Phil Spencer Explains Why Xbox Can't Just "Outconsole" Sony & Nintendo, and Needs to Do Its Own Thing

Phil Spencer explained why Xbox can't just try to "outconsole" Sony and Nintendo, but needs to do its own thing in order to thrive. 👀


Published: May 4, 2023 7:36 PM /

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During the latest episode of the Kinda Funny Xcast, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer talked about the upcoming Xbox Game Showcase in June and the way forward for the brand. 

Spencer mentioned that he's very enthusiastic about it. The plan is to announce some things that people haven't seen and give updates about some of the things showcased before. His goal is to get a game out every quarter "at quality," and after some of the slowdown through the pandemic, he can now see that there are games coming every quarter that will surprise and delight the Xbox customers.

While not every game Xbox ships is for everybody and the portfolio is very diverse with different creative takes. While he likes that, and he hopes that such diversity will become a strength for the Xbox Brand, he admits that it needs to be done at quality and on time, and it's important to show gameplay and ultimately put great games in the hands of players.

According to Spencer, 2022 was a light year, but 2023 started better with Hi-Fi Rush, and Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition (which actually has more players than Hi-Fi Rush). While Minecraft Legends did not review at the top, that was also fairly well received with three million players at launch.Then, unfortunately, Redfall was a knockback. Momentum was building and then Redfall happened and it was a knockback. Yet, it's Microsoft's job to deliver on the next games and Spencer can only look forward and continue to support the team and grow.

I can only say now [...] that we got Starfield coming, we got Forza coming, we got Hellblade coming, we got collections of games... I've seen very goo builds of Avowed... I can see it. But until you have the controller in your hand and you're smiling for playing our games, none of my words should matter.

Later in the interview, Spencer mentioned that Microsoft did a better job engaging with Bethesda with Starfield than it did engaging with Arkane Austin during the development of Redfall. The game was earlier in production and it was easier for the company to help with technology and ensure that a quality experience will be shipped.

Spencer then went on to explain that simply creating great games wouldn't be enough for Microsoft to suddenly beat its competition in the console space, but it needs to do its own thing instead.

We'll definitely continue to focus on making our console experience as great as it can be. [...] I will say, and this may be disruptive as well... We have a different vision: play the games you want with the people you want, anywhere you want. We want Xbox to be something people who buy our consoles feel like they're full members of our ecosystem. Games Pass Players can play on many different devices and we remain fully committed to that. 

We're not in the business of outconsoling Sony of outconsoling Nintendo. There isn't really a great solution or win for us. And I know that will upset a ton of people, but just the truth of the matter is that when you're third place in the console marketplace and the top two players are as strong as they are and in certain cases have a very discreet focus on doing deals and other things that will make being Xbox hard for as as a team - that's on us, not on anybody else.

Our vision is that anybody who is on console has to have a great experience and they're first-class citizens, they've invested a ton in our platform, but we're not in a position... And I see out there commentary that if you just build great games, everything will turn around. It's just not trust that if we go off and build great games, all of the sudden you'll see console share shift in some dramatic way. 

We lost the worst generation to lose in the Xbox One generation, where everybody built their digital library of games. So when you go and you're building on Xbox, we want our Xbox community to feel awesome, but this idea that if we just focus more on great games on our console, we're somehow going to win the console race, and it doesn't really lend to the reality of most people. 

90% of the people every year who walk into a retailer to buy a console, are already a member of one of the three ecosystems and their digital library is there. This is the first generation where the big games that they play were games that were available last gen like Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft. The continuity from generation to generation is so strong...

I see a lot of pundits out there who kind of want to go back to the times when we had cartdrige and disks and every new generation was a clean slate, and you could switch the whole console share. That's not the world that we're in today. There is no world in which Starfield is an 11 out of 10 and people start selling their PS5. That's not going to happen.

So what we have to do, and we have this unique vision because we see what creators want... Creators want to build games that can meet players on any screen. People play with their friends regardless of what other screen they're on, and the console is the core of the Xbox brand. There's no doubt. So we'll stay focused to make sure that the console experience is awesome, but I know some people just want us to be a better green version of what the blue guys do, and I'm just going to say that there's not a win for Xbox in staying in the wake of somebody else. We have to go off and do out own thing with Game Pass, with the staff we do with Xcloud, and the way we build our games.

If you'd like to hear more, you can watch the full interview and read about Phil Spencer's reaction to the CMA's decision to block the acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

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Started as News Editor at TechRaptor in January 2023, following over 20 years of professional experience in gaming journalism both on print media and on the… More about Giuseppe