Xbox Play Anywhere program brings Xbox exclusives to the PC

Almost every game at Microsoft's conference at E3 2016 was introduced as an "Xbox One and Windows 10" title, highlighting the company's new Xbox Play Anywhere program. Cross-platform and cross-device play are the new order of the day at Microsoft. The company demonstrated Minecraft Realms with players on iOS, Android, Xbox One, and Windows, including Oculus' John Carmack on stage playing in a Gear VR headset.

As part of that big news, several titles which were formerly couched as Xbox One exclusives are now coming to the Windows Store, including Gears of War 4 and Platinum Games' Scalebound. As Phil Spencer announced at Build 2016, all of Microsoft's first-party Xbox One games will be coming to Windows, too. This further solidifies Microsoft's "Unified Windows" push, as the versions of the games coming to the Windows Store will in theory be the same versions on the Xbox One, and they'll support cross-platform play between the two ecosystems.

Not everyone likes the Windows Store, though, and if you believe former Lionhead employees speaking to Kotaku UK, things aren't going well for the marketplace. There certainly may be reasons to dislike the Windows Store, chief among them Microsoft's past transgressions against PC gamers. Other users simply prefer to keep all of their purchases in one place. If you're a Steam user and interested in Microsoft's games, rejoice: Microsoft could bring some of its games to Steam, too.

That's a pretty vague statement, but it's all we really know. Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, spoke to Giant Bomb in an after-hours E3 livestream with remarkable frankness about the failure of Games for Windows Live and the future of Windows gaming. He admitted that Games for Windows Live was really about getting PC gamers to buy Xboxes. He then talked about how Microsoft has released games on Steam in the past, including the Age of Empires II HD remake, as well as the fantastic Ori and the Blind Forest, finally stating "we will ship games on Steam again."

Ultimately, we don't know what titles will be coming to Steam, or when that will happen. It's possible that future games on Steam from Microsoft will simply be smaller indie titles like Ori. Microsoft could reserve larger titles for its own store. Spencer remains committed to the Windows store, saying "I definitely want to have, inside of Windows, a healthy store […] I think I have to put my first-party stuff there."

Furthermore, Microsoft is committed to the Universal Windows Platform for software, and it is unlikely that a Steam release for a larger Microsoft first-party title will be anything but a launcher for the Windows Store version of the game. Ubisoft titles on Steam launch Uplay versions of its games, and recent EA titles on Steam just launch Origin—a fact that Spencer specifically remarked on. 

Spencer also admitted in the interview that the first few launches of big-ticket games (including Remedy's Quantum Break) on the Windows Store have had some problems, but said the company is working to avoid or resolve these issues moving forward. Microsoft already announced improvements for UWP games coming in the Windows Anniversary Update later this year, including support for variable-refresh displays. Spencer mentioned overlays and monitoring tools as problem areas getting attention, as well.

If nothing else, a listing on Steam will allow Microsoft's games to reach a wider audience. Square Enix's recent hit Rise of the Tomb Raider released simultaneously on Steam and the Windows Store, and it seems unlikely it would have been the success that it was without its presence on Valve's platform. It will be interesting to see what Microsoft brings to Steam.

Comments closed
    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 3 years ago

    Do I trust MS? NOPE! Their companies history toward developers, games, and gamers alike has been one of contempt for some time. Do I want to trust the company, Absolutely. I’m tired of the false promises, machinations, and bottom line thinking. MS has not fostered any real platform loyalty because they nickle and dime us on everything whenever possible w/o adding value. Xbox live gold, basically required to have a darn xbox these days does not get you add free anything, it also is slow, clunky and lacks first party dedicated server support as standard for their online games. The fact we pay for a no services service (all the online content is hosted locally with the service being the automated matchmaking, wow that is really unimpressive) I have to pay MS for me to stream netflix after paying netflix, but roku I don’t??? A roku costs the same as a year of xbox live.

    I could go on with how their financial model is both out of touch with the realities of multi media devices today. How google, and apple are better positioned to strip them of that and how the lack of loyalty to gamers created the PS4 explosion when there was no reason for the PS4 to gain that sort of following.

    MS is all about burning any good will it has left over from its “open platform” that gates establish in windows 95.

      • sweatshopking
      • 3 years ago

      What? Live comes with 4 “free” games a month, almost every game has dedicated servers and Netflix hasn’t required live for a long time.
      Plus offers less than live. It isn’t why people bought ps4s. It’s inferior in basically every way . Google and apple are threats, but not quite yet. AAA gaming still needs a decent gpu, and neither of those guys sell a box with one.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 3 years ago

        I’m pretty sure most if not all Live games are p2p, not dedicated servers (unless you mean matchmaking). That’s how it was for the 360.

          • LostCat
          • 3 years ago

          Any game using the XBL Compute network has dedicated servers. Other games use whatever the devs coded them to use, with a few restrictions.

          It wasn’t available before the X1 but some later 360 games do use it.

      • Lord.Blue
      • 3 years ago

      MS Removed the restriction on having XBLive Gold for network access a long time ago. Yes, you still have to log into XB Live, but as a Silver(free) account – you can play Hulu, Netflix, or whatever now without paying a subscription fee…you want online multiplayer? Pay up – same for PSN…and now with the backwards compatibility, getting an Xbone S doesn’t seem so bad(4 free games a month for Gold seems pretty sweet). Makes a great media streaming unit for a 2nd TV or something. I just want to know what the system requirements are going to be for the games on PC. Let’s face it, the XBone is not a high end PC by any modern standards – with the exception of the 8 core processor.

    • vargis14
    • 3 years ago

    I just want cross platform sports games…Football,Hockey,Soccer,Boxing/MMA….Baseball, Basketball…maybe even Tennis 🙂

    Would be fun..I would love to play some games online against friends that do not have Gaming computers BUT do have XBones.

    • Bensam123
    • 3 years ago

    Cross platform as in PC players playing in multiplayer matches with console players?

    That’s bad for multiple reasons… Something about insanely better performance and aiming devices on PCs. Oh and the plague of the PC nation called cheating is also quite a big deal, especially now days.

      • sweatshopking
      • 3 years ago

      Yes. Keyboard and mouse support is incoming to xbone as well.

    • Chrispy_
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<][b<]He admitted that Games for Windows Live was really about getting PC gamers to buy Xboxes.[/b<][/quote<] There is the trust issue gamers have with Microsoft. Microsoft have almost irreparably damaged their reputation with PC gamers. To gain that trust back they are going to have to be incredibly generous; They have to [i<]prove[/i<] that they have stopped intentionally damaging PC gaming for their own financial gain, but also they need to compensate for so much past damage by offering something better than the current competition (which happens to be Steam) and that is a [i<]very[/i<] tall order.

      • ebomb808
      • 3 years ago

      Yeah, they have a lot of work to do before Gamers migrate off SteamOS back to Windows. They also better hope gamers are willing to trust DirectX 11 and 12 after the market largely boycotted these API’s.

        • CuttinHobo
        • 3 years ago

        A significant number of people switched from Windows to SteamOS? I’m skeptical…

        And the market at large boycotted DirectX? I admit I haven’t had time to play as many games as I used to so maybe there are a lot of recent OpenGL games… but this sounds a tad shaky to me.

          • Chrispy_
          • 3 years ago

          Not SteamOS, just Steam.

          Everyone has a Steam account. Nobody wants their Microsoft account. This is how it is.

            • sweatshopking
            • 3 years ago

            Ummm I have both and i want both.

            • Chrispy_
            • 3 years ago

            YOU DON’T COUNT, MICROSOFT BOY 🙂

            • sweatshopking
            • 3 years ago

            I’M 31. I WOULD THINK I’M MICROSOFT MAN NOW. Though I can see people disagreeing.
            <3

            • LostCat
            • 3 years ago

            I disagree with everyone and everything everywhere.

            …that said, I obviously want my MS account.

        • RAGEPRO
        • 3 years ago

        Seems like people didn’t catch your sarcasm. I laughed, anyway.

        Chrispy_ was talking about Microsoft as a games company though, not Microsoft as an OS company.

    • Shoki
    • 3 years ago

    I’m happy to be able to play Crackdown and Forza without buying an xbox.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 3 years ago

    UWP apps for Xbox One could make the console something of a PC, depending on how well UWP catches on.

    Spencer had some awful things to say about the state of console ports, too, and says that UWP is how they want to address that problem. Talk of being able to build once for one API and keep one code base gives me a huge boner. I’ve been down a couple different paths to do that between iOS and Android, and get the challenge. Being able to support both Windows and Xbox with a single code base and a single set of APIs should help developers immensely.

    • sweatshopking
    • 3 years ago

    They also stated that going forward all xbox games would be backwards compatible on all new systems similar to pc. Actually from 360 (licensing permitting on the 360) onward all games should be playable on all new systems

    • RAGEPRO
    • 3 years ago

    If y’all are interested in Windows gaming, y’all should go watch [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sf-waCLegOo<]this video[/url<] (linked in the fourth paragraph.) Watching Phil talk to Jeff Gerstmann, he's just being so frank and honest about things it's like, you can REALLY tell things have changed a lot at Microsoft. He's still not able to just come right out and say "the Xbox One launch was a mistake," but he's pretty quick to acknowledge MS's failings and others' successes. He also has a lot of nice things to say about Sony and Nintendo, and I mean, that's his job, to make nice and create good PR, but he's REALLY good at it. MS has a lot of ground to make up in the market so some humility is nice. Honestly it just feels good to see someone from Microsoft frankly speaking about these things given how corporate and distanced Microsoft usually is, and he at least SEEMS sincere. Also he talked frankly about how the PS4 has simply sold more consoles and how the PC is simply a better experience. With the Play Anywhere thing, he's talking about people tweeting him and saying "hey thanks now I don't have to buy an Xbox One" and he's like "they're seeing it as this snide thing and I'm more like ... thanks for playing our games." I dunno, I just gained a lot of respect for him. It's a cool video anyway, props to Giant Bomb and Jeff Gerstmann.

      • Valjak
      • 3 years ago

      I have seen this movie before and I am pretty skeptical. Microsoft makes a series of huge mistakes and as a result is far behind in market position. So they hire a couple of guys that seem sincere and put on a show that things have changed.

      If things have really changed why don’t they make their games DRM free and/or put them on every other marketplace. Until then it is yet another move to try and trap the PC crowd.

      I will keep using Steam and GoG. It will take more than sincere words and promises to change my mind, it will take actual actions.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      When they got off on this tangent about “I don’t want to listen to people” they described my online experience. I’m kind of hopeful about “clubs” and “LFG”, but I’m not optimistic. It’s just not fun to play with random people. Like, at all. But the idea that somebody is thinking about “how can we fix it” is excellent.

      • floodo1
      • 3 years ago

      Things have changed dramatically around Microsoft gaming in the past year or two. I’ve found it extremely hard to believe but they have become very open and transparent and seem to be driven by feedback from their customers.

      That said, I play PC games and I don’t see them doing anything meaningfully positive for me personally, so this is a big giant “meh” from me (-8

    • MagariNegi
    • 3 years ago

    I really hope they don’t sell games on Steam just to have them open with their own marketplace. I uninstalled my Ubisoft games because I got tired of having so many proprietary applications. I resigned myself to just Steam and Battle.net. I won’t be buying any games that need another program to run. I know I’m missing out on EA titles but there are already enough good titles on Steam that I’ve made peace with it.

      • ebomb808
      • 3 years ago

      I get that having multiple stores is less convenient, but is having a few proprietary applications necessary to launch some games really such a dealbreaker? Uplay residing on my Hard Drive doesn’t seem like a burden.

        • MagariNegi
        • 3 years ago

        Well I was thinking I would rather have just one DRM scheme than have multiple layers. Can’t remember exactly what it was but there was something about Uplay that rubbed me the wrong way. Though with the Windows 10 marketplace it’s already on my system. Never said I was rational!

      • superjawes
      • 3 years ago

      Sorry to say, but I think that the Windows games would actually make (some) sense to run through their own marketplace because the license you get is supposed to work for the XBOne version, too. Meaning that your purchase will have to link to a Windows account so that you can access all versions.

      I understand the frustration of having to dig through steam into UPlay/whatever, but at least this (unified Windows) would add value instead of subtracting it.

        • Sabresiberian
        • 3 years ago

        A game purchased somewhere else could have a “Microsoft account” code regardless of where you buy it from, just like games that require Steam have Steam codes.

        My only problem with being forced to buy directly from the MS store would be that I couldn’t buy a copy from a site or store that offers it for a lower price.

    • ebomb808
    • 3 years ago

    I really want to buy these games digitally and have access on both my Xbox One and my PC, but I have this lingering suspicion of Microsoft since a few times in the last 25 years they have disapointed me. If there is any way I can give Valve a cut of money somewhere in the transaction so that Microsoft still remembers how scarred I am, that’s what I will want to do.

    • Dracius
    • 3 years ago

    This is all really awesome. I am glad that MS is taking PC gaming 10% more seriously. They still have a long way to go to get as good as Steam, but at least there is some progress.

    What I would like to know… How is Xbox Live Gold going to work? On Xbox, you have to pay for the Gold Membership to play multiplayer. These new PC soon-to-be-released games, such as GoW4, allows PC and Xbox cross play (which is awesome!). However, does the PC user also now have to pay for Gold Membership?

    Not really complaining about the cost, since its about $3 a month, but I would like to know, as I don’t really want to be -forced- to be on a subscription just to play multiplayer games on PC when Steam/Origin/GoG/Uplay has no such thing.

    And if this is the game, where you do have to pay for Gold Membership, does PC to PC multiplayer also require Gold Membership for these Microsoft bought games?

    Questions.. Questions..

      • CuttinHobo
      • 3 years ago

      I bet XBL on Windows is up next, and I think they can justify the membership fee due to the monthly free games, on top of access to the ecosystem. Even if they don’t end up offering cross-platform multiplayer

      I think it makes sense for them to throw Windows gamers a bone (an xbone, huhuhuh). The consoles themselves have historically been loss-leaders. Later slim versions can bring profit to the table, but the games are where the real money has been. If Microsoft can sell games to people who they didn’t initially lose money on with the console, they’re already ahead. Roping PC gamers into XBL memberships is just gravy.

        • sweatshopking
        • 3 years ago

        Id pay for the free games.
        Not that that makes a lick of sense.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 3 years ago

        As long as Windows remains an open platform, MS will treat it as a 2nd class citizen at best. It’s all about control.

        (Windows store is a move to a less open Windows environment)

      • Crackhead Johny
      • 3 years ago

      “Not really complaining about the cost,”

      You should not only complain about the cost, you should refuse to pay it.
      PCs have always been free online play (not counting MMOs here of course). As soon as people with 0 impulse control decide it is OK for someone to start forcing payment for online games on PC, everyone will go to that business model.
      Soon your “about $3 a month” is multiplied across EA, Activision, Projekt Red, Ubi, etc. Not just for you, who was OK with getting nickled and dimed but for all other PC gamers who wanted no part of getting nickled and dimed.

      Of course when we said this to the “Yeah DLC! The game publishers say I want this!” people, they didn’t listen and games started getting released missing stuff so it could be sold as “Day of release DLC”. There is some good DLC but most of it is consumer abuse (Sweet I can buy horse armor!).

        • Pettytheft
        • 3 years ago

        Considering the amount of free games you get with Gold it pays for itself in so many other ways. You get some very steep discounts on games as well. Absolutely worth every penny.

    • Neutronbeam
    • 3 years ago

    “It will be interesting to see what Microsoft brings to Steam”. No, it won’t–because it will probably be nothing.

      • Pettytheft
      • 3 years ago

      [url<]http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2016/06/microsoft-will-use-steam-to-sell-windows-games-not-just-its-own-store/[/url<] Probably timed exclusives on the Windows store. I think they mean business this time. I already have Steam and Origin along with Windows store installed. Only tried 1 game and 2 apps from the store and so far it's painless.

    • drfish
    • 3 years ago

    [url=http://www.videogamer.com/xboxone/dead_rising_4/news/dead_rising_4_is_a_timed_exclusive_to_xbox.html<]Speaking of this[/url<]... That's kind of promising. Generally, given the choice between needing an Xbox to play a game and Win10 to play a game - I know what I would pick. All the better if it can be in my Steam library - even if it is still a UWP app.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 3 years ago

    All the UWP haters in the house say “hooooo-oooooooo!”

    This might be the first real added value that Xbox on Windows 10 brings and give people who might not otherwise have an MS account a reason to sign up. I know everybody wants their own launchers and their own storefront (I can’t believe for a second MS really wants to give Valve anything, let alone a cut of what could be Xbox game sales, but we’ll see), but as long as they do something useful, I don’t mind.

    • superjawes
    • 3 years ago

    Okay, so the most important bit here is that you will NOT need an XBOne to play these games. We (PC gamers) are legitimately getting access to games that would otherwise be exclusive to a console. That is good.

    ….however…feeling burned in the past makes me cautious and suspicious of actual performance. I worry that the Win10 version will have the same resolution and frame rate limitations as their XBOne counterparts.

    Basically, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

      • tipoo
      • 3 years ago

      I think they removed any such limitations on Windows Store apps, so it’ll be down to per-game support. Hoping for the best.

    • NTMBK
    • 3 years ago

    Bring us the Master Chief Collection already, so I can sell my 360.

      • superjawes
      • 3 years ago

      For serious…it’s pretty lame that there hasn’t even been a port of this. These are games from the 360 era (and older!), so it would be really hard to screw it up.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      Bring us backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 downloads. If an Xbone can do it and look like the native client, there’s no reason a decently-specced PC can’t do it and have higher resolution to boot.

      edit: just realized MCC was an Xbone title, so that would look better on PC I suppose.

        • NTMBK
        • 3 years ago

        I really hope this happens. My only concern is the embedded memory – it was on die, so really fast and really low latency. Not sure how well you can emulate that on a PC.

          • sweatshopking
          • 3 years ago

          The issue isn’t technical. It is legal. Licensing would not allow this.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 3 years ago

            How does MS have licensing problems for it’s own IP?

      • djayjp
      • 3 years ago

      And H5 while they’re at it

      • ebomb808
      • 3 years ago

      Really hoping they bring “Play Anywhere” to the past released W10 titles and first part titles of Xbox One. MCC, Halo 5, Gears Collection, Rise of Tomb Raider, etc.

        • LostCat
        • 3 years ago

        They probably will, given that Quantum Break was their first (only for preorders and still disjointed, but still both platforms.) They’ll probably do it 4-6 months down the line is my guess though.

    • Voldenuit
    • 3 years ago

    UWP = Not want.

    I’m gonna be pissed if Below is Win10 exclusive…

      • Lord.Blue
      • 3 years ago

      You can almost bet that anything that is made by MS or an MS owned studio that it will be a Win10 exclusive – probably taking advantage of DX12.

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