Microsoft has added another exclusive to its own stable of games. Ark II, the sequel to the hottest bug simulator of the 2010s and starring Vin Diesel, will apparently debut as an Xbox exclusive, though it’s probably time-limited as opposed to permanently locked away from the platform.
The interesting thing about Microsoft choosing to snag Ark II is that the company explicitly moved away from this strategy with the Xbox One. This is true even if you expand the definition of exclusive to mean “Released on everything but PS4, including PC” as opposed to “Released only for Xbox.” The former is much more likely to match Microsoft’s exclusive releases going forward, because the company is making services like Xbox Game Pass and xCloud critical to its future, and both services are intended to make it easier to play the games you want to play on the device you have handy. If you haven’t seen the Ark II trailer, or you just enjoy watching Vin Diesel spear a dinosaur, check it out:
The trailer showcases Vin Diesel and his family beating up some new humanoids (relative to Ark: Survival Evolved), facing off with a Yutyrannus, and then interfacing with far more modern technology that his character is clearly familiar with. There’s not much back story or plot explicitly provided in the video.
If you’re wondering how Vin Diesel fits into this title, specifically, Microsoft writes:
Ark II will also feature Vin Diesel as a hero character, Santiago, who will also be a crossover character in the upcoming “Ark: The Animated Series.” While Vin Diesel will lend his acting talents to Ark II, he is also a massive fan of the franchise, now serving as an executive producer on the game’s sequel and having logged over 1,000 hours in Ark: Survival Evolved.
Microsoft Is Rebuilding an Exclusive (or ‘Exclusive’) Game Strategy
Microsoft has been on a studio-buying spree lately, snapping up Bethesda (gaining id Software, Arkane Studios, and MachineGames) in 2020, and companies such as PlayGround Games, Obsidian, Undead Labs, Ninja Theory, and Compulsion Games over the past couple of years. Where Bethesda is concerned, Microsoft has said that the entire point is to create an ecosystem. In theory, at least, that means some of the titles developed by these studios in the future will also come to PlayStation 5, though there could still be timed exclusives for the Xbox / PC side of things.
Sony, of course, continues to invest in building a more conventional ecosystem of first-party PlayStation 5 titles that don’t focus on sharing games across devices in quite the same way, probably because Sony lacks Microsoft’s ties to anything like an equivalent Windows ecosystem. The next-generation of console devices has barely launched, but games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Astro’s Playroom have both driven chatter in ways that the Xbox Series X has struggled to match.
Both companies are dealing with this problem, with Sony suggesting that true next-generation games are probably a year or two away, but that gap also means Microsoft has time to polish its strategy for enticing gamers in the Xbox or PC universe to sign up for Xbox Game Pass. Sony will benefit over the same period from its own exclusive releases, even if they aren’t aimed at quite the same goal.
Console launches are typically considered an opportunity to reset the competitive standing between the manufacturers, but given the strangeness of the present moment, it’s hard to get a feel for how the market is reacting to the systems. Early data suggests demand for the PS5 is running nearly 2:1 ahead of Xbox according to StockX. The disc-based versions of each system are selling ahead of the digital-only editions in both cases.