Phil Spencer Interview: Redfall Reviews, Activision Deal by Kinda Funny for the Kinda Funny Xcast Ep. 137
This interview dropped yesterday and I saw quite a few articles about it. I watched/listened, because any chance to hear an executive is interesting to me. Xbox is in and has been in a tough spot lately. So much is riding on Starfield. Games haven’t been hitting. Releases have been missed. It’s worth hearing what hte man in charge of Xbox has to say about this climate right before their Summer Showcase.
At the end of the interview, Phil Spencer spoke about Xbox’s (the console) position in the marketplace. Two quotes stood out to me as contradictory.
“We have a different vision…Play the games you want, with the people you want, anywhere you want. We want Xbox to be something that people who buy our console can feel like they are a member of. Obviously, who are playing on PC, who are playing on cloud, that they feel like full members of our ecosystem. Game Pass players can play on many different devices and we remain fully committed to that. We’re not in the business of out-consoling Sony or out-consoling Nintendo. There isn’t really a great solution or win for us…”
This statement is quite matter of fact. Xbox is in “last place” when looking at console marketshare. This generation, I’d say that Xbox’s (the company) goal has not been to sell the most home consoles, but to sell the most subscriptions. We don’t know the exact numbers, but I’d wager that Game Pass has quite the user base. They don’t want to own the living room anymore; they want to own your time. They want Game Pass to be the hub for your game time. Whether that is on an Xbox console, a TV app, your phone, a Steam Deck, etc. they want your $15/month to be the foundation of your game library/access/time. That’s the different vision.
Yet, mere minutes later, Phil said this,
“The console is the core of the Xbox brand…”
It’s not anymore Phil. How can the console be the core when you aren’t trying to out-console either competitor? How can the console be the core when your games aren’t running well on said box?
It is okay for the box to not be the core anymore. Your subscription service can be. The brand still feels like it is in this transition period and they can’t quite say the truth.
I want Xbox to do well and release good, fun, exciting games. Competition is great. I am jazzed for Forza Motorsport now that I’m all in on sim racers. But I haven’t touched my Xbox in months. I packed it up the other day for the move knowing I won’t be playing it for the next couple of months. I haven’t paid for Live Gold or Game Pass in over a year. You have to make the games and release them to keep players engaged.
There was one other bit that caught my ear, but not from Phil. Host Mike Howard, aka SnowBikeMike, opened up the show asking about the blocking of the Activision, Blizzard, King acquisition by the CMA. This is what Mike said,
I didn’t want to have to do it like this, but Phil it’s been a tough week in the Xbox universe. As you know, of course, the CMA kinda blocking our acquisition of Activision, Blizzard, King…
As a commentator, reporter, host, etc. Mike should not be speaking for Xbox, Sony, Nintendo, or any company, other than the one that actually pays him. None of the $70 billion is Mike’s money. Mike’s career doesn’t ride or die on the acquisition. He’s not stressing out how to make the deal go through. I found it unprofessional and fan-focused. I get coming from a place of being an excited consumer, but you cannot have this our mindset as a professional commentator, reporter, host, etc.
Okay. That is technically not true. I assume it is a safe bet that some of Microsoft’s $70 billion did come from Mike (and me) buying Xbox consoles and games, but I digress.