Undead Labs and Microsoft Studios' State of Decay 2 might release on Steam, but doing so may inhibit players' ability to cross play with Xbox One consumers. So, while this is great news for PC players and for the game's life-cycle, what does it mean for Microsoft and their Xbox Play Anywhere program?
Xbox doesn't have many exclusive titles to speak of. A handful of popular titles have already been released recently on the Xbox One, such as Sea of Thieves, but there are only two more exclusives confirmed for 2018: Crackdown 3 and the long-awaited State of Decay 2. And now, one of those titles is looking like it may not be an exclusive after all - at least not in the traditional sense. State of Decay 2 may be coming to Steam, as hinted at during a recent PAX demo, which may set a precedent that could circumvent the initiative behind Xbox Play Anywhere.
Bringing State of Decay 2 to Steam, while promising for gamers on a variety of platforms, could go directly against Xbox boss Phil Spencer's previous promise for more Xbox One exclusive titles in the future (with the potential to cross play with PC players), but it doesn't, not exactly. State of Decay 2 is still a technically Microsoft-published game for Xbox One and PC, whether or not it releases on Steam or the Microsoft Store.
Microsoft has been open to cross-network and cross-platform play for quite some time now, and they've already implemented that feature with their Windows-based platforms. Unfortunately, not everyone is on board with the idea (read: Sony), but potentially working out a partnership with Valve for future Play Anywhere titles to release on the platform without losing cross play capabilities would be a huge move for them. If not, then it's possible that games could release on the Microsoft Store first and then are later ported over to Steam, but that may drive players away from Microsoft's internal launcher.
This year, Microsoft has managed to procure an entire building for the upcoming E3, rather than just having their own booth, so it seems likely that some major announcements are on the way. What's also possible, though, is that Microsoft could forgo their Windows 10 game store entirely for a partnership with Steam. After all, the Microsoft Store is certainly not as good or well established as Steam, and it could help boost player counts for the long-term for otherwise unsustainable games. At the very least, though, this move leads to all sorts of questions over whether or not cross play will soon be possible between Xbox One, Windows 10, and Steam players on a much larger scale than previously believed. As players may recall, 2013's Killer Instinct recently released on Steam and it supports cross play with Xbox One as well as other PC players.
Microsoft has been struggling to keep up in the gaming industry for quite some time despite the Xbox One X's undeniable power. Competitors have simply blown the console away with unstoppable titles like the PS4's God of War and Nintendo's Zelda: Breath of the Wild. With very few exclusive titles to speak of scheduled for 2018, Microsoft desperately needs an edge if they hope to win over the current generation of gamers. If the company is teaming up with Valve in any capacity, it can only be a win for Microsoft. But if they are simply walking back their promise to focus on more exclusive titles, this could be the final nail in Microsoft's proverbial coffin.