Xbox’s Phil Spencer Wants More People Playing Call of Duty and WoW Than Ever in 5 Years
Ever since Xbox Games Studios began to step up their expansion with the purchase of publishers like Bethesda and Activision Blizzard, the question of exclusivity has weighed heavy on fans minds. Microsoft has shown they are willing to make major games PC/Xbox exclusive, as is the case with Bethesda’s upcoming Starfield, but they’ve been a bit more cagey about the long-term future of Call of Duty.
Well, Xbox boss Phil Spencer provided some more food for thought in a recent interview, which Axios’ Stephen Totilo recounted on Twitter. It seems Spencer is very much focused on player count these days, and hopes to not only maintain, but build the audience for franchises like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.
I love the Forza [Horizon] 5 and Halo stats...I love how many people played Psychonauts 2 vs. Psychonauts 1. So, when I look at the teams, when Todd and I talk about Starfield, it's – “How do we make sure this is the most-played Todd Howard game ever?”
Can we really make these games–can we allow them to reach more players than they've ever seen before? And I say that because I believe in the social impact of interactive entertainment. [...] I want more people to be playing WoW in five years that are playing today. I want more people to be playing Call of Duty in five years, more people to be playing Candy Crush in five years, because we've made it more accessible to more people.
Ambitious goals to be sure, but can Spencer make Starfield the most successful Bethesda RPG to date or build the audience for Call of Duty while keeping exclusivity on the table? Totilo put that question directly to Spencer, and his answer was somewhat noncommittal. It seems like Spencer hopes Xbox Game Pass alone will drive these franchises to new heights, but Microsoft is going to have to greatly expand its reach and subscriber base to achieve that. Later in the interview, Spencer would more directly address skepticism over Game Pass and Microsoft’s plan, once again without directly answering the exclusivity question.
I feel like I can't prove this negative. [People ask] when is the Game Pass price is going to get go up? "They're buying all these studios. You know, it's inevitable." Even though it's been what, now, four years we haven't raised it." But it's like, "You know, it's coming"
"When they are number one, they're going to start doing all those exclusive deals that, like, you know, Xbox has [that] history." And all I can do is, is make the decisions that are in front of us and try to be explicit about what our goals are.
Perhaps the real answer is that this is all still up in the air to some degree. If Xbox Game Pass can truly become the Netflix of gaming, available as an app on your TV or even other game consoles, then maybe Call of Duty becomes exclusive and maybe it reaches an even larger audience. If Game Pass doesn’t take off to that degree, well, we’ll see.
What do you think? Are Phil’s big goals realistic? Or is he overplaying his hand?
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