The Xbox Handbook is a book in progress. Xbox Play Anywhere is part eight of our massive look at how to use Microsoft’s entertainment console. If you have feedback about this chapter of the guide, leave it in the comments and we’ll address it in an update to this chapter. The Xbox Handbook will arrive as a downloadable in the Kindle Store later this year.
No matter how lofty your dreams, sometimes reality comes back to ask you if what you’re really thinking makes sense anymore. Microsoft wanted to have the best-selling video game console ever. That hasn’t happened yet, but the company is still trying.
Years ago, the video game console market was all about outselling competitors so that developers would always bring their games to your platform. The Xbox One is behind PlayStation 4 sales in a pretty big way. What’s more, the game industry is changing.
Falling PC prices and a wealth of new content means that building a video game PC is cheaper than it’s ever been. On top of that, Microsoft is finally looking to embrace PC gamers. For years, if you wanted the company’s best games, you needed an Xbox. Xbox Live multiplayer is already available, with messages, profile browsing and chat in use by thousands that have Windows 10 installed on their PCs.
Xbox on Windows is just starting to smolder, and Xbox Play Anywhere is Microsoft’s plan to fan the flames.
How Xbox Play Anywhere Works
When it came back to PC gaming, Microsoft committed to providing Windows users with the best that Xbox has to offer. That meant letting them get the latest releases without buying an Xbox One. That also meant treating the two as one cohesive ecosystem.
No matter what kind of gamer you are, Microsoft hopes that Xbox Play Anywhere will make gaming in its ecosystem convenient.
The program features a subset of all Xbox One games, mainly those made and published by Microsoft itself. Purchase Gears of War 4 through the Xbox Store, and a companion version unlocks for your Windows PC. Game saves sync between the two. Any downloadable content purchases that you make for a game in the program apply to both versions too.
The particulars are a pretty even mix of good and bad. The program is bad for anyone that looks purchasing two copies of the same game so that they can get achievements on two platforms. Play Anywhere titles sync Achievements with the save; there’s only one set to unlock. Microsoft also says that gamers can’t be logged into more than one version of the game at a time. The company has that same stipulation for digital Xbox games today.
The Bridge Between Xbox One and Xbox on Windows
From a business perspective, Microsoft wins if the program takes off. Sure, they’re giving you a free digital copy of the game, but they’re ensuring you’ll stay connected to Xbox Live, which is what the company really wants. It wants gamers to use Xbox Live so much that it’s stopped detailing console sales for each quarter and focused on active users of Xbox Live.
The program also keeps you buying games through Microsoft’s digital store, which is how it can make money long after you’ve purchased physical hardware.
What’s more, Xbox Play Anywhere is something unique to Xbox. Sony can’t offer it to users because it has no foothold in PC gaming. Steam can’t offer it because it barely has any credibility in the console market.
How publishers that aren’t Microsoft benefit from this is unclear. Plenty of them make their games available on different platforms already. If someone really wants to copies of their game, chances are they’d rather them go out and purchases those two copies than give them one absolutely free.
Xbox Play Anywhere Games
Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, ReCore, Sea of Thieves, Halo Wars 2, Scalebound, Killer Instinct Season 3, State of Decay 2, Ark: Survival Evolved, Crackdown 3, Cuphead and We Happy Few are all part of the Xbox Play Anywhere program. As new games from Microsoft Studios, the part of the company that develops and publishes games, announces new titles, this list will grow. It’s too early to speculate on whether Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft and others will jump on this too.
Microsoft says that its digital stores will have an Xbox Play Anywhere icon to let users know when they’re purchasing a game in the program. You can’t buy a boxed copy of a game for the program, so there’s no need for the company to add a flag to the games that users buy on store shelves indicating if it’s Xbox Play Anywhere. Only digital game purchases count.
Microsoft plans to roll out Xbox Play Anywhere on September 13th when it launches ReCore.