Recently, Xbox head Phil Spencer gave an in-depth interview to Gamereactor. Speaking to reporters, Spencer touched on the hottest topics of the moment: Bethesda’s recent purchase, more younger-oriented content, monetization, exclusives, and Xbox Game Pass.
We have selected key points from the interview.
Investments in the studio
First of all, Spencer noted that during the Xbox One and Xbox 360 days, Microsoft did not invest enough in the studio. Now everything is different:
If you look at the days of the Xbox One and even the end of the Xbox 360, at that point in time we, as a company, did not invest enough in our studios – and it got out in the end. When I became the head of the gaming division, I was determined to invest as much as possible, but before that I had to pull the Xbox brand into good places in the industry.
Then we began to invest, knowing that the whole undertaking would not start paying off immediately. We now have 23 studios including ZeniMax, which is very cool.
Further, the head of the Xbox said that there is no family content in the Xbox portfolio yet. We need to expand in this direction:
When you look at what people are playing on Xbox, what Xbox Game Pass subscribers are playing, it’s obvious that our portfolio does not have casual content for the widest possible audience. E-rated content is not about us. Yes, we have Minecraft and several other franchises, but when it comes to expanding the creative palette of our studios, games like this are critically important.
Games and subscription
In addition, Spencer touched on the topic of studios, which each time create new worlds and tell exciting stories. He also hinted that the purchase of Bethesda did not end there:
I can’t wait to see Starfield and Compulsion’s new game, as I love companies that don’t stand still and come up with something new every time. In addition, we need to saturate Game Pass – subscriptions are growing every day, so we should continue to attract more developers.
Phil Spencer also spoke about exclusives and all the obvious benefits, but he also noted that this issue has its drawbacks:
In the short term, this is certainly important, but in the long term it becomes a weapon of exclusive games against yours. Exclusives are created to stimulate iron sales. Do they work? There is data that says yes, but there is also the opposite information. Exclusives work well as a hype machine.
Take the Christmas holidays. PlayStation and Xbox are selling their new consoles, both companies are looking to sell as much as possible. I suspect both companies will sell the entire print run for 2020. And if I had an exclusive game, we would sell our console faster. That’s all.
Spencer is convinced that the joy of a new gaming device is much cooler than the joy of one exclusive:
The holiday from the game is much more than the joy of exclusives. Especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we have colossal numbers online, since many people are sitting at home.
Of course, in this case, exclusives will prove to be great, but if you look more broadly, the games will be much cooler if many more people play it within the ecosystem. That is why our games are released on Xbox and PC, and you can also play them through your smartphone.
Selling our titles on PC really impacts our values as we don’t force you to buy a console. Our main goal is to get people to play within the Xbox ecosystem – this includes service, games, console, Android, PC and even Switch.
Zenimax and Bethesda
In the interview, they could not ignore the purchase of Bethesda. Spencer immediately noticed that no one had bought the company yet, and he would not go into much detail on this topic:
I will note right away that we have not bought ZeniMax yet. We have indicated our intentions to purchase ZeniMax. Now the deal is going through formal stages and processes, there are no problems yet. We hope that the deal will finally close in early 2021.
I say this because I want people to understand that I am not sitting with Todd Howard and Robert Altman and planning their future. Because I do not have the right to do this now, it would be illegal.
I just want all of these studios to continue to create amazing games and worlds. In this we agree 100%. Developers will have all the support they need.
The Xbox CEO also commented on the company’s approach to monetizing and focusing Xbox Game Pass subscriptions on titles of a specific genre or business model:
We are not dictating to developers the business model for their games, but I believe that a healthy gaming industry simply needs to have a broad set of distribution models from which users can choose what suits them best.
It’s the same approach for releasing titles in Game Pass. True, some studios think that the subscription is suitable for games-services – I don’t believe in this and immediately tell the developers about it. The last thing I want to see with Game Pass is a game that is played forever. It will be like a subscription like World of Warcraft, right?
I want to see more single titles from our studios with start, middle and end. We used to be more about multiplayer games.
Separately, Spencer said that he would not mind expanding the Xbox ecosystem to the PlayStation and Switch, but he is not sure if this will happen any time soon. He added that Microsoft is now focused on rolling out xCloud to Apple devices and PCs.