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That Xbox Podcast Announcement Coulda Been An Email

It’s been a whirlwind week or so for Xbox. The weekend of February 3, rumors began swirling that major console exclusives like Starfield and the upcoming Indiana Jones game would head to other platforms, and Xbox fans’ reactions were intense, to say the least. The backlash prompted head honcho Phil Spencer to announce a seemingly impromptu “business update” taking place on February 15. That update came in the form of a special edition of the Official Xbox Podcast, and after watching it I can safely say: This could have been an email.

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First, the format was odd: The 22-minute-long sit-down with Spencer, head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty, and Xbox president Sarah Bond (moderated by director of Xbox broadcasts Tina Amini) was uploaded in its entirety to YouTube and podcast providers at 3 p.m. ET sharp. Since it didn’t debut as a live event, it meant that you could scrub through the entire video—which I immediately did to get to all the newsworthy stuff.

Second, it certainly felt like this entire “special” podcast was one big reactive response to the rather fervent Xbox community, rather than an update the team had planned on making for months. Spencer himself even kind of confirmed this right away, stating that the team would have probably opened up with chatting about the plans for Activision Blizzard (which Microsoft acquired in October of last year), but instead pivoted to exclusivity questions because of the “unforeseen news” that came out.

And third, if the plan was to put games like Starfield or Indiana Jones on other platforms, what changed? Spencer refused to say which games would end up on other consoles, but confirmed that it would be four titles, and that their loss of exclusivity status doesn’t mark a “change to our fundamental exclusive strategy.”

Amini’s question after Spencer’s “four titles” statement was if either of those four titles would be Indiana Jones or Starfield, the two games leading the rumor pack, and the two most likely to rile up console warriors. Spencer confirmed that neither title is included in the foursome. Why? Was it because the plan was to give Starfield a better chance at having the kind of impressive legs that Skyrim has had (and which Spencer himself has said he wants) by offering it to PlayStation players, and the internet meltdown over the rumors freaked out the Xbox team?

Did they want to ensure that “Starfield remains Xbox exclusive” was the biggest takeaway of the day? In a few months, when the dust has settled and the console warriors have returned to their respective HQs to lick their wounds, will Starfield quietly pop up on the PlayStation Store?

Most importantly: Why did we need a special, hyped-up event for this? Isn’t the mere existence of this unique Official Xbox Podcast episode feeding into the problematic nature of console allegiances? Doesn’t it, at least implicitly, condone the behavior of those pushing the backlash by dignifying it with a response?

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