Halo. Forza. Fable. Gears of War. These exclusive games are all potential reasons to buy a Microsoft Xbox One game console instead of Sony's PlayStation 4 . But soon Microsoft will offer the alternative of playing Xbox games on a PC.
Microsoft is merging its software for Windows PCs and for Xbox consoles. This means when you buy a game made by Microsoft or one of its close partners, you will be able to play it on either device. It could potentially change the way gamers buy and play games, because they won't need an Xbox console to experience Microsoft's latest hit titles.
Titles like the space-age shooter Halo have become some of the most sought-after games in the industry. Some people buy an Xbox just so they can play certain games. Making them available on PCs might bolster computer sales among consumers, and that's a win for Microsoft whose software powers those computers.
That's key at a time when Microsoft needs to convince the tech industry to support its Windows 10 operating system, which was released in July and currently runs on just 11.9 percent of PCs. Computer makers like Hewlett-Packard have blamed Microsoft for underwhelming PC sales.
Bringing some of the industry's most popular games to Windows could make a difference.
"For Windows to be successful, gaming has to be vibrant, healthy, and innovative," Phil Spencer, head of the Xbox division, told journalists at a Microsoft event.
This doesn't necessarily mean Microsoft is trading Xbox sales for Windows PC sales. (The Xbox One lags in sales behind Sony's PS4.) Microsoft is betting that developers who make games for PCs will want to build games for the Xbox too, and it's providing a set of tools called the Universal Windows Platform so developers can build games for both console and PC at the same time.
Games for Windows
On Tuesday, Microsoft announced the games it plans to launch before June. One of the surprising ones is a title for its racing game series, Forza Motorsport, made for Windows 10 computers. Called Forza Motorsport 6: Apex, the PC game won't be as fully featured as the Xbox One version. It will offer a smaller selection of cars, tracks and game modes, for example. But it's a start.
Now that Microsoft has laid the groundwork,every new Forza Motorsport racing game will ship on both Windows 10 and Xbox
, said Forza series creative director Dan Greenawalt.
Forza isn't the only Xbox-exclusive series coming to PCs. The hotly anticipated Quantum Break, which stars Shawn Ashmore (from "X-Men: Days of Future Past") as a fugitive who winds up with superpowers after a time-traveling experiment gone wrong, will be released on Windows 10 and Xbox One on April 5. Xbox One preorders will come with a copy of the PC game.
Fable Legends, a free-to-play role-playing game that doesn't have a release date yet, will also arrive the same day on Windows and Xbox and will let owners of either version play together on the same servers.
Windows gaming project manager Peter Orullian said shipping games simultaneously will become the norm for Microsoft.
"We'll get to the point where that's the intent for every title," he said.
The next time you see a Microsoft game you like, you may not need an Xbox to give it a try.
Update: This Xbox-on-Windows initiative has a name: Xbox Play Anywhere.