the hands of as many players as possible, regardless of hardware. While the Xbox faithful will likely stick to whatever piece of hardware they launch come November 2020, it’s a welcome change of pace to see a publisher once so protective of their IPs and licenses embrace a much larger portion of the gaming community.
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