Xbox boss Phil Spencer has admitted that the infamous failures of the Xbox One launch back in 2013 could have led to the end of Xbox entirely (or more likely a sale), which he discussed with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Speaking to Shacknews, Spencer highlighted how the Xbox team became separated following the departure of Xbox head Don Mattrick and eventually Xbox chief product officer Marc Whitten, and when Nadella became CEO of Microsoft in February 2014, the future of Xbox was ultimately in question.
"So Satya becomes the CEO in February. Then the question is, do we go forward with Xbox? Because we're getting really outsold by PlayStation in the market at this point. Do we stay invested in it? Or do we make a different decision?
He and I had a discussion, and I made a pitch. I said, "You know, gaming can be a real important consumer category for the company." He didn't quite understand it yet, not from an intelligence standpoint, but he just hadn't been close to it. But he was willing to make a bet on us as a team."
The Xbox One launch was marred by a heavy focus on the device's multimedia capabilities rather than its games, and it was initially revealed as requiring a 24-hour internet connection and being unable to play used and rented games - two features Microsoft eventually backed down on following significant backlash.
Spencer, who was head of first-party at the time, went on to explain that while it might have seemed somewhat clear to others that he might take over Mattrick's old role, he was in some ways "the last person left at the table".
"I think the reason I ended up in the job, frankly, was the other leaders were gone. I tease myself that I was the last person left at the table. and there's some truth in that. I want to make sure I keep my ego in check. It wasn't a clear, 'You take the person who ran first-party and make them head of the platform.' But frankly of the leaders that were there, I was the one that was left."
Are you surprised by Spencer's admission? Give us your thoughts below.
It won't be so quick this time, but in 5 years Xbox won't be making hardware for the next gen.
I forgot how bad it was, not being able to play used or rented games.. Insane
Goes to show he’s one of, if not the most open minded leader in the gaming industry to honestly talk about these things. How things ended up, it’s almost worth making a documentary on.
I can give you this anecdotal stance:
XBox one launch killed XBox in my mind. I never thought i would touch another XBox ever again, and honestly wished it would just burn.
I am genuinely surprised Phil Spencer managed to change my opinion on XBox after that disaster of a launch and consumer-hostile messaging.
Phil is incredibly grounded and it’s great to have someone like him, not full of themselves, but a bit nervous and humble to lead as he will do it from his heart, and so far he’s done an amazing job!
Sony were the same, an ex PlayStation exec said after the PS3 if the PS4 wasn’t a success it would have been scrapped. And that potentially could end Sony as it was in dire straights at the time, still is to some extent.
High stakes the games market is, even though it’s now more popular and worth more then any other form of entertainment including TV.
A lot of us agree on the same place. Some of us were in on 360. One killed any interest in XB, and I was convinced XB would be out of consoles by this gen. And then Phil turned it around from a platform I considered dead and unlikely to ever want, and unlikely to even be in business in 2020, to the platform I'm most excited for. That's a significant result from Phil.
@Menchi I don't see that being the case at all unless streaming becomes so central in that time that there's no need for local hardware, including PCs, at that point in time. Which I do think will happen at some point in time, but I don't think that time will be 5-7 years from now. And it's clear the current XBox platform is not set up for the kind of X1/WiiU failure we saw in the past, even if it's not the top selling hardware SKU on the market.
I do think if Phil is ever not in charge, XBox get torpedoed into the ground. But while he's there, I expect it will continue growth.
In Phil we trust.
And Mattrick can go ?!$& off.
Trust in Uncle Phil to steer the course of the console.
Without him, I would have expected XBox to tank... Hard...
Damn Keltic beat me to it
Amen Keltic LOL
If Mattrick stayed I think Xbox would've been long dead by this point. Hopefully it's a different story with Series X and S
I remember reading so many articles speculating that Microsoft might be looking to sell the brand of possibly just end it entirely. I never actually thought they were true though, it's pretty crazy to think what could have been if that had happened.
It’s what I do. 😂😉
I completely agree. Xbox fans need Sony & Sony fans need Xbox. Without the other for competition......😳
Just look at the PS3 & Xbox One launches to see just a tip of the iceberg on what pure corporate greed & arrogance can look like. Lol.
Competition is healthy, and while I do rag on Sony, it's going to sell like a mofo. With Phil in the seat, we expect a much, much better experience through XBox, to if Microsoft had kept on the path for the XBox One.
As it is, I'm coming out from 3 generations of PlayStation, and almost 16 years of WoW (recently quit by account deletion (Very much recommend for those wanting to step away)). Have been building up the library, and even managed to grab Sky Force for my fiancé (not available here in Australia). Series X is very much anticipated, managed to secure a non-preorder purchase early this morning, and waiting for delivery through the week.
The Xbox One was off to a rough start but at least it had better games than the PS4 to boot and it's been my favorite console this gen. Everything they did with it has made it a fantastic platform, the backwards compatibility and X enhanced games makes it something I'll enjoy for a long time.
@Menchi I don't agree with that at all.
They just won't be 100% relying on high hardware sales to sell their software and services.
I think that as long as the hardware itself is a worthwhile venture, like their surface devices, they will keep doing them. Even more so if it puts pressure on Sony's hardware locked ecosystem approach.
And that's the key difference. Where consoles have been products where the services and hardware were one product. MS have clearly looking for a future where their services and their hardware are separate products. Like Windows and Surface.
My economics professor was telling people about this in 2014 because apparently investors were pressuring MS to spin off their console business. I assume the "play anywhere" model was borne out of this in part to convince investors that they will continue to make steady cash regardless of console sales. This is very obvious, but if X1 had a better start than 360 and PS4, Series X would have exclusives to call its own with fewer, or no, PC releases to speak of.
@AJDarkstar The problem with Phil is that he sometimes can't balance between being a genuinely excited lover of video games and the CEO of one of the biggest players in the field (Unlike how all people in the Sony camp show a lot of restraint in how much they show up here and there. You see Jason Ronald also pop up here and there on twitter left and right while Mark Cerny basically vanished after that GDC talk )
He clearly takes part in what I feel is way too many interviews and podcasts. So he needs to basically talk a lot. Eventually if you cross-reference his quotes some mistakes show up. But regardless of the guy's personality he did one hell of a job. Only slightly smeared by the delay of Halo (imagine if Infinite was a 9/10 game and launched today!).
@Menchi they already said they are working on the next xbox hardware ...
@AJDarkstar I've never really seen him as smug and smarmy....he seems quite genuine. He's the closest thing we'll ever get to an Iwata-like figure in the gaming industry, I think and seems to be what Reggie should have bee but isn't.
I think I get what you mean, on stage he has that grin and puffed out chest look that at first seemed unsettling, but after watching him over the years, I think that's just how he handles the stage and limelite....mostly he comes across as a geeky gamer trying to look cool - while also having to do the business speak routine, and it's a fine line.
I do agree he contradicts himself too often though. I've said before "Phil says a lot of things...." - but I also don't think it's malicious spin. I think he gets ahead of himself with how he thinks things are going when doing interviews, and then has to roll back to the company reality too often. That's not a good thing, but it's more a factor of being a bit too genuine in that regard.
But when I step back in the post-Iwata world and see Furukawa, the ultimate bean counter and his endlessly robotic hollow statements at Nintendo, and Jimmy "Matrick" Ryan at Playstation speaking in cold, calculating "the consumer exists to service our investors' growth expectations" terminology.....Phil is the last bastion of authenticity in the corporate suites of gaming along with Yves Guillemot (though a more flawed personality), and Shuhei Yoshida at Sony, but Jimmy's caged him in a reduced role in the corner where nobody can see him anymore.....he was able to force Layden and the rest out in his power trip, but the lowly Westerner has no such power over Japanese staff, so he had to keep Shu, albeit in a comparatively meaningless role to his former one.
Phil's flaw in the company is the opposite of control-freak Jim's...he's so hands-off 343 was in meltdown for years and he had seemingly no idea whatsoever.
@AJDarkstar Yeah, I agree. Though I do think some of it is in the "fine print." Largely, I really do think he doesn't believe in exclusives, and I also believe the previous XB management didn't believe in exclusives either. They ran half a generation with the primary strategy that exclusives are a net negative across the board and their plan was to not have them, favoring only timed exclusives. The problem is while they liked the strategy, the market didn't and it ended in failure with people demanding they do what Sony does. So now they are. And yet even among their exclusives they've put numerous ones on Switch (and everything on PC, but that's kind of a red herring since that's their own platform, too. It's not like they're doing MacOS ports.) Technically with xCloud, "exclusives" really is kind of a meaningless term when every Android device can play them all. Yeah, you have to pay for the service, but it's just a different way of paying to play the game, even if they were making Playstation ports.
But yeah there were some contradictions several times involving how X1X was handled in the scheme of things, the idea of the end of generations (they sort of did it but not the way he said it originally), etc. And the newest classic that he was, I forget the wording but something like "really confident" with Halo Infinite, or something to that effect....right before it got Infinite delays.
It's not perfect, he definitely gets ahead of himself with what he wants expects to happen rather than what actually must happen too often. But generally, even if I know to hold out optimism when he says something to see if it really works out that way, I know he's not trying to pull the wool over my eyes, he's as surprised as I am when it doesn't work that way.
Then again, his flaws are more easily mitigated when you look at who the alternatives are. Ryan's VR comments were more Reggie-ish than anything Reggie ever said. I want to smack something every time I read statements like those.
@AJDarkstar Yeah, I think that's mostly it. Technically Nadella is the only overlord above him (and the board, of course....) so unless Nadella is overriding him (which from what I hear he's pretty hands off with the division heads unless there's a very specific corporate imperative). While I'm sure the board's desires and Nadella's strategies require specifying XBox's actions at times, I think more of it is just the contracts, partnerships, etc. etc running contrary to what he intended more than being told to do something differently. He just speaks to the public the way he'd speak at a pitch meeting about intended direction, before all the outside parties and legal red tape is finalized and met with finances and capabilities. It makes him look bad too often, but in reality, we're getting the "unfiltered" intentions before reality and logistics can smack it down. It can be frustrating, when you take what he says, because he's the head, as fact, and then it changes. But in reality I get the feeling it's the fact as he knows it until finance jumps in 3 months later and says "uh, Phil we ran the numbers, and we can't do that on the budget by that date without compromises here and here and here.....and EA is says they're absolutely not going to support items vii and ix.....we have to reverse on that."
That's pretty cool about your TV (and your switch!) My shiny new 60Hz 4k monitor will be just fine at 30fps with raytracing I'm slightly jealous of the VRR & 120Hz feature set....mostly VRR, but I bought this monitor with XSX in mind, so I'm content. It does support Freesync which works with 1X, but unfortunately Freesync doesn't work through my HDMI switches. Actually, it does work through the switch, which advertised Freesync support, and it does work. But I need to then run it through a matrix to split audio to optical into my headphone rig, and I can find no matrix, splitter, or audio breakout that supports Freesync without dropouts.
@Menchi They are actually making hardware for multiple future gens. Phil already confirmed this.
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