Microsoft’s ‘Play Anywhere’ program fails to attract big game studios

Microsoft’s year-old Play Anywhere program lets people play video games on both a console and a PC. But big game studios haven’t opted in.

A year in, Microsoft’s bid to link personal computer and Xbox gaming is still a work in progress.

At the E3 trade show a year ago, Microsoft introduced “Play Anywhere,” a program that lets people buy a game digitally through the Xbox store, and play it on both a console and a PC.

The aim was to add a consumer-friendly link between Windows, the home for most PC gaming, and Microsoft’s game console. In the process, executives hoped to extend Microsoft’s Xbox gaming brand beyond the console that bears its name.

But the video game industry’s biggest studios have yet to make the leap to Play Anywhere. Of the chart-topping first-person shooters, action and sports games that typically get annual releases, none has opted into the program.

Phil Spencer, who runs Microsoft’s Xbox business, says the company doesn’t want to force other studios interested in Xbox to use the program.

“We’re not trying to take a heavy hand and trying to say everybody has to do it,” he said in an interview this month. “If consumers find it interesting and developers find interest in it, it’s going to work.”

Microsoft’s own studios, he said, remained committed to the program. “I don’t really see a world where I try to get people to buy two copies of ‘Gears of War 4,’ one on PC, and one on the console,” he said. “That doesn’t seem right.”

The latest in the “Gears of War” franchise — built by Microsoft-owned The Coalition in Vancouver, B.C. — was among the first games to take advantage of Play Anywhere. Most of the…

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