The Future of Xbox Isn’t Just a Console: by Cecilia D’Anastasio for Wired
A good interview with Phil Spencer. It’s interesting that now both Sony and Microsoft have gone to Wired for exclusive next-gen console coverage.
“This world where the hardware you bought keeps us from being able to play together seems totally foreign in today’s world,” says Spencer, describing “walled gardens” as “such a 1990s construct.” (There’s arguably more in it for Xbox to want to tear down those boundaries; for a lot of gamers, Sony’s plot of land has more appealing exclusive games.)
A great point by Cecilia. While Microsoft went on a studio shopping spree and does have some fun exclusive titles, Sony has a much larger and arguably better catalog of exclusives. A game console is only as good as the games you can play on it. PlayStation exclusives are a tour de force for the console.
But movies, television, and music are all becoming more and more device-agnostic. Why not games?
“You and I might watch Netflix. I don’t know where you watch it, where I watch it, but we can have conversations about the shows we watch,” says Spencer. “I want gaming to evolve to that same level.”
The democratization of software via services has been a mission for Microsoft for years. Give everyone access to our software through services and subscriptions. Looking at Project XCloud and the recently announced Fluid Framework, it’s not hard to see where Microsoft wants the company to go in the future. Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella said that “the operating system is no longer the most important layer for us [Microsoft],” back in October 2019.
Xbox has the services in place. Xbox Live has been a gold standard of online gaming via console for nearly two decades. Now there is Xbox Game Pass which is a rotating library of games with Xbox’s own first party games being permanent additions. Project XCloud is actively in beta, which allows for players to stream their games—from either their own collection or Game Pass—to whatever screen supports the Project XCloud app.
What Xbox needs to expand is their library of games. They have strong titles like Halo, Forza, Fable, and more, but the Xbox One generation has felt lackluster compared to both Sony and Nintendo. This must be a huge factor in the decision to go buy studios and create some from scratch. It will take years to build up properly, but Microsoft is getting all their ducks in a row.
“I don’t think it’s ‘hardware agnostic’ as much as it’s ‘where you want to play,’” he [Phil] says.
I’m curious where the buck stops with this one. When will customers be able to play their Xbox games on their Nintendo Switch? What about PlayStation? Does the Xbox brand eventually become a service and game development brand? In a sense, does Xbox eventually become the next Sega; from console manufacturer to solely game development ?
“…I don’t think Xbox series X is our last console. I think we will do more consoles to make that great television play experience work and be delightful.”
I would agree with this notion. I think the streaming future is much further off than Google would have you believe. The infrastructure is not up to snuff.
Microsoft’s next big event is happening in July. PlayStation is revealing games this Thursday, June 11. I wonder how the conversation will play out over the course of the next month.