Skip to main content

Phil Spencer: "There's no slide deck that says we want to turn everyone into a subscriber"

Xbox head wants to "put the player at the center" in the next gen through services, hardware, and models that fit different needs

The Xbox Series X may be on the horizon, but Xbox head Phil Spencer hasn't been coy about the fact that hardware is far from the company's only angle into the next generation.

In a recent discussion with GamerTag radio, Spencer discussed the company's plans for the future as a multi-angled approach with the "player at the center." That means, he said, that not only are Xbox Series X consoles and gaming PCs important to Microsoft, but xCloud and Game Pass are equally important components, as they give the ability to play games to those who can't afford higher-end hardware or even $60 games.

That desire to appeal to a much broader audience than just hardcore PC or console players ties directly in with Matt Booty's recent comments on exclusivity -- specifically, that Xbox's future first-party titles would be compatible across all Microsoft hardware, including Xbox One, Windows PC, and future consoles.

Spencer addressed those comments further as he continued:

"Specifically on exclusives or non-exclusives, 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 with PC for years," he said. "And I think today if we look at the PC ecosystem, we see some of the best, 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 have the capability to take full use of the gaming hardware that's in front of them.

"Obviously we built our strategy with Series X, we started with that in mind. We wanted to go build a gaming console that was going to be the absolute best that we could deliver on a television, 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. And yes, there are always trade-offs in what you're going to do from developing each individual game.

"And I'm not gonna dictate to every third-party studio what they have to support, but what we see in today's world is that 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 make use of the best in technology that's available. And we built this plan with all three of those as inputs and we feel really good about where we are."

Xbox's wide appeal strategy doesn't just apply to players, either. Later in the interview, Spencer discussed GamePass further as an advantage not just for players, and not just for developers who want visibility, but also those who are looking for longer-term buy-in beyond launch window hype.

"I don't think it's really healthy the way you see decay in retail today," Spencer said. "You know how it is. Gamers like buzz, they like what's hot right now, and a game will come out, and so many people will flip a bid positively or negatively on a game right in the first day or two, and I think people will...miss things that they aren't playing, or that they even didn't buy, because they aren't going to go back and buy last year's game, because they feel like they missed the buzz time around that game and they're going to use their new dollars for something that shipped more [recently].

"I think it's the nature of entertainment, and when I look at games and how much studios and publishers are spending to develop games, we need to extend the window of when these games are viable, when they have large player bases, just for the health our industry needs. Games need to find players. GamePass and just subscriptions in general are a way to help people discover games that maybe they missed when they came out.

"GamePass gives the ability for games to have a longer window when people are willing to go try them, because once you're a subscriber, it feels like the next click to try the next game is free, so every game that's in the service is something that you could be playing tonight."

However, Spencer added that Xbox's goal isn't to convert everyone to Game Pass subscribers, reiterating the company's multi-angled approach.

"There is no slide deck anywhere that says we want to turn everyone into a subscriber, and no one should buy," he said. "That's why sometimes when people use the, 'Netflix of games,' I bristle a little bit, because Netflix doesn't sell the content that's in Netflix. For us, if people want to go buy games, we think that's a really healthy part of the industry."

Read this next

Rebekah Valentine avatar
Rebekah Valentine: Rebekah arrived at GamesIndustry in 2018 after four years of freelance writing and editing across multiple gaming and tech sites. When she's not recreating video game foods in a real life kitchen, she's happily imagining herself as an Animal Crossing character.
Related topics