Phil Spencer comments on bringing 'high-quality' first-party games to Xbox
In a new interview, Phil Spencer spoke frankly about the state of Xbox and the future.
In an interview with Fortune Magazine, Xbox head Phil Spencer went into great detail about the future of Xbox, reiterating the company's goal of improving quality among its first-party studios.
The wide-ranging interview touched on topics like Project xCloud game streaming, and how it aims to grow the Xbox business beyond your typical console user. It also delved into the health of the industry in general, highlighting Spencer's aim to grow Xbox without bringing others down. Notably, Spencer also addressed the first-party situation at Xbox, which has been a beacon for criticism of the Xbox brand throughout most of this generation. Sony has enjoyed repeated success with games like God of War and Horizon Zero Dawn, and boasts some of the most anticipated exclusives for the next few years in the form of Ghosts of Tsushima, The Last of Us 2, Death Stranding, and the Final Fantasy VII remake.
Xbox has seen some success with the likes of Forza Horizon 3 and 4, but many of its games failed to hit the mark. During a chat with Fortune Magazine, Spencer reiterated Xbox's commitment to building strong first-party games, noting that having the autonomy to do so has something that has generally eluded previous leaders of Xbox.
The future content spread for Xbox in terms of exclusives and value is very strong. Gears 5 is about to drop, and early impressions are positive. Halo Infinite looks as though it could reinvigorate the franchise, and we also have Gears Tactics, Age of Empires 4, fan-favorite Flight Simulator, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and others on the horizon. Microsoft has also invested heavily in acquiring up and coming studios such as Undead Labs, Double Fine, and inXile, intending to grow them further. It has also been on a massive hiring spree for The Initiative, soaking up top-tier talent from across the industry.
Assuming service quality is the same across the board, in a world where Netflix-style subscription services become the norm, content will be king above all other things. Clearly, Microsoft recognizes that, but it could be a long time before they can challenge Sony on raw quality. It could perhaps take even longer to alter perceptions of Redmond's dedication to quality.
Related: Is the console war over for Xbox?
What do you think? What sort of games would you like to see coming out of Xbox Game Studios? Hit the comments, let's talk.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!
This unlike the many EA, Activision or Ubisoft games where I think many devs are made to focus on how to make more money from players once they already bought the game and where a lot of money is going into marketing to oversell a game.
Some exclusives has broader audience / catch more eyes, some don't.
Some multiplats has broader audience / catch more eyes, some don't. Persona5, 2.7m WW... then we have Last Guardian, 10 years in the making... now look at Uncharted and Spider-Man? Okami was on ps2/3... niche, but fans and critics love it.
Yakuza, another niche.
Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey are both badly designed, and niche.
I was clearly talking of priority when it comes to making games. First party studios are more likely to have creative freedom and not be "encouraged" to include ways of making more money out of customers after initial game was sold. That's the point I made. Persona 5 was a very highly rated game and The Last Guardian got a good score despite having some design flaws. But the point is that the devs of TLG didn't need to put microtransactions and lootbox in the game because there was no publisher pushing them to do it. That's why often we see 1st party games from Nintendo and Sony not having them... MS also but to a much lesser extent. But again, if you bother watching Spencer's interview you could see that now Spencer is thinking of giving more creative freedom to his 1st party studios.
2:26~2:28, what's your take on this one? https://youtu.be/VL_LgL-tL68
0:51~0:52, what's your take on this one? In terms of non-techs.
Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey == quality work?
Red Dead 2 != quality work?
If Knack, The Order, Until Dawn, Last Guardian and other exclusives == quality / a must play, why won't people buy it?
You're bringing individual examples to prove some kind of point. I'm talking of priority of dev teams and potential pressure from publishers. Once again you're trying to say sales = quality. From your logic XB1 is a low quality console because less people are buying it compared to PS4/Switch.
Same thing with XB on Win10... Read my previous post again and try to understand the point that I'm making before replying to me.
Exclusive or not, can be bad, can be good. They are all just games. Oh, I made a game and people rate it X points. What if I made it exclusive? People would rate it X + BONUS points? Many reasons can sell a game but if a game is niche, it's prob boring / not as good as you think. FAN == illogical. https://youtu.be/5Hv6IRac_CE
2:26~2:28, this quality work to you?
The story, acting, battle system, all the mini games, quality work to you? Why majority ignored it?
A world where there is no competition, where companies won't invest massively in making games where quality is a priority.
Where with the lack of competition a company could just sit back and make third party do all the work as they collect money.
Well, you don't have to imagine too much because Steam is an example of that. First party games and exclusives are very positive for consumers. I'd rather they continue doing this and than end up like a steam who hardly invested anything on new games once they got the monopoly. Why would they invest? Why would they take the risk? Here you got to look at the bigger picture to understand the importance of exclusives.
I think games is the priority for a big percentage of gamers.
When we have a few console makers competing with each other one of the few ways to stand out from the others is to make their own games. The reward of investing in making games is more than just getting the profit from games, it's about attracting a whole lot of players so they can keep playing in their ecosystem. When you think of exclusives you should think of the amount of money that is invested by these company into gaming. Sony puts a lot of cash into making games. And the priority is more about quality games rather than just make a game that makes huge profits.
They can afford to make games like Horizon ZD, GoW or spider-man which are games that don't depend on microtransactions and loot box, they don't need to make huge profits that way but are just there to make the console popular.
Same thing with Nintendo and their first party games. Do you think these companies would invest so much if they were 3rd party games?
I would rather see them invest money into making games exclusives for their platform than they not investing at all.
Exclusives are actually a VERY positive thing. Not timed exclusives though, they are very negative thing. And to the question why make billions when they can make millions?
Simple because they invested billions. I'd rather see a company getting rewarded for investing in making games than one that sits back and depend on 3rd party and PR/marketing bs...
What a ridiculous statement!!
And what will that bring you as a XB gamer? Bragging rights?
Watch the entire interview by Spencer. He talks about people like you...
You mean like cross-save, cross-buy and cross-play? Or are talking about remote play?
I bought a spare xb1s for my GF, I share my game lib with her.
I created a family account, sharing GamePass with my 2 brothers.
1 moved my old xb1 to the office after I bought the xb1x.
I have Alienwares and Surfaces for XPA / Ultimate.
I recently bought a m3-8100Y 7" win10 tablet (2in1 actually) as my temporary Xbox portable solution, for Ultimate of course.
This year, I might be able to run my games on my phone through xCloud (I have Ultimate, so I'll be using Azure. Why would you want to go with remote play anyway? home ↔ public internet ↔ server ↔ phone?)
And I'll be getting some form of WCOS with a 8cx in it next year then give my 7" handheld away. I'll replace my xb1x with a Scarlet next year, then I'll replace my spare 1s with my old 1x, move old 1s to the office and I'll give away the xb1.
Or at least I would guess that they are far from being a majority.
On a fast moving train, on a plane, in a basement of some coffee shop, behind some thicker walls, on a tube / subway, any chance of running your $60 copy natively on a Win10Classic or WCOS?
Q: 100% chance? 0% chance? So, you spent $60 on PsStore to obtain a copy.
Any chance to continue your progress on the go if you don't have a stable network and unlimited 4G/5G quota?
Q: 100% chance? 0% chance? * RemotePlay let you run everything you already own / uses your own game lib, BUT, home ↔ public internet ↔ server ↔ public internet ↔ phone.
* PSNow is server ↔ public internet ↔ phone, BUT, won't let you run everything you owned. So, you spend $60 per game on PsStore.
Streaming or not streaming, can your girlfriend share your game lib, run-your-copy-and-join-your-game using her phone, whichever device or whichever-gen-console?
Q: Can? Cannot? So, which is more logical?
A) PS family offers more, and I choose to buy games from MsStore.
B) PS family offers more, and I choose to buy games from PsStore.
Spencer is all talk, with no serious evidence backing up his all too boastful account.
This way, „overpromise, underdeliver“, they already ruined Windows Phone. And they will continue their strategy and fulfill the Xbox‘ spot as a distant third in videogame marketshare...
The only reason I have a bit of hope here is that they have invested in studios and it looks to me like this could be true this time. ofc what I'm afraid of is the long term vision.
He is saying: Stadia is a restriction it tells you "not to play on console" whereas we tell people play on all devices and consoles if they want. It's all customer's choice...
Maybe he is saying this just to kill Stadia off and in time the goal is just to kill physical game and maybe even console as they exist now and push for the more restrictive service only world like what MS is doing at the moment with many of it's products...
Time will tell.
Oh no not the Don Mattrick scapegoat argument.
What's funny is that when Mattrick was in charge I could hardly see MS fans criticising him. I only see them criticising after he left the company. Mattrick left the company more than 4 and half months before the launch of the console and he is still getting trashed for the poor state of the entire generation. The initial vision was actually getting a lot of praise and damage control by the XB fans then. Almost all the policies were removed less than one month after the initial release and people still blame Mattrick about this. The weird thing is that Spencer has attain cult-like status but he was very much part of that initial vision. He was there with his marketing and damage control with stuff like power is subjective... People trash Mattrick and praise Spencer but Mattrick provided a lot more console exclusives in equivalent time. Games like Ryse, DR3, SO, KSR, Halo 5, Crackdown 3, QB, KI...
Potentially even Gears 4. ofc excluding the yearly forza game. Look at what Spencer did since taking over in 2014. He ended a few projects and close some studios. He was in charge when it came to the ****ing timed deals for ROTR or deadrising 4.
He was head of Xbox in 2014 the "Spencer games" should have been released from 2017-2018 but the drought is real. And even the few games here and there (Sea of thieves, SOD2 or Recore... weren't the best rated games around) The handling of kinect under Spencer was really poor. He kept hyping it up even though he knew he wasn't investing much in making new games for it. It's really amazing how in the same post you give huge importance to Mattrick blaming so much on him this generation even though he left the company 4.5 months before the start of the generation. While you say Spencer who was at the same position as Mattrick (head of XB) for most of the generation had his hands tied because of his position.
And regarding their promises to invest in first party games: They have been making faux promises to deliver quality first party games for years now. But with the two exceptions of Halo (which takes way too much time between the individual games to keep non-fanboys around) and Forza they have hardly delivered anything that could compete with Sony‘s roster of exquisite games.
And they had all the Triumphs in their hands. But with the decision to relegate gaming to be a just a feature among others on the Xbox One and the accompanying closure of several of Microsoft’s own game studios they handed the gaming crown to Sony.
And it's also a nice slap on the face of all those clowns who say it's not important.
These fanboys talked bs just because MS happened to release less exclusives.
Their opinion will probably change if MS suddenly have few more exclusives or first party games.
That's what these idiots do. Also when Spencer said when talking about quality games: "We've work to do there. We haven't done our best work over the last few years with our first party output."
I'm sure this is another slap on the face of those who were trashing people and critics who criticised recent games like Sot, SoD 2 or Crackdown 3. Some calling them "best online game of all time" or "game of the year 2017 and 2018". And that these games are flawless.
ofc people can love them, but to come out attack and trash people who don't is laughable. Anyway, interesting interview. Once again he talks about the business model for XCloud and how for him, XCloud is more different way of accessing content.
He will just talk about 3 different type of distribution.
1) Renting services (like game pass)
2) Buy content (something like Stadia)
3) Free2play What I get from that (and maybe what I'm hoping) is that XCloud might be free feature. No extra cost if you're on gamepass. Buying a Xcloud (xbox) game means you'll be able to play it using MS's servers for free whenever you want and for an unlimited period (like stadia). And Free2play games will just be free. No need of gold subscription. He was very weird, evasive and vague when it comes to how profitable. I don't believe someone who is in his position for so many years doesn't know when and for how many years it's been making money. When the guy pressed a bit more it looks like he shifts positions talking about how much they invested in buying companies.
Honestly, I just don't see how they are currently profitable with all the investment on studios and their new console.
It is very easy to make PR or marketing sentences by taking certain conditions into account and excluding some others. The best way to see it is by publishing how profitable they are every quarter or year. And the fact, that they don't want to show these numbers. They'll talk about XB MAU which are a lot less meaningful. It's nice that he takes a shot at all those silly fanboys who wants the death of competition and who celebrate the failure of a company. About autonomy, I'm still sceptical about this. I mean Gears 5 has microtransactions. Forza still has these boosts locked behind VIP pass or expensive versions. I really don't think devs WANTS to include microtransactions in games. I think they'd rather make a good game that gamer like. I'll be waiting to see how much autonomy all studio will truly have at the end. For me, Spencer does sound sincere about this. We'll see... There are so many things that can be said about the interview. The vision is interesting. On paper, it does sound good. My problem is when people starts talking about steaming and services being the norm in years to come. For me this looks like they have a vision and they are slowly trying to move there. Unlike in 2013 they are doing it in stealth mode. Releasing something like a digital-only console...
They are already pushing streaming even though it'll probably take them a long time before this gets anywhere near mainstream.
It's actually crazy how much they are pushing for services.
The ads about Office 365 vs Office 2019, where they are trashing their only product shows what they are all about. We can clearly see features that "could" be on Office 2019 but are just absent to make the service version more attractive. Just today we were talking at work about how much MS is pushing Visual Studio Subscriptions. It's becoming incredibly frustrating to use unless you keep paying MS. For me it almost look like the microtransactions business model, frustrate consumer until he gives up and subscribe making consumer think that's the best/only option.
For me it looks like MS just can't wait to get rid of physical game and maybe even console as they exist now. I think they are trying to slowly implement that 2013 vision but in worse. And that's what I'm afraid of at this time. Right now, I'll say great, but I'll be cautious...
Oh no, the victim "media hates MS" card.
I like QB and it good a good score. But neither of these are flawless games. I wouldn't put it anywhere near Uncharted 4, or Witcher 3 quality. We've seen FH getting great scores so I don't think you can talk about reviewers bias against MS. If anything I've seen some pro-MS media like WindowsCentral, MondoXbox, ICXM... who are openly bias towards MS.
In the case of QB, there were 105 different reviewers. And each of them write reviews and reasons for the eventual score. I think 77 is actually a good score.
I think this system of average a collection of gaming professionals is the most fair system. Even if there are some few bias (e.g. XCIM) at the end their score averages it up against all the different scores. If you take any of the review you'll see the flaws they saw. I mean I even saw the AI was quite dumb. I didn't mind the huge TV serie part of the game, but I can totally understand people turned off by that. Saying that reviewers are bias toward PS is being a bit dishonest because some of their games like The Order: 1886 or Knack... The order got 63. It's a game that I actually enjoyed a lot but I can totally listen and understand the criticism. Also like I said XB has some very good rated too.
Sony puts a lot of resources into their games so the result is that more often than not we'll see quality games. God of war, uncharted 4, Spider-man, Horizon ZD, The last of us are highly rated game because they moved most players and reviewers who played them. Saying that "media is bias" is like giving an easy excuse for the poor work done by MS. Even Spencer said their games haven't been the best. I would think that this is a much better system. Would you prefer individual reviews or user review where company fanboys gives 10 for the company they worship and 0 for the competition? I would rather see a bunch of professional reviewers gives scores and justify their scores with a well written article. I am willing to acknowledge bias to companies from sites that are openly fans of the company. Not just MS but we have some PS focused sites. The reality is that there are not one side that have more fan site than others as most are neutral sites. Can you tell me how many writers or sites are pro Sony and anti MS? And how many are actual neutrals or how many are pro-XB?
The problem here is that it looks like you can't accept reviews are also opinion so subjective. There is no definite rule to mesure "fun" it's an individual thing. I haven't played Guacamelee 2 but I've completed the first at 100%. For me both QB and Guacamelee are good games. It's difficult to compare the two because they are so different but if I got to factor everything into account then I don't think there is a problem here. I would say for what it is I would put the first Guacamelee over QB. And there is nothing "wrong" about an opinion.
For example, you may like the extremely long cut scenes, others may hate it and that's how you can get a difference in opinion and a difference in final scores There are very high rated games like Journey that I didn't like. But I accept the score and I totally accept that people absolutely love it. I found a game like SoT incredibly boring but some love it. It's ok. It's their opinion. Nothing is really broken here.You're reading way too much into this media bias against MS. Things like BS, Scorpio and game pass are actually getting a lot of praise. When Sony forced the br player on the PS3, they had the incredibly expensive PS3 at launch or they didn't want to have cross play with other consoles they were getting trashed by the media. What happened in 2013 was 100% MS's fault. Even if you think MS didn't deserve criticism in 2013 and should always be praised while Sony doesn't deserve all the praise they get. You got to remember that that itself is just your opinion. You got to understand that people can have different opinion and that's whats happening here. Honestly I would rather listen to the opinions of 100s of professional gaming journalist. All writing detailed report of their opinion. Rather than opinions of fanboys who will always support games made by the company they worship.
If anything metacritic is the best solution I can think of. The best solution to get a general subjective opinion of a game.
From personal opinion, I've been following these ratings for years and it's almost always accurate. Games around the 88-100 are in general amazing to me. Those in the 50-60 range are more often than not disappointing with obvious objective flaws. Those between 60-70 are mostly average to me. And finally 70-87, games are most of the time good.
What happened in 2013 was 100% MS's fault. Even if you think MS didn't deserve criticism in 2013 and should always be praised while Sony doesn't deserve all the praise they get." I didn't say anything about what was or wasn't deserved as criticism. I said that the bias in the media has been obvious. If Xbox launches their product with unpopular DRM in 2013, does that justify biased scores of 30s and 40s for the game Ryse, one of their premiere launch titles? "Things like BS, Scorpio and game pass are actually getting a lot of praise." Does that justify the obvious media bias of overtly negative articles prior to Scorpio's release, in an attempt to squelch excitement for it? "Honestly I would rather listen to the opinions of 100s of professional gaming journalist." Yeah, that word "professional" betrays something more than mere individual opinion. "The best solution to get a general subjective opinion of a game." If that's the case, there's no need for gaming journalists, unless you are making the claim that they are "less biased" than general users. In that case, I think there needs to be well-established and transparent rubrics.
The game had plenty of bugs. Remedy themselves apologized for that. "Then against what did you claim that Quantum Break [...] should be nowhere near The Witcher? Subjective opinion?"
Yes, subjective opinion. "The user base already gives ratings based on their opinions, so a representative of popular opinion is already established."
1) Gaming journalist are professionals. That's their work. They are paid to play games and give their opinion. They have played a lot more games than the average customers.
2) There is way more fanboy nonsense from the general public. Those giving 10 for the company they worship and 0 for others.
3) A person giving a rating and having a detailed article about it, is for me more reliable than the average gamer giving a rating based on a game he may have not even played. ofc they are needed. They are a lot less bias then fanboys. It's so easy for fanboys to be openly bias and just give 0 or 10 without even playing the game. With zero accountability. It's not that easy to for professional reviewers who needs to play the game give exact reasons why they don't like or like some points. AND everyone can comment and call them out for their opinion. "Then how is any score by gaming journalists even remotely valid?"
It's valid because it's their opinion. It's their opinion that is detailed in an article. "I didn't say anything about what was or wasn't deserved as criticism. I said that the bias in the media has been obvious. If Xbox launches their product with unpopular DRM in 2013, does that justify biased scores of 30s and 40s for the game Ryse, one of their premiere launch titles?"
Please show how many reviews gave Ryse 30-40 because of DRM. Please show me that. It's easy to say "bias in the media has been obvious".
Well it wasn't obvious for me. Again it's just YOUR opinion. "Does that justify the obvious media bias of overtly negative articles prior to Scorpio's release, in an attempt to squelch excitement for it?"
How about media praise what deserve praise and criticise what deserves it?
The only people who claim there is media bias only brings about examples when the company they like gets criticised. They ignore other instances when it's the other way round. Funny thing from what I've seen, it's mostly people who are fans of company who sees this. For people who aren't fans of companies, they don't really see much media bias. I would only see "media bias" in sites like windows central or ICXM, which ironically are bias to a company. "Yeah, that word "professional" betrays something more than mere individual opinion."
Do you have a proof of that or is it once again just your opinion? "If that's the case, there's no need for gaming journalists, unless you are making the claim that they are "less biased" than general users. In that case, I think there needs to be well-established and transparent rubrics."
Like what? What rubrics? What rubrics that are not subjective?
The game had plenty of bugs. Remedy themselves apologized for that." Are you suggesting then that The Witcher and Uncharted's higher scores are based on their lack of bugs? I thought they were simply based on opinions. "ofc they are needed. They are a lot less bias then fanboys." I wouldn't call a range of 30 to 90 on a single game "a lot less biased". "It's valid because it's their opinion." Hmm, not your strongest argument. The user-base already provides their opinions, and many of them write reviews with justifications for their scores. People are free to disregard or dismiss any such scores or reviews. But the scores of gaming journalists are factored into media gaming sites, which determines which games get more exposure in advertisement. "Please show how many reviews gave Ryse 30-40 because of DRM." Xbox obviously gained a lot of flak for their DRM policy prior to launch. That snowballed into an internet and media bias against the company, which, I believe, influenced gaming journalists to trash their most compelling products. 30s and 40s for Ryse are absurdly low, not justified at all by the respective reviews. ""Yeah, that word "professional" betrays something more than mere individual opinion." Do you have a proof of that or is it once again just your opinion?" You said it yourself. You claimed "they are a lot less biased than fanboys." Which is just not verifiable, given that these gaming journalists have such absurd review score spans for games. "What rubrics? What rubrics that are not subjective?" That's just it. They are subjective, but people give objective weight to their scores. At least rubrics will keep them more consistent in their scoring, and will discourage political favor/malice. ""Does that justify the obvious media bias of overtly negative articles prior to Scorpio's release, in an attempt to squelch excitement for it?"
How about media praise what deserve praise and criticise what deserves it?" You did not answer the question. I gave you the specific example of article negativity regarding the time period prior to the launch of Scorpio. If you don't have a valid response, just say so, instead of attempting to dodge the question. "The only people who claim there is media bias only brings about examples when the company they like gets criticised." That's a sweeping generality. I hope you don't use the reverse logic of that statement to accuse people of bias. "I would only see "media bias" in sites like windows central" I'm curious. Can you give an example of bias from this site?
That's not a fact, it's an opinion. I think you're confused by facts and opinion here. Just because you thought it was fun it doesn't mean others think the same.
I'm quoting you DIRECTLY:
"Never mind the fact that the game was absolutely fun."
Meaning you're saying that the game being absolute fun was a fact.
Your words not mine.