Gears 5’s abysmal Steam debut could tell us something about the potential audience for Xbox exclusives on Steam

By Sherif Saed, Friday, 13 September 2019 14:26 GMT

If Gears 5 is any indication, the audience for Microsoft’s first-party games on Steam may not be as big as we initially assumed.

For the longest time, fans of Xbox franchises have been asking Microsoft to make its games available on PC.

It took generations of mistakes and a major policy shift until Microsoft finally pledged that all of its first-party content would be available on PC day and date with Xbox, but only through the Windows Store. Fast forward a few years later, and Microsoft made the even more welcome commitment to also release the PC versions on Steam.

Gears 5 is the first Xbox exclusive to be released after this major shift, but it’s not looking great for its Steam debut. Despite landing on Steam’s top-sellers list, Gears 5 only managed a concurrent player count of 10,196 since its release.

The numbers have declined since then, as is standard, but 10,000 remains a very small figure considering the size of the franchise, and the reach of Steam. Before Gears 5, the assumption was that the Steam audience is hungry for these big Xbox exclusives. For reference, 10,000 is not enough to land in Steam’s top 25 most played games.

Of course, several factors could have contributed to such low activity on Steam.

Gears 5 is available through Xbox Game Pass and Game Pass Ultimate, whose monthly subscriptions are much cheaper upfront than paying $60 or $80 for the full game on Steam, to say nothing of the many $1 deals and free trials Microsoft has been running recently for the service.

Gears 5 has by most accounts been very good for Game Pass, boosting its own activity on Xbox Live as well as overall adoption of the service. It’s also worth noting that while many would prefer to avoid the Windows Store, Microsoft offers regional pricing in more countries on its own store than on Steam, another thing that likely tipped the scales in Windows Store’s favour.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which will also be available on Steam, will likely do much better out of the gate, but Gears 5’s situation is interesting nonetheless.

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