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Phil Spencer: Microsoft is committed to growing first-party Xbox content and studios

Phil Spencer
Phil Spencer (Image credit: Microsoft)

The Xbox One clocked in at 1.31 TFLOPS while the PlayStation 4 came in at 1.84 TFLOPS. Microsoft was pumping out exclusives like Dead Rising 3 and Sunset Overdrive but they failed to make an impact, in part because many gamers preferred not to invest in the weaker console.

Since then it seems that Microsoft has cut back on exclusives — this year being the most startling example of this — in favor of providing gamers with what they call the best way to play third-party games. The Xbox One X features 6 TFLOPS of power and it's significantly more than the PlayStation 4 Pro which is at 4.2 TFLOPS. However, the lack of compelling exclusives is noticeable. While Nintendo and Sony have new experiences like Horizon Zero Dawn, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Super Mario Odyssey that have made waves in 2017, Microsoft can't say the same. Forza Motorsport 7 garnered great reviews but it's still the continuation of the yearly franchise.

Fable Legends: canceled.

Fable Legends: canceled.

The cancellation of games like Fable Legends and Scalebound has left a lot of Xbox One owners concerned about the future. Luckily, a few months ago Aaron Greenberg, Head of Xbox Games Marketing at Microsoft, said that the company had signed deals for many new exclusives. Since then we haven't heard about the team's plans. In a recent interview with GameSpot, Shannon Loftis, General Manager of Microsoft Studios Publishing, reiterated that. She said the following.

Scalebound: canceled.

Scalebound: canceled.

I think our offering is good and it is solid. I definitely hear that gamers want more. Would we love to have two-dozen more super-strong, absolutely exclusives? You bet. We do have more coming; more that are in the works that we're not talking about now.

Microsoft has learned from the Crackdown 3 and Scalebound debacles about announcing games too early. However, it would still be nice if the company provided a rough estimate on the number of games and their genres. Keeping their plans secret when many gamers are worried seems like it will hurt the company due to lingering uncertainty. Instead of buying a new Xbox One X, they might pick up a PlayStation 4 Pro because it offers a boost in visuals and has a lot of compelling titles coming in 2018 and beyond. It might not matter that the Xbox One X is the most powerful device on the market.

Speaking with Bloomberg, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer confirmed that the company is looking at starting new studios and acquiring existing ones. He's aware of the problem and, while the solution might take time, they know they have to expand. Spencer added the following.

We need to grow, and I look forward to doing that. Our ability to go create content has to be one of our strengths. We haven't always invested at the same level.

Crackdown 3: delayed.

Crackdown 3: delayed.

However, while expanding first-party studios is necessary, making sure you lead the competition in terms of features is another step. Recently, Sony announced the ability for PlayStation owners to use their Trophies — the equivalent of Gamerscore on Sony's platforms — to purchase games. Players can earn credit towards game purchases depending on how many PlayStation Trophies they have. A similar program seems like a great extension for Microsoft Rewards or Xbox Quests.

In a separate statement on Twitter, Spencer said that the company would "give it a try." It's unclear if this means that they'll test it out internally or if it will make its way to Xbox Preview members.

It's great to see that Microsoft is aware of the problems with the platform, but they need to accelerate the process. It seems that their competitors are making tremendous strides in this department where Microsoft is just getting its foot off the ground. Hopefully, that will change soon and the company will satisfy fans at E3 2018. It's definitely seems like a daunting task though. Hopefully it's not an impossible one.

Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.

56 Comments
  • They need to pick up the Hitman franchise now! Square Enix was dumb for dropping it.
  • I'm a fan of the serie. I certainly don't want MS to pick it up. I think it'll be terrible for the franchise...
  • You and I go back and fourth a lot, but why do you say that? I mean if they keep it with the same devs, it shouldn't really impact the series other than they have a ton of money to throw at it. If your argument is they can cancel it, it's pretty much cancelled right now as it is.
  • I think MS's history in terms of aquiring studios and franchises speaks for itself. Not just that, I certainly don't want hitman to go full "Play as a service" where you have to pay microtransactions or lootbox to get items to carry out your assassinations or something like that... There is still hope that a studio/publisher with a better record takes over...
  • Do any MS games other than forza have microtransactions? Has MS shut down nearly as many studios as, say, EA? Wasn't hit man pretty much "game as a service" since you had to pay for each level?
  • Halo 5  have microtransactions.
  • @Axmantim "Do any MS games other than forza have microtransactions?"
    Are you kidding me? Are you even a XB1 gamer?
    Halo 5, Gears 4, Killer instinct, Halo Wars 2... Sea of thieves is almost certain to have them. Hell, they even brought an old Phantom Dust game and added microtransactions to it. I'm really surprise that you don't know that MS and Spencer's strategy going forward is mainly based on "Games as a service". We've had so many article on these. "Has MS shut down nearly as many studios as, say, EA?"
    MS has a long history of poor management of the studios they acquire. They have closed so many studios this gen it's crazy. Have they closed more than EA? I don't know I don't keep an eye on how many studios EA has closed.  MS's reputation is well documented you really need to look it up. 
    Here http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=873707 
    This was posted in 2014, before they closed down Twisted Pixel, Lionhead and Press Play. Before what happened to  BigPark, Good Science, [Fun]ction Studios, Leap Experience Pioneers (LXP), and SOTA. Before major games were cancelled and projects like Xbox fitness, Project Spark... were cancelled. I don't think deflecting the attention away from MS and towards EA is doing anything for MS... Why do you guys always do this when you're trying to damage control for a company? Hitman was sold as an episodic game. You could buy the full game in one go like I did.
  • "Are you even a XB1 gamer?" it's been mentioned many times (I believe by you even) that there supposedly aren't many exclusives on xbox, so why would my lack of playing xbox exclusives make me look like I'm not an xbox1 gamer? Halo 5 (after reach I pretty much game up on Halo except for MCC) Gears 4 (gears 1 and 2 were basically the same so I stopped there) KI (hate fighting games) Halo wars 2 (didn't interest me since it was part of the halo universe). So I'm sorry that the other 150 games I own on my xbox weren't those. It was a passing question since apparently, until this year, microtransactions werent all over MS games. So I'm personally glad I've stayed clear of them then.   Also I'm not deflecting, it's a business thing, gaming studios launch and get closed all the time was my point. The only ones that are lasting are the ones that publish them selves. It seriously sucks, but with the cost of games today, if you fail, or look like you're going to fail, just once, that's it.   Yes I know you could buy the whole thing at once, I quite enjoyed the game, as I have with most of the hit man series, but it's no different than peoples complaints with COD, or anything else that is gauranteed release over time. Actually it's even closer to software as a service since you're paying less and choosing what new features you want and when you want them until you reach a "full" price. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, and that's my point. I'd actually welcome companies charging me $10 for 1/6th of the game (or even a tiny bit more) so if I play it, and hate it (for reasons other than bugs) I can stop there.
  • MS's history with microtransactions goes way back in 2005.
    Here is an article that dates back then where MS played up microtransactions: 
    https://www.wired.com/2005/03/a-little-moolah-goes-a-long-way/ At the time, MS called it a boon for players...
    They had it for games like Kameo: Elements of Power, Perfect Dark Zero and Project Gotham Racing 3. That was WAY back in 2005 and it was only in 2006 when Bethesda became the first 3rd party studio to follow MS's lead with the infamous Horse Armor Pack. And it's not a recent thing.
    This generation it's been well documented that MS has gone all out and continue to push things trying to get away with it... In 2013, Spencer already said MS has built feedback mechanisms into all games to understand what players are buying and why... and "we are crafting the game and the analytics so we can see what the consumers--the gamers--like and don't" https://www.gamespot.com/articles/microsoft-on-xbox-one-microtransaction... Most XB1 launch games had microtransactions. Forza 5, Ryse, Crimson Dragon, Killer instinct, Lococycle, Powerstar Golf.... 
    https://youtu.be/E4UGm29181E?t=106
    https://youtu.be/Mpx4R9SY98o?t=27 -----------------------------
    Yes, it's always a risk to invest in making new games but there are a lot of studios who are successful and make great quality and financially successful games. Once again, the point is that MS has a very bad reputation when it comes to managing these studios and IPs. I've posted a link about many of their past problems and things haven't improved this generation. That's the reason I don't want them to take over existing franchise/studios. I would prefer they make their own studios and build their own IPs. That is something I would totally support... -----------------------------
    I don't see episodic games as something similar to microtransactions, loot box, season pass, constant DLCs.
    The "Games as a service" model by Activision, EA or MS is about asking more money once you pay the initial $60-100 entry fee. It just asks more and more money. These are different business model for me...
  • Look what MS did for Rise of the Tomb Raider!
  • What did they do with ROTR? Cheaper timed deal with a 3rd party? Try to mislead gamers (by lying) into thinking it's was a full exclusive.  That money could have been used to make a new game for their customers and not delay it for non-XB gamers... XB gamers would have got a new game + ROTR, non-XB gamers would have got a 3rd party in time. Everyone would have won, gaming would have won... Oh but no, they HAD to do that with ROTR... Brilliant!!!
  • I mean to be fair, you really don't know how the deal went down. Square may have not been willing to go 100% exclusive. MS wasn't the only publisher.
  • To be fair, you're just speculating here. Facts remain, MS made a timed deal (confirmed by Spencer). MS (Aaron Greenberg) tried to mislead gamers by lying about it being exclusive to XB1. And if that money was not used for this time deal it could have gone into making a new game for XB1 owners.
  • I'm not disputing your facts though, they are certainly true, but you're speculating as well. ROTR brought money in (almost definately more than what was spent so it's not like MS couldn't use that money, plus what ever money they wanted to make another game) So it's entirely possible that without ROTR and the MS deal, it may have never come to Xbox, there's many things possible. There's no reason to throw a negative spin on anything but what Greenburg said, and that doesn't change the fact that the game was successful for MS and for gamers.
  • I'm not sure about this part; "almost definately more than what was spent so it's not like MS couldn't use that money, plus what ever money they wanted to make another game". The thing though is that this is a 3rd party game. It was most probably coming on all platforms with or without the deal. The problem with time deals (ANY time deal. Even Sony's stupid deal with COD DLC) is that money is being "invested" to basically delay content for gamers, so I can't really say this money is being invested for gaming/gamers. It may be good for Sony/MS and Square Enix/Activision or whoever involved, but I would certainly not say it was good for us. Again, I rather want Sony and MS to invest in making new games for us rather then delay 3rd party games for people who don't own their platforms. But I guess that's just me...
  • obviously, we'll have to wait and see if MS can deliver with their actions, but I do wonder if Phil now being on the executive board gives him the ability to invest more money into 1st party studios.  If before, he had his hands tied dealing with Myseron who maybe didn't care much for gaming and wasn't giving Phil & XBox the resources to invest in more games.
  • as they were committed to grow windows mobile?
  • We are committed to...
    Translation: We will abandon it.
  • and as they were committed to PC gaming?
  • and as they were committed to kinect... LOL https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/may/14/xbox-one-microsoft-in...
    https://www.onmsft.com/news/spencer-says-microsoft-not-abandoning-kinect...
    https://www.polygon.com/2015/6/16/8793725/kinect-games-in-development-xb...
  • well good thing kinect isn't a gaming console
  • Play anywhere, DX12, built in Game DVR, plenty of other gaming related things added to Windows. What makes you think they aren't commited to PC gaming?
  • can we stop linking every single thing back to windows mobile. Yes, they are things from the same company, but also completely different products.
  • As long as they keep releasing Halo games, I'm good.
  • As long as those Halo games come back to PC as well; where is that comitment to PC Spencer was promissing? More BS from MS? MS lost lot of PC gamers when they screwed us all with Halo 2 being the last on PC.    
  • "where is that comitment to PC Spencer was promissing? More BS from MS?" It's visible for everyone to see: all new games from Microsoft have been Play Anywhere, even from staple Xbox franchises like Gears of War and Forza. They never promised, however, to port old Xbox games, so we're unlikely to see the Master Chief Collection playable on PC, but you can be sure Halo 6 will be an XPA title.
  • I had high hopes for 5 coming to PC later. I mean, I never thought it was probable, but it would've been a great addition to XPA roster
  • Also the problem is that microsoft doesnt continue to work on old fan favorite mascots.  They have the entire character library of Rare which they purchased from Nintendo.  Those lovable characters should be brought back alive.  It is all about nostalgia for older gamers.  This is why Nintendo keeps pumping out Mario's and Zelda's.  Conker, Banjoe Kazoie and Kameo were great titles, but they don't seem to not want to push those mascots.  Perfect Dark did fine in xbox 360, but where's the next game?  They need to bring back old franchises.  Midtown Madness, Mechassault or MechWarrior, all of these stuff have a lot of fans.  Every year/generation of the console they bring in new characters and force us to like them and then what?  NO sequel just because it didnt sell?   Why not publish Sunset Overdrive 2?  It may not have sold well, but it has fans waiting for that sequel.  only thing we keep getting is Halo.  Even Fable is gone.   Microsoft doesnt know how to lead first party titles.  Feels like theyre the one with A.D.H.D in the gaming industry. And with this, I've completely started ignoring new xbox first party games, (super lucky's tale), because I know nintendo's new mario and zelda wont disappoint.  My switch gets more attention nowadays for first party, and just use xbox for 3rd party titles from Ubisoft and Rockstar gems.  
  • I'm surprise but I actually agree with you for once. How I wish for another Perfect Dark or even a Midown madness. I really think it's also about building a library and a reputation. A good positive image where gamers know that they are committed to making games for their customers. A Sunset overdrive 2 would have probably not made as much money as a Game as a service (microtransaction + loot box) game but it would have help build a positive image. And that I believe is so important in this industry. But that's not just that. How I wish MS make their own "Horizon: Zero Dawn" or "The last of us". How I wish MS gives studios the freedom to innovate make new IPs, take risks... Even if it means making new IPs.... Oh and Super's lucky's tale is not even a 1st party game. It's a small 3rd party indie studio (Playful) that made the game and owns the IP. MS made a deal (probably cheap deal) with this small indie studio to get the game on their platforms. ofc it could still be just timed...
  • RIP Blinx
  • Yep, they definitely have a problem on their hands.
    As soon as I read the headline, I noticed that my thoughts were "oh, they're committed? Really? For how long? That's B.S.. I dont beleive them" And i've been a dedicated Windows/MS guy for a while. They lost my trust, and I have to assume that I'm one of hte last given that the only reason I'm using an Android phone right now is because my son needed a phone to replace his 635, so I gave him my 950 and got an Android that I could use for mobile banking at work (ie. write-off)
    - Groove hurt the most.
    - I saw Win10M going away for a while, so while it sucks, I wasn't surprised. 
    - Getting rid of Band was also a big shock, but at least Fitbit stepped up with Ionic, and now I have something with all the features I wanted.
     
  • so true
  • LOL Spencer just trying to BS everyone again; if he was commited he would never allow the disbanding of Ensemble; and where are all the comitment to PC gaming promisses from two years ago;  
  • Microsoft is only commited to onething, making money for the shareholders each quarter. The rest is bla bla bla
  • This proves the Xbox brand was being neglected and Nadella had started to take this down the same path as windows mobile. Let's hope it's not to late, they need to create more IP.
  • This lieterally proves nothing.
  • I do think Xbox in next in line for the chop. Problem is by removing consumer services and devices is that when they fail in the corporate market, and they will, they will try coming back to consumers and we won't care.
  • I wish Microsoft would pick up the Skate franchise or create their own skateboarding game. They would have no competition. The last Tony Hawk game was lame and Skate III was released in 2010. That was seven years ago! With skateboarding becoming and Olympic sport in 2020, it would be a worldwide seller. 
  • They should buy Capcom, Activision, Zenimax, Nintendo, EA, or Take-Two. 
  • Haven't they killed enough studios and franchise already?
  • Most of those should die to be fair.
  • Wait what? You want gaming studios to die? Most? Which ones?
  • I would be quite happy with EA, Activision, and Zenimax went under (less so Zenimax, but Bethesda is currently doing some ****** things) Capcom, I'm mostly indifferent to, but they have been doing some ****** things with street fighter for a while. Nintendo, I def don't want to see fail but they do a lot of ****** things. Take 2, from what I understand, are absolute slave drivers and treat their employees really bad, along with some poor monetization in their games.
  • As much as I hate some of the business and anti-gaming decisions some of these have made, I'd rather not want them to die. They still make games. They still invest into gaming. Out of all these I would probably say Activision are the worse but I think we still need most of them. They need to be kept in check but at the end of day I rather see their money going back into making games and giving gamers more games, more choice...
  • you can already earn free games through Microsoft rewards and xbox rewards by doing things to get points which you can turn in for money in your account.
  • =IF(Microsoft='committed', 'lie', '')
  • Forgot to declare your variable 😀
  • Gamepass has some rewards, just came on today. Play 3hrs, get a prize. 10hrs, another.
  • Microsoft and Committed are two words that do not belong in the same sentence. Change MS, change!
  • The problem is that whenever this topic comes up, MS/XB "fans" downplays this and hide behind 3rd party games and the handful of usual games or cheap deals with indies. Even when someone like Asher Madan says "Since then it seems that Microsoft has cut back on exclusives — this year". For me, it just sounds like damage control and not really saying what needs to be said. This is what they announced in terms of actual console exclusives in the last 2 years. E3 2016
    - Forza Horizon 3 (the yearly forza)
    - State of Decay 2 (Indie game that could end up on steam) Gamescom 2016
    E3 2017
    - Forza 7 (the yearly forza)
    - Next Ori (Indie game that could end up on steam)
    - Super Lucky's tale (Indie game that could end up on steam) Gamescom 2017
    -  When we add the cancellation of major games and closing studios, it's a major problem. Aaron Greenberg is another one that can't really be taken
    seriously.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7dea1923bf3c365c3cb135ac3ecd97d5483... They have been building up Games as a service, how to make more money of games by focusing on microtransactions, loot boxes,...
    And trying to kill single player games... -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    At this stage, it's more about action speaking louder than words.  This has been something that Spencer have been talking for so long now. I don't think we 
    -----------------------
    2015
    This was said in 2015.
    "We should have new exclusive IP at E3. I'm trying to make this E3 more about 1st party than past E3s."
    https://www.polygon.com/2015/4/20/8456445/phil-spencer-e3-2015-first-par... This was said little later by Spencer:
    "So we're making a conscious decision to focus on our first-party games. It doesn't make it harder or easier, it's just a decision. I do think that building up first-party exclusives is creatively more difficult than signing a deal, just by the nature of what it is. But I'll point out too that Sony has some great first-party franchises."
    https://www.gamespot.com/articles/xbox-one-interview-phil-spencer-on-mic... -----------------------
    2016
    This was what was said at the start of 2016. (So 2016's new IP's were Quantum break/D4 (also on steam) and Recore?)
    "Should be a very good. Shipping more new IP than we have in a long time. Good challenge to make new IP succeed."
    https://twitter.com/XboxP3/status/683179989903118336?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw... -----------------------
    2017
    How can we even take Spencer seriously when he makes this type of comments at the start of the year:
    "I feel very good about this year. Should have more 1P games than last year, great diversity + launching new IP.  Good year."
    https://twitter.com/xboxp3/status/828810331774259201?lang=en This is what he said in march:
    "[We're] very focused on 1P games. I'll be careful about when we announce things but I know strong 1P is critical," adding that having those first-party games ready for Scorpio's launch is also critical.
    http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2017-03-23-xbox-first-party-is-cri... -----------------------
    With all this said it's actually amazng that the support actually dropped so much. 
    He has said to many things that hasn't followed up and now for me it's all bs and communication until he proves it.
     
  • Forza 7 wipes the floor with GT Sport. Halo has Killzone for breakfast. Only games I’d play on PS4 are the Naughty Dog titles, and there is exactly one so far for this console generation, remastered stuff not counted. And please don’t start with hundreds of Japanese crap IPs for PlayStation. I understand why those are popular in Japan, but I really don’t need my games to look like animes...
  • People like you is exactly what's wrong with gaming nowadays. Supporting or damage controlling a brand/company is almost more important than supporting gaming. The worse part is that I believe you are actually doing more damage to the company/brand that you're worshipping with all this damage control. 1) You're bringing subjective opinions to try to damage control a CLEAR difference and try to imply that EVERYTHING is GREAT. 2) You're being TOTALLY dishonest when you're trying to imply that "all PS4's exclusives or console exclusive" are "japanese crap". Again subjective argument to trash a genre of games, but  even without the so-called JRPG or "anime looking games" the PS4 has STILL A LOT MORE exclusive or console exclusives. 3) There are actually 2 Naughty Dog games this gen and one coming up (probably in 2019 or so). There is something seriously wrong and even Spencer has been talking about it for YEARS now. They cancelled MAJOR games and studios... Oh but EVERTHING is FINE because damage controlling for a brand/company is really ALL that matters... 
  • Uh huh, we'll see.
  • in mu opinion. its not always about building completely new games & franchise. MS should buy rights to some old games & make their sequels. like crysis. Microsoft has hr & money to build a great crisis game. crisis already is popular among gamers.
    so, it will be helpful
  • U all are crazy. Just buy all 3 major consoles and enjoy your time gaming.
  • I always wondered why you couldn't use your live credits obtained through achievements count towards the cost of a game. This would have really helped digital sales.