Phil Spencer discusses game exclusivity, first-party studios, monetization, and more in interview

Xbox Game Studios Buys Zenimax Media Bethesda
Xbox Game Studios Buys Zenimax Media Bethesda (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Phil Spencer is the current head of Xbox, and has done a lot to grow and shape the brand over the years.
  • In a recent interview with GameReactor, Phil Spencer talked a lot about games, platform exclusivity, and monetization.
  • He also talked about the future of Xbox, not just as powerful gaming consoles but as a gaming ecosystem.
  • At the end of the interview, we also get to hear a tiny bit about what the Initiative is up to.

Video game fans have a ton to look forward to in 2020, despite shaky global conditions amidst a pandemic and political battlegrounds, as Microsoft and Sony prepare to usher in a new era of console gaming. This means the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S launching later this year, and we just got a new demo for the Xbox Series X and S, new Xbox Game Studios with the acquisition of Zenimax Media, and a busy holiday of new video games like Watch Dogs: Legion and Cyberpunk 2077.

In a new interview with GameReactor, Phil Spencer talks about a lot of this, between acquiring studios, Xbox Game Pass, game exclusivity, expanding the Xbox platform, and even a little bit about what the future holds for Xbox. You can read the entire interview over at GameReactor, but we took a look and picked out some of the more interesting tidbits.

  • E-rated games should be a priority. Gaming is becoming increasingly prevalent for children and families alike, so it's important to have a wide variety of games that cater to this growing group. Microsoft already has Minecraft, one of the most popular games in the world, and a handful of other great franchises, but Phil Spencer wants to take that to the next level with more games suitable for players of all ages. With this, I absolutely agree.
  • Exclusive games aren't the focus of Xbox. When asked if exclusive games have advantages and provide value to a platform, Phil Spencer replied: "In the short term, there is. But I think in the long term, that camaraderie very quickly turns into weaponising of exclusive games, of mine versus yours. And I think exclusive games for closed platforms are a marketing tool to drive adoption of those closed platforms." He goes on to say that the focus for Xbox isn't to get players to play solely on Xbox, but rather to bring Xbox to as many places as possible, like with PC gaming and Xbox Cloud Gaming (Project xCloud) on Android.
  • Different business models for monetization. How games choose to monetise their content is constantly a major point of conversation for gamers, between aggressive microtransactions, paid expansions, the increasingly popular "battle passes," and everything in between, video games need to make money for the companies that made them. Phil Spencer stated in the interview "...I don't think we want one business model, I think we want gamers to have choice in how they engage and pay for the games that they're playing."
  • Single-player games are still important. Xbox has received criticism in the past for seemingly focusing on online and games-as-a-service type titles like Sea of Thieves instead of expansive single player games like Sony tends to focus on. For Xbox Game Pass to truly work, however, Phil Spencer wants players to engage with many games, going from one game to the next, and online games typically don't encourage that. Diversity is key, with a solid mix of both multiplayer and single-player games giving players the choice.
  • Xbox Game Pass isn't an impossibility on other platforms. Over and over again Phil Spencer drives home how engaging with the players is important, no matter where they are. This is why Xbox is expanding to PC's, phones, and potentially more in the future. When asked about bringing Xbox Game Pass to competitors like Nintendo and Sony, Phil Spencer was quick to manage expectations, but did say: "I love the Switch, I love PlayStation, honestly, I think they've done an amazing job as being a part of this industry. I'm not sure that those are the next big set of users for us, but we could be open to those discussions."
  • The Initiative is working on something exciting. Microsoft's secretive Santa Monica studio, the Initiative, is attracting a seriously impressive team of talent for their unknown project, and everyone is impatiently waiting to hear what the studio has been up to. Phil Spencer didn't give any real details, he did mention that he has played what the studio is working on, and is excited to reveal it to the world. Phil, I'm excited for you to tell us too.

It's a good, lengthy interview, and there are more details we didn't include here, so be sure to check out the full interview if you're interested.

Xbox Series X/S


Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.