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Xbox’s Future Rests On a Thursday Evening Podcast

As odd as it might seem, we’ll learn about the future of Xbox through a podcast on Thursday evening. That’s how these things are done now.


Gone are the days of corporate press releases and obviously carefully edited talking head videos, replaced with a less obviously stage managed video roundtable.

And this isn’t a bad thing. It means we’re going to get the words directly from the horse’s mouth. And those words had better be near perfect.

For those not in the know, a couple of weeks ago rumours hit fever pitch around the idea of certain Xbox games coming to PlayStation. And, because this is the internet and we’re talking about Xbox, those rumours quickly evolved into doom and gloom about the end of the brand as we know it. Game Pass has failed and will be completely altered. Every game will come to other consoles. The Series X is the last console from Microsoft. Standard stuff.

This was then exacerbated by Xbox just kind of letting it ride. They chose not to discuss the issue, instead promising a “business update” this week. And the perfect time for such an ominous and corporate sounding event? Thursday evening. 8pm GMT. Obviously. Or 3pm ET. A time that will go down in infamy.

Not because what they’ll announce will be especially shocking. Everything that could possibly happen has been predicted in the last few weeks. There’s no potential change undiscussed. But because Phil Spencer, Matt Booty and Sarah Bond have an extraordinary needle to thread. And everybody is waiting for them to fail.

The Changing Face of Xbox

The three execs must clarify clearly where the Xbox brand is going, especially in terms of multiplatform releases. Say too much and people will be furious. Say too little and it leaves the discussion open for every single game to come to PlayStation or Switch. What’s the point of buying an Xbox if Indy and Hellblade are just a small time away from coming to competing platforms? That is the question they have to answer.

Will there be further Xbox devices? How can you support them if you have no exclusive games? How can you support them if there’s the appearance that you’ll have no exclusive games? That is two separate situations.

What’s going on with Game Pass? Why has it been more than four months since the completion of the Acti purchase, and there’s still no sign of Spyro and Crash on the service? They’ve sure been on offer plenty of times, but Game Pass isn’t happening? And what’s the deal with Call of Duty?

These are the biggest areas of uncertainty around the brand, and it’s been allowed to fester. Granted, these are not conversations happening outside of internet bubbles, but they are conversations that impact mainstream buyers. Like Final Fantasy XVI as a timed exclusive. These things add up.

Threading the Needle

There are two reasons that this conversations are going to be difficult. The first is obvious: something is happening and it’s probably going to be unpopular. That’s presuming there isn’t good news as part of this update – things that will directly benefit current Xbox customers. Balancing the bad news with the lack of good news will not be easy.

The second reason these conversations are going to be difficult is because the last few weeks have proven how much some people hate Xbox. It’s pathetic. It would have been pathetic for 2009, when we were knee deep in “Metal Gear Solid 4 would need 10 DVDs on Xbox” conversations. It’s doubly pathetic now.

If the podcast is forty seconds long and contains nothing but the execs explaining that nothing is changing, and we’re all getting free copies of the next Call of Duty game, people will still be pissed off. They’ll be pissed off that they spent two weeks getting their hopes up about the end of the brand. And they’ll be pissed off that it’s only Call of Duty. That’s where we are.

Gaming fans have spent the last two weeks hoping that this is the end of initiatives such as Game Pass (or day one on Game Pass), PC day and date or Xbox exclusives because it will prove without a shadow of a doubt that Sony is doing it the right way. Every conversation is framed in terms of high console sales and large unsustainable AAA single player action games. Which even Sony is struggling to keep up on.

There is a vocal subset that wants Microsoft to be punished for trying something new. And given the way things are, Xbox might just give them what they want.


This is the real problem here, and why the Thursday night podcast is such an important moment in Xbox history. They have to walk out in front of a digital crowd of people who want them to fail. The people who they’ve been telling for a decade to “wait for the games” will want to know why they waited if the games are finally arriving and they’ll be coming to PlayStation. Game Pass fans will want to know the value of their sub is staying the same.

And they have to deftly deal with every side of this, all while probably giving us bad news.

And if they fail? Well, outside of immediate negative reactions, nothing very much will appear to happen. But in the long term it will be another in a line of missteps that break confidence in one of the pillars of modern gaming. And that sort of thing is hard to come back from.


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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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Twitter: @matgrowcott