Xbox boss Phil Spencer has heard of the skeptics. They believe that by working with Xbox, Microsoft does not use consoles or even become third-party. That's all wrong, he told me during a lengthy interview in Los Angeles last week discussing his vision for Xbox, the recently announced potential gaming deal between Sony and Microsoft, and whether he ever wanted to put Gears of War on PlayStation 4.
(The following transcript has been slightly edited for the sake of clarity.)
Stephen Totilo, Kotaku : Initially, I would like to speak only on a platform level. I would describe what you and your team are describing these days as "refreshingly radical" in terms of the way you run a platform. They really broke down many walls and did many things that in the past were considered things that a platform owner would not have done. As a thought experiment, I thought that if PlayStation did what you did last year, God of War day and date would appear on PS4 and PC.
Phil Spencer, Xbox: Right.
Totilo: I would not have had to pay $ 60 for that. I could have gotten it as part of a subscription that brought me many games. And at some point in the future, I could play it without needing a PlayStation just by letting it stream to me.
Totilo: I'm curious how far you are I can see this vision expanding as some people ask, "Does Xbox even have a box?" Does not it all have to have all the games on one device? Where is this going?
Spencer: We use this slogan both internally and externally: Play the games you want with the people you want and we say on the devices [you want] you can think of " All over". And that drives us. We actually believe that with two billion gamers on the planet, as big as today's business is, the industry continues to grow for us as we reduce friction to the people who come in.
The scenario that drives me crazy is: I'm a parent, you're a parent, we live in the same neighborhood, we have kids, you go to Best Buy, and you randomly buy an Xbox. I go to Best Buy and come out by chance with a PlayStation. Our children want to play Minecraft together, and they can not. And I think overall, how is gaming growing as a gaming industry? It changes, it's not just us. We have made great progress with Nintendo. This started, however, when we wanted to deliver our first-party games to Xbox and PC at the same time a few years ago.
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There's always the core coming back [and says]: "They reduce the need to buy an Xbox. "In reality, people are playing on a console because they enjoy watching TV on the couch with a controller in their hands, and it's more of an experience than trying to sell a person device. To shorten it: we focus on the player; We do not focus on the device.
Totilo: But you can make enough money if you do what you do? This is a business.
Spencer: That's easy. The business sells software and services. It's not about how many consoles you sell. The consoles are not the place where profits are made on this side of the business, and here's the whole thing: "who sells more consoles" at a given time, since the kind of staple food that does well in business simply is not true is . They have other companies that participate in games and do not even have a console as part of their equation. It's about how many games people play. And how much money do people spend on these games and how often do they play?
Totilo: So if you had your way, would you sell Gears on the PS4 this September?
Spencer: I think the experience we bring into the family room with Xbox and the focus on things like compatibility and crossplay is actually important for the growth of games. That's why we focus on consoles and spend a lot of money and resources to invest in Scarlett. The same on the PC.
Today, people say, "Are you going to a third party?" Whatever that means. However, the idea that we are a platform company remains true and we are considering how this platform infrastructure could grow. And we think the world's most powerful console with a great Xbox at home is a crucial component to that.
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Totilo: Yes, but you value Cuphead and Minecraft can overcome these traditional boundaries and land on the switch …
Spencer: Together with Xbox Live, all play together …  Totilo: To come back to this, would you ever mind a Gears or a Halo on a PlayStation or a switch?
Spencer: The games themselves are crucial for players. However, it's critical to make sure you have a networked ecosystem with the players, where the player's game and status, friend list and permissions are seamlessly transferred from any ecosystem – from any device – to which they play would like. There are no other systems that we can do that today.
Today we can install Xbox Live on the switch to keep these communities connected. And we have, as you have already pointed out, a number of franchisees who have delivered there. But in the end, we think it will be crucial to have a native platform for years at home to further our vision of where the gaming platform should be.
Totilo: So, where would you draw them? Line between which games you would like to see on other platforms? And what would not you do?
Spencer: The vast majority of what we do will be on Windows, it will be on Xbox and it will be on xCloud. The nice thing about xCloud is that it's an Xbox in the cloud and we do not need to create a new version of the game. That's a clear focus for [Xbox games chief] Matt Booty and the team. We appreciate the relationships with the other companies that exist. We believe that we can learn from them and that we can help make playing through crossplay, cross-buy, and cross-progression, all of the things we focus on. We believe that we can only realize this vision to a very limited extent if we are not strong on consoles and increasingly on PCs.
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Totilo: Partnerships and Surprising Things Announced One Month Ago There's One The partnership between Sony and Microsoft, which refers to games, has many people startled and some confused. Can you talk about what this business is, where it comes from, and what it means when I think of the world in terms of Xboxes and PlayStations?
Spencer: We should start just so we realize it's a memorandum of understanding. This is the beginning of a conversation. Sony and Azure on the future of cloud gaming. We look at what you need to be a future gaming platform – content, community and cloud are things we focus on – and there are only a few companies on the planet who really have a global cloud, which meets these requirements can reach players everywhere. Today it would be us and Amazon in terms of magnitude. Google is building up its cloud.
So, if you're a different gaming company looking for a partner to work with, you can invest tens of billions of dollars to catch up. Or you can find out who your partners are. And the nice thing for us is that you can concentrate on Sony, you can focus on many companies. We have this thing called Microsoft Game Stack. We announced it at the GDC: DirectX, Windows Studio, Azure. Even [Google’s Phil] Harrison, when he announced on stage that Stadia showed Havok, showed Digital Studio, showed things that we built – we will have platform components, like Microsoft and as our game organization, using competitors. We are reflecting on the strength we are gaining as our platform grows, and it is important to us to build strong partnerships with gaming companies to help us increase that platform strength.
Totilo: You could have blocked this memorandum? They could have said, "We should not work with these people, we compete with these people." Would not that be an option or a thing that would have been worth doing?
Spencer: It's just a kind of opposite pole to strategy and what we are as a company. But I say the following: I think gaming is a better place because of the other brands that exist. In the last 20 years, the number of players on the planet has tripled. Gaming is a $ 150 billion business per year, growing at double-digit rates. I do not see that we succeed when others do not have to be successful.
I've publicly said this before: I think the role these other gaming companies play in playing is crucial. We are a big publisher on these platforms. We have good relationships with them. [instead of] If I block them to minimize their impact on the future growth of gaming, I find more opportunities to work with partners to promote game growth. I just think it's better because it's not a hard market. It is a market that is growing. There are customers around the world who have not yet achieved this love of playing video games.
We'll hear more from my chat with Spencer soon when we talk about online toxicity, first-party gameplay quality, and more.