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Microsoft on Thursday announced a strong roster of games scheduled to be available and optimized for its new Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles when they debut on Nov. 10. While the Xbox list lacks the sort of tentpole exclusive titles that Sony will rely upon to propel its competing PlayStation 5, the Microsoft lineup emphasizes the Xbox ecosystem's breadth and financial flexibility for gamers.
The dueling lineups make clear the differences in the two companies' strategies. Sony — which will release two versions of the PS5 on Nov. 12 — is following a traditional model: offering players big-budget exclusives like Demon's Souls and Spider-Man: Miles Morales while generally counting on gamers to buy new, upgraded versions of games they previously enjoyed on older hardware.
Microsoft, meanwhile, is attempting to change the business of games. The company is offering access to more than 100 high-quality games across Windows, Xbox and some Android devices for around $15 a month in a subscription package called Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. In addition, Microsoft is essentially subsidizing free upgrades to the latest, greatest version of many (though not all) older games in a program it calls Smart Delivery. Some third-party publishers (such as Gearbox Software, maker of Borderlands 3) will offer similar free upgrades for the PlayStation versions of their games as well.
Microsoft is also offering a bundle including both a new Xbox and access to the game subscription for $25 or $35 a month over two years. Sony is not offering a comparable installment plan.
The big name missing from the Xbox launch lineup is Halo Infinite. Halo is Microsoft's flagship game franchise (and features prominently in the new Xbox marketing), but the latest entry in the series has been delayed until next year.
Third-party publishers like Take-Two (NBA 2K21) and Ubisoft (Assassin's Creed Valhalla) generally release their big games for both PlayStation and Xbox systems simultaneously, as will Activision Blizzard with Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War on Nov. 13 and CD Projekt with Cyberpunk 2077 on Nov. 19.
Microsoft Xbox Series X/S launch lineup, Nov. 10
Assassin's Creed Valhalla (Smart Delivery)
Borderlands 3 (Smart Delivery)
Bright Memory 1.0
Cuisine Royale (Smart Delivery)
Dead by Daylight (Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition
DIRT 5 (Smart Delivery)
The Falconeer (Smart Delivery)
Forza Horizon 4 (Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
Gears 5 (Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
Gears Tactics (Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
Grounded (Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
Maneater (Smart Delivery)
Manifold Garden (Smart Delivery)
Observer: System Redux
Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
Planet Coaster (Smart Delivery)
Sea of Thieves (Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
Tetris Effect: Connected (Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
The Touryst (Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
War Thunder (Smart Delivery)
Warhammer: Chaosbane Slayer Edition
Watch Dogs: Legion (Smart Delivery)
WRC 9 FIA World Rally Championship (Smart Delivery)
Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Smart Delivery)
Yes, Your Grace (Smart Delivery)
Sony PlayStation 5 launch lineup, Nov. 12 (courtesy of CNET)
Assassin's Creed Valhalla
Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition
Observer: System Redux
Sackboy: A Big Adventure
Spider-Man: Miles Morales
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Seth Schiesel ( @SethSchiesel) is a contributing editor for Protocol focused on the business of video games and adjacent industries. He is a former editorial writer for The Boston Globe, entrepreneur and business reporter, technology writer and video game critic for The New York Times.