My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard...
Let me preface this with some clarification. Phil Spencer has nothing to apologise for when it comes to his handling of XBOX for the last decade. I’m not going to begin this piece by harping about Don Mattrick’s ultimate failure to launch the XBOX One last generation, by simply shunning his core audience by telling them not to purchase the then-upcoming next generation unit, but to simply stick with their XBOX 360, ostricising a great portion of the XBOX devout, ultimately turning them into PlayStation or PC gamers. Uncle Phil’s warm embrace was a difference maker for the green team, and its successes later into XBOX’s generation, and over the last few years by introducing an inclusive way to experience licensed titles through ulterior means. Whether this was Game Pass for both home console or PC, or xCloud, allowing gamers to take their library on the go and experience AAA gaming whenever, wherever.
It goes without saying, the man has persevered some of XBOX’s greatest tribulations, and made them into great triumphs. But after this week’s appearance on the Kinda Funny Xcast, there’s some doubt that’s seemingly creeped into the XBOX CEO’s mind toward his brand. Speaking with Mike Howard and Parris Lilly, Spencer was raw with comments made such as “We are not in the business of out-consoling Sony or out-consoling Nintendo. There isn’t really a great solution or win for us.” While its a sentiment that has been poured from a personal faucet, the business of gaming is a cutthroat and ruthless industry that of course, perceives everything and anyone as competition, no matter who they are – big or small. The enthusiasm for XBOX right now is at an all-time low, despite its hardcore fans singing the brand’s praises.
Spencer was not shy to admit being third place in the market, and it would be an uphill fight for Microsoft to even try and overcome XBOX’s struggling market share. With the PlayStation selling their respective consoles against XBOX at a staggering 2:1 ratio for the current and last generation, it comes as no surprise that some doubts have begun to settle in on Spencer’s proclaimed successes. Regardless, the man has given opportunity to many third party studios including Zenimax’s house of subsidiaries. Arkane’s Redfall was a blistering boil on XBOX’s backside and the only team that should be apologetic in this circumstance is Bethesda themselves. Quite simply put, the game was not ready for public consumption, but the team decided to go gold regardless of it being publicly shamed prior to its release. There was message sent loud and clear to the studio that the game would fall on its face if it were to release in its current state, and to be quite honest, for it all to fall on Spencer is shameful.
Sure, responsibility starts from the top and I give massive props to Spencer for taking the fall on this failure. It’s a Public Relation’s nightmare for XBOX, and it deems the multi-billion dollar company as a disgrace for amalgamating a gaming monopoly, then releasing something of poor quality. But in the same vain, Spencer’s ideas and qualities are miles ahead of what we’ve come to expect from the competition. Let’s not even start with Nintendo, they still live in the stone-age, but for PlayStation to adapt and slowly introduce a competitive program against Game Pass, has proven how pivotal the programme has become. Spencer could walk away from XBOX tomorrow, and it would be an emphatic and monumental loss to Microsoft’s gaming division. I mean, look if Spencer wants to jump over to the blue brand, I’m all for it.
Now, this is where I can’t defend you Phil. This quote here; “”I see commentary out there–‘If you just build great games, everything will turn around.’ It’s just not true [that] if we go off and build great games, all of a sudden you’re going to see console share shift in some dramatic way.” This quote is entirely based on figures, not fact. But the truth of the matter is, XBOX gamers are clamouring for great exclusives right now. Even those that aren’t entirely sold on the XBOX ecosystem such as myself – it’s no secret I’m a PlayStation guy – but as a PlayStation guy, to say something like the aforementioned is almost insulting in a way. Here’s the facts; If Nintendo tomorrow said, “No more console exclusives. Our software will be available on PC” then there would be no one buying Nintendo Switches. People would seek alternative means to play portably, whether it be a Steam Deck or streaming it to another device. The Switch would sell, but not in the hundreds of millions.
PlayStation are slowly drip-feeding their library to PC gamers in a strategic manner that would attract a portion of its market over to PlayStation. XBOX on the other hand give the consumer no reason to buy a console, rather relying on the hardware they already possess. Then there’s the issue of zero AAA experiences that give the console merit or means to be an imperative piece of kit toward one’s suite. It’s an unbelievable statement to make, and I understand why you would want to justify it but there zero evidence that backs this notion. It’s ludicrous to even believe it. While XBOX continues to fight the Competition and Market’s authority over their purchase of Activision/Blizzard, they have the right to act as the ultimate opportunist in making everything they have and own exclusive to their fanbase. It’s what they sign up for when they purchase your hardware.
So Phil, let me say this to you if you’re reading this at all. Again, there’s no need for apologies. As a PlayStation fan, I have admired your work on XBOX from afar. But I would be more engrossed in the green brand if you guys actually had an exclusive to sell me – other than Forza, Halo or Gears. But the remarks made on Xcast this week would have surely had your team scrambling, some PR possibly aging twenty years after that interview without a doubt. I don’t believe you should be taking the blame for Bethesda’s shortcomings on Redfall, but I do think you should change the way you handle some business practices when it comes to market share and exclusives. I love how you give back to gamers, and show your own love and appreciation to us, but at the end of it, we want exclusives, great exclusives. AAA experiences that are unforgettable and unimaginable. The impact of this alone would be a sensational feat for XBOX to accomplish, but stating that it’s impossible to place XBOX in pole position WITH exclusives, is an incredulous oversight.