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Xbox One: Microsoft talks Halo, Kinect, PS4, launch delays and more

Another huge interview with Studios corporate vice-president Phil Spencer

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The 360, through that generation, I think the thing that really grew to have us look more closely at what Microsoft was [as a company] is just the advent of services on 360. When we launched the 360, there was no Twitter or Netflix [streaming]. Now at nearing the end [of this generation] you see these huge uses of things like Netflix and Hulu that are kind of more capabilities that Microsoft has.

So when you look at Skype, web browsing and things we wanted to bring to the platform, on Xbox One there's a real opportunity for us to embrace a lot of the things that the greater Microsoft is good at - Cloud, these large-scale services - and make them part of that original DNA of being a great core gaming box. So it's really trying to take the best of both and bring them together.

You also see Microsoft defining itself as a devices and services company - I've been with the company 25 years, so I've been there forever - if I look for an example that we've created as a company, Xbox is a great case study for the company to look at. We've created and sold millions and millions of Xbox devices, and we've grown the service called Xbox Live, and I think it's a great model when we think about "What we should be doing with Surface?" and "What we should be doing with Windows Phone?"

So I think the learning can actually go back-and-forth between how we've grown the Xbox business and brand, and that can help us - the recent organization has me sitting near the Surface and Phone teams - and I really enjoy looking at the hardware roadmap for those devices much like I have with Xbox over the last decade or so. Thinking about, "Well, what could we do with a future Surface? What hardware and experience innovation, hand-in-hand, could we bring together?"

The market has changed a fair bit over the course of the Xbox 360's lifespawn - indies are now much more prominent, and several large companies have closed down. How have your tactics and methods for development changed to suit the changing times? What do you think is the key to making games for consoles nowadays?

I think a real saviour for us has been the advent of the digital stores, whether it's PSN or Xbox Live Arcade. What it's meant is that studios don't have to look at retail as the only way that they can sell their content. I think 5-6 years ago, there was a real concern that we were gonna lose those mid-tier games because they maybe weren't games that could scale up to compete with Halo, Call of Duty, or GTA, and there was no other avenue for those games to actually find consumers.

A couple things have happened; you've seen the advent of [Apple's] App Store, Android, and large-scale devices where a lot of those developers have gone, and there's been some great games created for those devices. The indie program that we're running - Sony's obviously running an indie program - we're opening up the stores more on console, and the nice thing is, I think consoles will now start to feel more like the other devices in terms of the breadth of content.

A unique capability on consoles is to play a game like Ryse; there may have some of that on PC, but most of the PC games are service based, just because the retail market for PC games is a real challenge; to sell a single-player offline game. There's some things that have been successful, like Diablo, but it's more challenging.

I think console can actually manage on both ends of the spectrum, we can put beautiful, long triple-A content on-screen - it's a unique place for that content - but also embrace the breadth of content that comes from smaller studios and us as publishers, we just have to be aware that both ends of the spectrum are important and can be successful.

What have you learned from Sony and Nintendo that could be useful to Xbox One - whether it be something they've done that's worked, or an area in which they've failed?

Nintendo, I think - and there's some argument about this - that their first-party is such an amazing asset. Their first party studios and IP can lead what they do as a company and the platforms are almost in service to the IP - not in a bad way. They have such iconic stories and this will seem somewhat random, but when we go back and do something like Killer Instinct, a little bit of the history of your franchise can actually be important part of people feeling connected.

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