Xbox and Nintendo are sitting on a GOLD MINE...and they don't even know it.
Xbox and Nintendo revealed a joint trailer featuring Minecraft which is launching for Nintendo Switch, showcasing the game’s cross play support across the two platforms. For those that don’t know, “cross play” simply means the ability to play online with others on a different platform. This alone is not a new feature; what is unique is the timing. Fortnite, one of the most popular games in the world, and a sleeper hit of 2018, just released on Nintendo Switch. This was in no way surprising as the title was already on iOS and other major console platforms; it was only a matter of time. What was surprising, was that Sony not only stuck to their position of not supporting cross play with Xbox and Switch, but players who originated their Epic Games account account on PS4 were locked on that system and unable to sign in and try the game on Switch.
Reasonably so, this angered a lot of Fortnite fans. The game is free, there is no main “purchase” to worry about, players just wanted their progress, skins, etc… to transfer. This controversy isn’t new, Sony also blocked cross play on Rocket League. Rocket League’s creators have commented multiple times they just need to “flip a switch” and Rocket League would be cross compatible with PS4 and all other platforms if only Sony would allow it. However, with Fortnite’s popularity, Sony is taking a lot of heat for their position on cross play and fortnite specifically. Adding fuel to the fire, Sony Online Ex-CEO John Smedley took to twitter to reveal that Sony’s only reason for this was money. They are putting money ahead of gamers experience. He, and most gamers, and us included think its a short sighted strategy and ultimately a poor decision.
Here’s the thing.
The PS4 has sold 77 million units lifetime, the Xbox One 37 million units, and the Switch 16 million units. That means that Sony has sold more PS4’s than Switch and Xbox One combined. Sony isn’t hurting for sales, they could easily afford to appease their fans with something that only adds value rather than take away from it. They just also see no reason to. Nintendo and Microsoft are in a unique position to double down on something to really further ostracize Sony from its fans and drive customers to Xbox and Switch.
I know, crazy thought, and counter intuitive for today’s gaming business environment. The word “exclusive” enrages massive cheers across E3 stages and terms like “cross platform” are dirty words in the gaming industry. A lot of businesses in the gaming world are just afraid to work together. It is rare to see cross platform collaborations. That is why today’s Minecraft commercial and other oddities like the Mario Rabbids Ubisoft Nintendo crossover are so rare. What I’m proposing is radical and would make any Xbox or Nintendo Exec cringe to their bone. But I tell you…they are sitting on a crazy opportunity.
I want Nintendo and Xbox to host a mutual event and announce 3 insane things.
1. Double Down on Cross Play:
Right now there are three (major) names in cross play, Rocket League, Fortnite, and Minecraft. I want them to triple that. Announce a starting line up of 9-10 big name titles, that will support cross play for playing online with others on each others platforms. Make it known to the world that cross play is a major perk of buying Xbox One or Switch. This is just one benefit of these consoles. Announce that their first party studios will prioritize cross play and they will be incentivizing cross play for upcoming multiplayer multi-platform titles.
2. Cross "Own"
Take it one step more… imagine playing Doom in beautiful 4K on your Xbox One X, and when your done and it’s time to go to work, you grab your Switch, and Doom along with your save files are there ready to play on you lunch. I want Nintendo and Xbox to announce what I’ll refer to as “Cross Own” between Switch and Xbox titles. Microsoft could even utilize or evolve their “Play Anywhere” branding and bring Windows 10 into this. This new “Cross Own” campaign would include Nintendo Switch and Xbox One titles. With this, if you buy an available new title on Switch or on Xbox, you automatically get the corresponding title on the alternative console for FREE.
This would be a collaboration of unprecedented levels in gaming. I crowd sourced feedback on this idea by dropping the suggestion on social media under the new Minecraft trailer. The response was pretty positive, but many addressed the obvious concern that they worry it would hurt sales for devs and for Microsoft/Nintendo. Here’s why this is an amazing move for them. No one rebuys games on different platforms. Even with systems as different as Switch and the Xbox One, it is really hard to justify buying the same game twice. I must own over a 100 games, and i think I may have paid for the same title on two platforms for maybe two of them? When I have doubles it was because they were free. If Xbox or Nintendo game me a free extra copy for any available title they would NOT lose money because that second copy I would not have been bought anyways. Doom is a great example, because I own it on Switch. Not only is double buying inconvenient because of cost, it is inconvenient because of lack of save progress. While I’d love to play it on the go and in 4K at home, it isn’t worth it to buy again on Xbox, and have to play the same levels twice. For many games, (those that don’t use some type of third party account) progress and stats are lost, so even if you did rebuy, you have to start all over? No thanks.
However, if gamers see that that xbox or switch title they are thinking of purchasing will also be available for free on the other platform (with syncing save files), they will be MORE likely to buy the game in the first place. I firmly believe this would drive game sales and drive console sales. People who already own one system would be more likely to pull the trigger on the other. Sole Xbox and Switch owners would be more likely to pick up the other over a PS4. Not to mention, this would drive NEW game sales. Imagine someone is standing in a game store holding a new copy of game X in one hand for 60$ and a used version of Game X in the other hand. That use game may be 50$? 45$? Maybe even 40$? Especially fans of GameStop know their rewards members save even more when buying used. I’ve seen games become available used for up to 20$ off original price within just weeks of release. This is such a narrow window and honestly, there is usually little incentive to the buyer to buy the new game. GameStop certainly isn’t there to prioritize the new game. So, what if there was something like a new copy supporting cross own? If you buy it new, it comes with a digital code for the alternative platform. Two for the price of one? That may be enough to drive some to choose new. Even if only a 1/3 of the gamers choose new thats a whole 60$ gained for a third of the used games. Remember, game studios make 0$ off of used games. So the perk of free cross own isn’t making the developer 20$ more, it’d be an extra 60$. You can’t let the fear of a hypothetical missed secondary purchase cost you the primary one. The fact is, developers would not lose money off of cross own titles, they would gain sales, both in higher new game percentages and in the lure of an added free perk. Another drive for game sales as this would be an incentive for gamers who own all the platforms (like me) to buy on Xbox or Switch versus PS4 copies. Why buy it for one platform when you can buy for two? Right now, choosing which platform to buy new multi platform titles on pretty much just comes down to minor details. What platform did I choose for past iterations in a franchise? Which one has more free storage? Cross Own would push over the edge to Xbox and Switch copies of a game. Cross Own would definitely mean I’d only buy Playstation exclusives on PS4. This strategy wouldn’t just drive game sales, it would drive console hardware sales. Many people already own a Xbox or Switch exclusively, and many be thinking of adding a second console. A Switch owner may be debating between adding a Xbox or PS4 and this would be just the thing to push them over the edge. Knowing, even a small portion of their library would be available on their brand new Xbox? This would be a great driving force for both console makers. This strategy may sound insane, but we have examples of where ignoring “fear of self cannibalization” actually helps drive overall sales. Microsoft’s Play Anywhere strategy is evidence in the gaming industry. But even to show how it works for cross brand strategies just look to the movie industry. Digital formats fragmented so crazy it’s not even funny. You could have movies on Vudu, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and so many more. My digital library was chopped into so many places. I could watch some movies on my Xbox and some on my iPad. It was a mess. Then came Movies Anywhere! All (well most) of my purchases like magic appeared everywhere! Did that hurt sales? No of course not because who would rebuy the same movie on two platforms, that’s insane. But now, I definitely look out for that “movies anywhere” logo. It definitely makes me more likely to purchase. Now when I turn over a Blu-ray copy and see the “not on iTunes” or doesn’t support all platforms I put the movie back and buy digital. Look at Apple’s TV app, it brought multiple services into one convenient place! Services that don’t want to merge into there? Look out, where’s that unsubscribe button? 3. Trade an IP
If doubling down on cross play and adding “cross own” wasn’t enough, TRIPLE down on this “better together” strategy. This is the most insane idea, but it would show gamers, Xbox and Nintendo were serious.
Do a trade.Launch this new cross own program with a surprise first party port to each system. Take say, Halo 5. That’s right I said Halo, and port it to the switch. Here’s the catch, you have to already own the Xbox versions, and don’t make it available in the eShop as a separate purchase. Nintendo, take perhaps Super Mario Odyssey and port it to Xbox. That’s right, I said a Mario game. Don’t make it available for a separate purchase, you have to already own the original title on the primary console. Imagine how many gamers would go to buy these games for the first time right now if they suddenly could play it on the other system. I’d play the crap out of Halo on my Switch. I’d love to play 4K MARIO on my ONE X. These are two franchises that would normally never see the light of day on another platform. Do it. Make these two games Cross Own to show them you are serious.
“But, they cant port their most valuable IP to the competing console! That’s suicide!”
How? Players would have to still own the primary console and game copy. You cant rid yourself of it and just play Halo on Switch. The ports cant take away from the primary system. The biggest thing to realize is, this overall three point strategy would mean the xbox and switch would stop competing and start adding value to each other. They are are perfect together and actually different enough to benefit from complementing each other.
Years ago this may have not worked, consoles may have been too similar, but they have a gutsy opportunity to completely blind side Sony and start outselling Playstations. The Xbox One X and the Nintendo Switch are so different that they don't detract from each other. While Sony has all but forgotten Vita (remember that?) the rest of us will be enjoying 4K Breath of the Wild and fighting the Flood with Joy Cons.
These three things are insane. They go against the “exclusive is better-don’t cooperate” mentality the gaming industry is entrenched in. But this strategy as crazy as it sounds, wouldn’t hurt sales, it would drive them like never before. Before we know it Xbox and Switch would put a serious dent in monthly playstation sales. I predict that three months into this new strategy, either Xbox or Switch would finally outsell Playstation in monthly units. Holiday would show Sony that cross play is what gamers want. This is the kind of crazy strategy they would never do, but if they did, it would be amazing.