Spencer on Why There Are No Xbox Series X Exclusives: We’re Putting the Player at the Center

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Phil Spencer, Head of Gaming at Microsoft, was featured in a recent interview with the GamerTag Radio podcast.

During the lengthy chat, Spencer had the chance to explain why Microsoft has decided to forego any Xbox Series X exclusives for the first couple of years or so of the new console due this Holiday.

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He did so by hearkening back to a speech at the Xbox Spring Showcase in 2016, which is when Microsoft decided to commit to releasing all Xbox games on Windows 10 PC, too. That was the start of a new player-centric, instead of device-centric, vision.

You accurately picked up at that showcase in 2016. I know I kind of confused some people, even some people on my own team, but I had a view, we had been working as a leadership team on where we were going to be going. And I thought it was important to stand up and at least try to give some kind of roadmap so that as things were coming into places, we had announced new things, people could kind of say 'Okay, well, I understand how this fits in a vision', a vision that from our perspective is a vision putting the player at the center and not putting the device in the center. And today, people play games on a ton of different devices. And that is something that has really led to gaming's growth. I mean, it's almost a cliche now as I've said so often there were 2 billion people who play video games. That number is expected to grow to 4 billion in the next decade. It's growth for our industry, which leads to some of the best creations that we've ever seen because creators are finding new customers, new gamers are coming in all the time. And I think our job as a platform is to create the broadest platform for gamers so they can find the broadest set of games that they could go play so they can find great games that they want to go play by themselves or go play great games with their friends. That was my long winded side. But so what we're trying to do is put the player at the center and say, if you're a gamer and you want to go play the highest fidelity experiences on your TV or on your PC, we want to give you the ability to do that. If you're somebody who is playing games, and you're never going to own a console, you're never going to own a gaming PC, we're obviously investing in Project xCloud and things to make that possible so you can play games on those devices.

Even business models, because not everybody can afford to go out and spend 60 bucks on a new game, people want to play more games. So you look at something like Xbox Game Pass which is really an evolution of the business model of games so that it gives people another option to build a library of games that they can go play. Now, specifically on exclusives or not exclusives, I mean, one of the benefits that we have just sitting inside of Microsoft is we've obviously been close to the development of what's been going on a PC for years, right. And I think today, if we look at the PC ecosystem, we'd say some of the highest fidelity games anywhere sitting on high end gaming PCs. And some of those same games are actually able to run on PCs that are a few years old, that have much less capability and the state of engines and capability today means that developers finally have the capability to take full use of the gaming hardware that's in front of them. Obviously, we built our strategy with Xbox Series X. We started with that in mind, if we wanted to go build a gaming console, that was going to be the absolute best that we could deliver on a TV and deliver unique capability to creators that they could use to go create the best games. But you don't want to do that to the exclusion of everybody else. And you also want to do that hand in hand with developers, because developers want to find the widest audience possible at the same time. And yes, there are always trade offs on what you're going to do from developing each individual game. And I'm not going to go dictate to every studio, every third party studio, kind of what they have to go support. But what we see in today's world is gamers want to play games with their friends, regardless of what device those friends are on. People want to have the largest selection of games open to them, and developers want to be able to make use of absolutely the best in the technology that's available.

We built this plan with all three of those as inputs, and we feel really good about where we are.

Later in the chat, Spencer also discussed his own seemingly anti-VR statement when he said there was no demand for it among Xbox fans.

I probably overstated and I wasn't trying to take anything away from people who love VR and and the experiences that are being built, no disrespect to any of the teams there. Ryan Payton, a good friend of mine, he's getting ready to ship Iron Man VR. And you know, there's a lot of people I know that are working on some good VR titles, great VR titles, and I'm not trying to not be supportive of that to use a double negative. But my main point was, I wanted to be clear with our customers on where our focus was so that if somebody was waiting for us to bring out a VR headset for Xbox Series X at the launch or something I was just trying to say we're not going to do that. I understand certain people would want that, we have to focus our efforts on the things that we're doing right now. And the most precious resource that we have is the team and their ability.

VR is not just as simple as plugging your headset, you have to redo the dash, like there's a bunch of work that goes into it. And the teams at Valve, the teams at Sony, the teams at Oculus that are doing that work there. They know the completeness and what it means to support that platform. Obviously, obviously, VR is big on Windows today, we are the Windows company and we're never going to close our eyes to where things are going. So I don't hope it goes away. I hope it gets bigger. I hope it's something that's just so important that there would be no brainer for us to support it. My main point in that statement wasn't to chide anybody who's working on VR, anything but really just about the stuff that we're focused on right now. And that's not part of the equation right now.

What do you think of Spencer's stances on Xbox Series X exclusives and Virtual Reality support? Let us know in the comments.

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