Just in case you’re so rooted in the world of indie games that you missed it, Xbox had their dirty laundry aired out this week courtesy of their ongoing court case with the FTC.
The company has been embroiled in a legal battle to get its acquisition of Activision-Blizzard over the line, and in the midst of this, the Federal Trade Commission’s examination has brought to light some intriguing correspondence from deep within the bowels of Microsoft.
There have been a series of emails made public inadvertently by Xbox themselves, involving Xbox CEO Phil Spencer and other Xbox higher-ups, revealing upcoming plans for the company, potential new acquisitions, and much more.
However, as someone who cares more about how this news affects the little guy, I’ve dug into the details, and I’ll be giving you the skinny on how this news affects indie gaming, and what we can expect in the future if Xbox follows through on any of these plans.
The Big Ticket Items Affecting Indie Gaming
There was a whole laundry list of things revealed courtesy of these leaked Xbox documents. However, not all of them really have too much of an effect on the indie scene. So, if you want a full rundown of the AAA highlights within these documents, then take a look right here.
Otherwise, here are the revelations that we believe could have long-term ramifications on the indie scene:
- Xbox CEO Phil Spencer seems very keen to acquire Nintendo and Valve if the opportunity ever arises
- Xbox is likely to exit the game industry altogether if Xbox Game Pass doesn’t succeed by 2030
- Xbox is keen to offer gamers a means of playing Xbox exclusives on PlayStation via an online portal
This all may not seem to directly affect the indie gaming scene, but allow us to show our working.
The Potential Nintendo & Valve Acquisitions
Okay, so let’s discuss the potential of Xbox buying market leaders Valve and Nintendo outright.
Well, firstly, I want to make our skepticism clear regarding whether this would ever materialize, as it seems like Xbox and Phil Spencer are being their obnoxious and arrogant selves, as per usual.
Phil wrote in his emails in 2020 that “It’s just taking a long time for Nintendo to see that their future exists off of their own hardware.”
This statement pretty much paints a picture of overzealous confidence in the Microsoft offices, as Nintendo has been doing their thing for quite some time, rather successfully, might we add. Whereas Xbox has never quite found their feet, always placing third in a three-horse race.
But let’s humor the idea, shall we? If Xbox were to buy Valve, the company that gave us Steam, a trusted platform for indie games to grow and find audiences through Steam Greenlight and Steam Early Access, the question remains, how likely is it that Microsoft will continue to fund and champion these services, as their recent priorities have been very AAA focused.
Not to mention, with the underwhelming revenue generated by Xbox Game Pass, and the company’s tendency to throw money at a problem, it seems rather unlikely that they could manage Steam’s industry-standard digital storefront infrastructure with any level of efficiency.
Obviously, this is all speculation and hypotheticals, but considering how pivotal both of these companies are for indies trying to find an audience, it seems like a potential risk to developers’ livelihoods for this corporation to take over.
Xbox Potentially ‘Leaving Gaming’
Next, we need to talk about Xbox’s claim that their Xbox Game Pass service needs to generate a lot more revenue by 2030, or they will be leaving the gaming industry completely.
This has been batted away by many within the community as panic-induced hyperbole, but again, if we humor this, questions arise.
Sony, among others, has regularly questioned how Xbox can afford to run such a Cloud Gaming Platform, as the losses from Day One Releases on the platform, a wealth of licenses to renew, and general running costs would almost definitely make it very difficult to turn a worthwhile profit.
So, if this were a genuine concern, then the effect on the indie scene could be drastic. Many indie services rely on Xbox Game Pass to generate buzz about their game, market their product, and continue to find players for their games after the spike in popularity on release.
However, if Xbox were to suddenly close shop and take this platform away, a lot of developers would see their exposure drop significantly, not to mention indie gaming fans would see a huge library of indie titles snatched away from them.
To Xbox’s credit, they have always been a great ally for those within the indie gaming scene, with initiatives like Creator’s Club, Xbox Live Indie Games, ID Xbox, and, of course, Xbox Game Pass. However, with all their eggs sitting precariously in one basket as they are, this could spell disaster for indie developers who have come to rely on Xbox.
Xbox Games Via Playstation
Then, lastly, we received news that Xbox would be open to the idea of creating an Xbox Portal that could be accessed via an online browser on Playstation, allowing PS4/5 players to play Xbox exclusives such as Forza, Halo, and Starfield on their Sony Console via a cloud streaming app.
Unlike the other two revelations listed, we believe that this might actually be a positive turn of events for indie gamers, provided Sony plays ball, which, admittedly, is unlikely.
I personally have had the feeling that Xbox’s ultimate goal and way to find its place in the market would be to leave the console race, fully lean into Cloud Streaming, and become a subscription service where players could play ‘Xbox Game Pass’ games on other consoles. This already occurs on PC, but this could be something that would work across the board.
Xbox as a service rather than a competing console entity would be a massive win for indie gamers, and PlayStation gamers in particular, as indie games tend to avoid launching on PlayStation for the most part, often opting for Xbox, PC, and Switch functionality, with a Playstation release coming months, or even years later down the line. ]
So Playstation gamers, imagine having a portal where you could play indie games consistently as they are released rather than pressing your face to the glass, watching as the others have all the fun. Wouldn’t that be nice?
That’s our rundown of how the FTC Xbox Leaks may affect indie gaming in the years to come. What do you think about this? Be sure to join our Discord and be part of the conversation, and as always, thanks for reading Indie Game Culture!
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