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Phil Spencer: “I don't have any regrets about Mixer”

Xbox chief discusses what the Mixer closure means for its strategy

Xbox head Phil Spencer says he's disappointed by the closure of Mixer, but has no regrets about the company's investment in the project.

Mixer was Microsoft's answer to live-streaming services such as Twitch. It began life as a service called Beam, which focused on interactive streaming, and was acquired by Microsoft two years later. Despite significant investment in acquiring high-profile streamers, Microsoft announced it would be closing the service last month and moving its efforts over to Facebook Gaming.

"It's obviously a disappointment when you try to grow something to the scale it needs to get to and you don't get there," Spencer tells GamesIndustry.biz.

"I don't have regrets. You make decisions with the best information you have at the time, you apply your best effort, and we're in a creative industry. We are in a hits-driven industry. And if we get into this space that we get afraid of disappointment that we won't achieve what we're trying to achieve as an organisation... I think it's fundamental to us that we're not afraid of trying things that might not work. And that is just the art of making video games, and frankly game platforms."

Mixer was part of Microsoft's strategy for its games business. The company has been using the terms "Content, Community and Cloud" to describe its vision for the future of games. It recently bolstered its content pipeline by acquiring and building new studios. It is investing in cloud gaming, including via xCloud. And Mixer was part of the effort to widen its community.

In the game streaming space, Google has launched its Stadia platform, and Amazon is reportedly set to announce its own service. Both have strong cloud infrastructure like Microsoft, but they lack the level of exclusive content that Xbox has. What they do have, however, are social platforms with a large community of gamers in the form of YouTube and Twitch.

"In terms of our strategy, I feel really good," Spencer says. "Our growth in content is a direct off-shoot of us looking at okay, we've got Azure as a cloud and we can build a cloud gaming platform with xCloud on top of that. Community, Xbox Live is almost 100 million monthly players, growing across all platforms, we're seeing people come in from iOS, Android, we're on Switch now, we're on PC, we're on obviously Xbox. We see that community continue to grow.

"But as we think further out, we need to be on all the places where people might want to go play. And our xCloud strategy allows us to do that, where any place, any device that people might be able to play an Xbox game, we want to be able to deliver that. That doesn't mean we need to own all of those social platforms, but we're having really strong conversations with many of them around where xCloud will be available. And to our content creators, that's just another avenue for them to finding new players, and to deliver great content to those players in a new context. That's one of the things that gets them the most excited.

"Consoles are, what, a 200 million unit market? It has its geographies where it is, but there are a lot of geographies where consoles are never going to be a dominant form of people playing. And through technologies like cloud and xCloud, we're going to be able to take these games and deliver them to new players. And for the creators, they just build the game that they were always just going to create on the platform that they've been building on for years, and yet find millions and millions of new customers. That is really exciting for the studios."

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