Microsoft’s exclusive competitive FPS is still trapped on consoles

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I was reminded on Geoff Keighley’s Opening Night Live today that CrossfireX (opens in a new tab), the sequel to the hugely popular Counter-Strike Crossfire clone, was released this year. It was released free-to-play in February with a full single-player campaign developed by Remedy Entertainment, a full suite of multiplayer modes, and a battle pass. You may have forgotten CrossfireX because it was panned by critics (opens in a new tab) at launch, but it quickly slipped from my mind as it was only released on Xbox.

A competitive FPS with PC origins, console exclusive. What’s up with that?

I can’t remember the last time someone tried to release a competitive shooter without a PC version. Halo 5, maybe? If it was Sony trying to bring Killzone back, I’d understand, but it’s Xbox we’re talking about: the PC-compatible platform. The publisher that for the past four years has released every one of its exclusive games simultaneously on console and PC. CrossfireX is the first game to break that streak, and is perhaps the worst possible candidate to do so.

Microsoft CrossfireX developer Smilegate is leaving a lot of gamers off the table by locking down an FPS on console that would likely be a lot more fun with a mouse and keyboard. I suspect some of the more damning criticism CrossfireX received at launch, like unresponsive controls and unbalanced firearms, could have been mitigated by a PC version with more customization and input options.

I get why Sony lets its big, fancy adventure games be console-exclusive for a few years before moving to PC, but why CrossfireX? It’s not a graphics powerhouse and it certainly doesn’t sell consoles for Microsoft. My best guess is that in a handshake attempt to make Crossfire more popular in North America and Xbox more popular in China, Smilegate and Microsoft decided long ago that CrossfireX would only ever come to Xbox. It’s a shame – CrossfireX is simple, but its shooting looks smooth and I’d like to give it a shot. (Just not with a controller. Oh my god no.)

CrossfireX’s console situation is a disappointment, but dwelling on it has been a great excuse to relive memories of when console-exclusive FPSs were more common. I loved Halo 3. I walked the wicked streets of Killzone 2 and Resistance 3 back in my PS3 days. For a few months in 2012, I was probably one of the greatest CS:GO PS3 players who ever lived. That’s right, Valve ordered Xbox 360 and PS3 ports for CS:GO when it launched in 2012, both of which were immediately discontinued. They did the same with Team Fortress 2 in 2007, which still had a small but active community (opens in a new tab) from 2019.

The truth is that “exclusivity” is now a dirty word for multiplayer games. We are firmly in the era of cross-play, where all games are meant to be playable on all platforms and with all platforms. It was a bad way to release CrossfireX, and it’s unclear if it will ever be fixed. The console wars are over (opens in a new tab), and the PC won. Someone should probably tell CrossfireX.

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