PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds hit Early Release on Xbox One earlier this week, officially marking the debut of one of 2017's hottest games on console.
When the port was announced during E3, it was widely considered to be a coup by Microsoft. But the decision to support Xbox out of the gate is not a simple matter of Microsoft having that extra bit of hustle.
"By partnering with Microsoft, our team believes that we will be able to accelerate console development, while maintaining quality across all platforms, as well as giving us access to vast sales, marketing and publishing resources that will help us reach new fans to welcome to the PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds universe," wrote Bluehole vice president PUBG executive producer Chang Han Kim back in August.
That PUBG can be delivered quickly on the Xbox One speaks to one of its quiet advantages over the PS4: the fact that it shares the same API with Windows 10.
They aren't the only one's taking advantage of it, either. In a conversation with Grinding Gear Games last month, the creators of Path of Exile talked about the advantages that the Xbox One affords for PC developers.
"[Microsoft] have a really good thing going for them when it comes to PC games," technical director Jonathan Rogers said. "Since their API is the same on PC and console, it's very easy for someone to port a game from PC to their platform. It's really a no-brainer. When you're looking at a situation where it's like, okay, I could spend a few months on a port versus taking a lot longer to move it to a new platform. It's a really easy to decision to go to Xbox."
The ease with which PC games can be ported to the Xbox One helps mitigate its smaller install base. And it has other perks as well.
Grinding Gear Games managing director Chris Wilson says another reason they decided to port Path of Exile to Xbox One was its potential to improve the PC version. "The business case that convinced me is that we're a DirectX 9 game, and there were some performance problems. It wasn't great. Xbox One is Directx 11, which is close enough that we can port it. But in doing so, we were able to get DirectX 11's advantages on PC. So even if Path of Exile on Xbox One hadn't done well, it would have still improved the performance of the PC one, which is critical. It's just a bonus that it also did well."
The Xbox One's natural advantages won't convince every PC developer to bring their game exclusively to Xbox, but it is a powerful incentive in an environment where every advantage counts.
With so few first-party exclusives to tout on their newly-released Xbox One X, Microsoft is treating PUBG as a de facto first-party release, even if it does have some rough compromises on console. Heck, it's so similar to the PC version that you can even even see PC settings if you have a USB keyboard.
In the wake of the Xbox One X's release, Microsoft also continues to push features like Xbox Play Anywhere, which makes it possible to play the same game on either Xbox One or Windows 10. With their Kinect-focused approach dead and buried, PC compatibility is very much at the forefront of their strategy.
In that, Path of Exile and PUBG are but the latest salvo in Microsoft's battle to close the gap with the PlayStation 4.
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