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Microsoft's exclusive competitive FPS is still trapped on consoles

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I was reminded during Geoff Keighley's Opening Night Live show today that CrossfireX (opens in new tab), the sequel to massively popular Counter-Strike clone Crossfire, came out this year. It released free-to-play in February with a complete singleplayer campaign developed by Remedy Entertainment, a full suite of multiplayer modes, and a battle pass. You might have forgotten about CrossfireX because it was panned by critics (opens in new tab) at launch, but it quickly left my head because it only ever came out on Xbox.

A competitive FPS with origins on the PC, exclusive to one console. 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 this were Sony trying to bring back Killzone I'd understand, but this is Xbox we're talking about: The PC-friendly platform. The publisher that, for the past four years, has released every single one of its exclusive games simultaneously on console and PC. CrossfireX is the first game to break that streak, and is maybe the worst possible candidate to do so.

Microsoft CrossfireX's developer, Smilegate, is leaving a lot of players on the table by console-gating an FPS that would probably be way more fun with a mouse and keyboard. I suspect that some of the most damning criticisms CrossfireX received at launch, like unresponsive controls and imbalanced guns, could have been mitigated by a PC version with more customizability and input options.

I get why Sony is letting its big fancy adventure games be console-exclusive for a few years before making the jump to PC, but why CrossfireX? It's not some graphical powerhouse and it's definitely not selling 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 a long time ago that CrossfireX would only ever come to Xbox. That's a shame—CrossfireX is simple, but its shooting looks slick and I'd like to give it a shot. (Just not with a controller. Oh god no.)

CrossfireX's console situation is a bummer, but dwelling on it has been a nice excuse to relive memories from when console-exclusive FPSes were more common. I loved Halo 3. I walked the mean streets of Killzone 2 and Resistance 3 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 commissioned Xbox 360 and PS3 ports for CS:GO when it launched in 2012, both of which were immediately abandoned. They did the same thing with Team Fortress 2 in 2007, which still had a small but active community (opens in new tab) as of 2019.

The truth is, "exclusivity" is now a dirty word for multiplayer games. We are firmly in the era of crossplay, where all games are expected to be playable on every platform and with every platform. This was a bad way to release CrossfireX, and it's unclear if it'll ever be remedied. The console wars are over (opens in new tab), and the PC won. Somebody should probably tell CrossfireX.

Catch up with our full list of Gamescom announcements from Opening Night Live and check our Gamescom schedule to find out when to watch everything else.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.