In a rather eye-opening interview with Kinda Funny Games, Xbox boss Phil Spencer basically admits that Microsoft’s gaming arm can’t directly compete with Sony and Nintendo. It’s fairly common knowledge that in the current generation of consoles, the PS5 is comfortably outselling the Xbox Series X|S, but it’s still quite surprising to hear Spencer sound so deflated by current trends.
Essentially, the talkative exec says that he’s well aware of Xbox’s current position, and, as Spencer’s said before, the team in green has little choice but to find its own path to potential success, rather than following in PlayStation’s shadow.
“We want Xbox to be something that people who buy our consoles can feel like members of a full ecosystem. We’re fully committed to that. We’re not in the business of ‘out-consoling Sony or Nintendo’, there’s not a win or solution for us,” Spencer explains (as transcribed by ResetEra).
He goes on to say that simply making good games isn’t the solution to Microsoft’s problems, despite what a lot of gamers might think. “It’s not true that if we go up and build great games, that you’ll see console shares go up massively,” Spencer states. “If we focused on great games, that doesn’t mean we’ll win the console race.”
The Xbox boss’ comments are bound to raise eyebrows, and it goes even further: “There is no world where something like Starfield is a 11/10 and it’ll lead to people selling their consoles.” That’s probably a fair comment, but we daresay it’ll pique interest in the platform at least.
In essence, Spencer is saying that PlayStation and Nintendo are so embedded in the gaming ecosystem that Xbox can’t really go toe-to-toe. Indeed, he suggests that the previous console generation was a turning point, as it’s when players started to build up digital libraries which they may be reluctant to leave behind, thus locking them to a specific ecosystem. The PS4 outsold the Xbox One by a significant margin, and that momentum has carried through to the PS5. “We lost the biggest console generation there is to lose,” says Spencer.
Of course, it’s important to remember that Microsoft is currently trying to close the deal on its $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard — and the company has spent months painting itself as the industry’s underdog. Spencer’s comments could be skewed because of the ongoing saga, but we still think the interview makes for an eye-opening watch if you’re an Xbox fan.
So, according to Spencer, Xbox has to take a different path. Game Pass has obviously been the company’s focus for years now, but with subscriber numbers plateauing, and the arrival of a game like Redfall, we wonder how much longer that plan will hold. Microsoft has also invested a lot of resources into cloud gaming, but even that side of its business has been used to poke holes in its aforementioned Activision Blizzard buyout.