I was today years old when I found out that Microsoft tried to turn Genshin Impact into an Xbox console exclusive. According to sources, its failure to do so is one of the big reasons why the publisher is trying to sign deals with Chinese gaming studios.
According to Reuters, Microsoft was in talks with Genshin developer HoYoverse while the game was still early in its development cycle. However, the two companies failed to reach a deal. When the game finally launched in September 2020, it was available on PC, mobile, and PlayStation, but not Xbox. As of May, the game has made an estimated $3 billion in microtransactions on mobile. So it’s safe to say that it’s also made significant amounts of money on PlayStation.
“Microsoft regretted missing out on Genshin Impact,” said one of Reuters’ sources. The game’s success on PlayStation has “added a sense of urgency” for Microsoft to acquire Chinese games. Microsoft missed the Genshin money train, so it’s trying to sign other large and independent studios in China while they don’t have publishers yet. Part of the appeal is that many Chinese studios have the expertise for implementing multiplayer and cross-platform play. These games would be a large boon to publishers that are looking to entice more players to their subscription programs, which allow people to play games for free at a flat monthly price, often across PC, Xbox, and sometimes cloud gaming (95 percent of Chinese games are free-to-play). I didn’t think that being able to play a game on my phone, PC, and console would be a big deal. But it’s slowly driven me to spend more hours in Genshin than I otherwise would have.
PlayStation had been playing catch-up to Xbox’s live service capabilities for years, and HoYoverse’s RPG was a huge boon to its portfolio. In Sony’s May financial report, PlayStation listed Genshin alongside Fortnite, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Apex Legends as key titles driving PS Store spending. So not only is Genshin making a mind-boggling amount of money in general: Its console exclusivity is one of the key titles that drives PlayStation’s success.
The major console makers are locked in an arms race for these games, but Chinese studios aren’t just passively taking whatever they’re offered. One company that previously signed a deal with Game Pass is reportedly holding off on another exclusivity contract while its game is still in development.
“We are not signing it yet because we think that when we fully complete our game, it will get an even better offer,” a representative told Reuters.