Microsoft plans to make Windows 10, Xbox One game “crossbuys” a habit

This is a step along Microsoft’s road to make the Xbox One and Windows 10 gaming platforms two sides of the same coin.

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Gamers who preorder Remedy’s upcoming Xbox One game Quantum Break will receive a free digital copy for Windows 10 PCs—a “crossbuy” strategy that Microsoft’s Xbox chief plans to make a “platform feature” of the gaming console.

The preorder deal will also include Remedy’s earlier hit Alan Wake, and its sequel, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare—all for free. (You only have from February 11 until April 4 to score the preorder deal, though, as the game launches on April 5.) Gamers who who buy a physical copy of Quantum Break on the day of its release will get the Windows DLC as well as Alan Wake

Behind the scenes, Microsoft has worked to tie its Windows 10 and Xbox One operating systems closer together, sharing features and data. The Xbox One includes versions of Skype and Microsoft Edge, and Microsoft has said that universal apps written for Windows 10 can theoretically run on the Xbox One, as well as Windows 10 PCs and Windows 10 Mobile phones. Windows 10 PCs also include an Xbox app that allows a PC to remotely control and play Xbox One games.

Eventually, Microsoft envisions a world where PC and Xbox One games will drift between platforms, and where gamers on each platform will be able to compete with one another. In this world, a single game written as a universal app would be playable on the Xbox One, PC, phone, and HoloLens. That world isn’t here yet, as Microsoft is selling you two distinct (but otherwise identical) games, one for each platform... except for this, courtesy of Microsoft's Larry Hryb:

Why this matters: Sony’s PlayStation 4 has typically outsold the Xbox One during each month of the current console cycle. But cross-platform PC gameplay is something that rivals Nintendo and Sony can’t offer. (Both companies have mobile game devices that Microsoft lacks.) Bringing the PC and Xbox One communities together will give Microsoft a critical mass of gamers that it can leverage, theoretically, to score game exclusives, one of the metrics used to judge the success of a game platform. 

Crossbuy becoming more common

Microsoft isn’t the first to latch onto this strategy of the “crossbuy.” For about two years now, retail versions of Blu-ray and DVD movies have come packaged with digital copies of the same content that can be played on PCs. Now, Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox platform, says he sees the “crossbuy” strategy becoming a staple of the Xbox One console.

That suggests we can expect to see deals like this one become commonplace with future Xbox One releases.

It’s important to note that most of these free goodies go only to those gamers who preorder. As for Quantum Break, Remedy and Microsoft are pitching it as “one part hard-hitting video game, one part thrilling live-action show” featuring Aidan Gillen (from Game of Thrones) and Dominic Monaghan (from the Lord of the Rings movies). 

In my mind, throwing all these freebies at users implies that both Microsoft and Remedy are a little unsure that Quantum Break can stand by itself. But if bundling an older, critically acclaimed game like Alan Wake becomes commonplace for new releases, who’s complaining?

Updated at 2:15 PM with additional comments by Larry Hyrb.

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