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While E3 was going on, I saw articles pop-up with titles like 'Starfield will be Xbox exclusive!'. I was disappointed, because I had hoped it would come to PC, as well. Later on, when I was watching a reaction video of a Youtuber who was pretty hyped about Starfield, he mentioned it was coming to PC. I checked the articles with those titles, and they mentioned PC too.

Today, I saw an ad about Scarlet Nexus which features an intro and an outro with the Xbox logo, suggesting it was for Xbox, but I saw the game featured on Steam, as well.

Does Xbox exclusive always silently include PC, and is not that exclusive? It seems really confusing.

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With Microsoft being the parent company behind Windows PC and Xbox. Games labeled as "Xbox Exclusive" will be available on both Xbox and Windows.

With the new release of Windows 11, an Xbox application will be built into it allowing for Xbox's Game Pass model to be accessible on PCs demonstrating the increasing synergy between the two branches of the company.

In addition, Microsoft owning gaming studios such as Bethesda (makers of Starfield) means there will be more games that will be labeled "Xbox Exclusive". However, that is more stating that it won't be available on the competition's systems, Nintendo and Sony.

This general direction taken by Microsoft can be seen by the General Manager of Microsoft Studios Aaron Greenberg who was quoted stating "I'm not sorry" in response to the news that Starfield will not available to PS5 or Switch owners.

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    So 'Xbox exclusive' means 'Microsoft exclusive'? Good point about Windows 11 and the Game Pass, makes sense now.
    – Mixxiphoid
    Jun 25, 2021 at 12:45
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    The XBox app has existed for years. The "XBox Game Pass model" is called the PC Game Pass. The games available differ between the two platforms. Jun 25, 2021 at 19:11
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Console exclusive

"Xbox exclusive" essentially means "not available for Sony PlayStation" and "not available for Nintendo Switch".

Nintendo and Sony are direct competitors to Microsoft's gaming consoles and ecosystem.

There are probably other platforms that are incompatible, specifically macOS PCs (i.e., sold by Apple).

Microsoft's strategy

  • Some "Xbox exclusive" games are for Xbox consoles only.

  • Others are for Xbox consoles as well as compatible with Windows PCs. At least 175 games are currently "Xbox Play Anywhere digital titles".

You'll start to see that more and more games will begin to fall under the second category, because Microsoft's tactics in the gaming space involve full integration to unite Windows PC gaming with that of Xbox:

  • Cross-platform play enables gamers to interchangeably play the games they've purchased on both their Xbox and their Windows PC

  • This encourages gamers who want to play Microsoft-exclusive games to perhaps own a portable Windows PC (as opposed to a Mac), but provides flexibility to people who only own one Microsoft-gaming-compatible device

  • It simplifies transactions to one purchase per IP (game) at one digital point of sale. The IP then can be installed, streamed, or played on any compatible device that the player owns (including Android phones in the case of "Cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass") with no additional game purchasing cost.

  • Gaming is moving to the cloud under Xbox Cloud Gaming, which enables gamers to enjoy digital content on their tablets and Android phones, as long as there's a strong internet connection, in addition to being able to stream to conventional platforms such as Xbox and Windows PC. There are no additional requirements to receive Xbox Cloud Gaming other than possessing a Game Pass Ultimate subscription.

  • The purchase of Bethesda entitles Microsoft to distribute series like Fallout, Dishonored, and The Elder Scrolls onto their entire ecosystem, which provides Microsoft the depth of games necessary to compete with Sony's otherwise wider moat and more expansive repertoire

  • Consolidation of everything that Microsoft now owns (including ZeniMax Media titles) into this cloud-based ecosystem of digital content transforms the company into more of a services-oriented business based on monthly/yearly subscriptions rather than purely a device-specific console retailer: those with an advanced Xbox console (such as Xbox Series X/S) can benefit from the crisp high performance of the console, but gamers who own Windows PCs and tablets can also purchase games in the ecosystem and play them on the devices that they own. This increases Microsoft's market penetration and total addressable market by making their digital content accessible to a growing consumer base.

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    At least some of those games (e.g. most of the Bethesda/Zenimax titles) are already available for Mac OS and PS, I wonder if this means they won't be in the future? Jun 25, 2021 at 17:47
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    previous entries of these game properties should stay available to all their owners. games that were already in development before the acquisition will probably be multi-platform per contract. I'm not sure which ones were being made, actually. after that, Microsoft has a degree of control over exclusivity for future games, such as a new Fallout or ESVI. they may make them exclusive to Xbox/Windows/Android, perhaps even iOS (if they can navigate issues stemming from Apple App Store guidelines on cloud gaming updates), or possibly release under a "first or best" model. who knows. Jun 25, 2021 at 18:05
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    You are mixing concepts. Game Pass allows you to play many games from a catalog, without purchasing them. The "buy once, play on all platforms" policy is called "Xbox Play Anywhere", and has nothing to do with Game Pass. If you buy a "play anywhere" game, you don't need a game pass subscription to play it on PC and console. Also, it's only for PC and Xbox, not Android. You can (after this summer) stream games to an Android device using xCloud, which will be a part of Game Pass, so, no purchase, just your subscription.
    – AJPerez
    Jun 27, 2021 at 5:50
  • you're right. I've corrected this conflation of business models to the best of my understanding Jun 27, 2021 at 19:10
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"Xbox exclusive" means it's exclusive to Xbox. I'm not sure what the confusion is.

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    Surely it does not mean exclusive to Xbox. Did you actually read the question and other answers?
    – Mixxiphoid
    Jun 27, 2021 at 10:45
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    But they’re available on Windows too? So how does that make it exclusive to Netflix?
    – Tim
    Jun 27, 2021 at 16:22

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