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News Xbox Everywhere: Phil Spencer wants an Xbox app on as many devices as possible (Switch/PlayStation excluded)

kingfey

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The future of Xbox is about breaking down barriers to focus on player joy and ease of access


Something strange has happened to video game consoles over the last three years. The concepts of cloud streaming and cross-platform play have dissolved the whole idea of the standalone machine with a disc drive, its own online service, and exclusive titles. And while Sony has been somewhat slow to embrace the coming concept of the video game metaverse, Microsoft has embraced it. At E3 2021, the focus was on Game Pass and on the multi-platform possibilities of the Xbox app. Xbox isn't a console anymore, it's a platform.


Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, is acutely aware of the changes happening to the industry, both in terms of technology and culture. Games aren't what they used to be – and in some ways that has been accelerated by COVID-19. "One of the things I looked at early on in the pandemic was how many new friend connections got made on Xbox Live," he says. "It was literally tens of millions in the first month, and it just continued to grow."

"Some of that was just the network activity increasing as people played more games. But as an industry, we also saw things like Among Us, which had been out for a couple years, gain a lot of popularity. I think it was a reflection of the social capability that gaming has. Partly this is about generational change, but also, I think, through the pandemic – games are becoming a place for public dialogue, community and discussion. That raises the responsibility for us as an industry of what we should stand for."

Breaking down barriers​


(Image credit: Xbox)

One of the key announcements of the Xbox E3 2021 showcase was the expansion of the Xbox app onto new platforms, including set-top boxes and smart TVs. For Spencer, this is about the way in which games are becoming accepted as mainstream digital entertainment, alongside social media and streaming services like Netflix. The old barriers to entry are coming down.

"I don't mean this in a negative way," he says, "but video games started as an enthusiast, almost hobbyist driven industry, and 'gamer' was a label that we wore. Now we have more than three billion people playing video games, and when nearly half the world does something, I don't know how you designate between a gamer or non-gamer." Spencer's ambition is to put Xbox games within reach of everyone on the planet, regardless of what tech they have – and that's going to require a re-think of what games and games consoles are.

"We should just all recognise that not everybody grew up with a controller in their hand," he says. "I don't envy movies, or TV, or books, but I think there is an accessibility that those media have. That is something that we should think about as an industry. Let's say I want to go play the next great console game. So I've got to go buy this console, I've got to go hook it up, I don't know how to use a controller – because I haven't done that before – so I'm gonna have to practice and learn. We think a lot about that accessibility point, and – not to bring it back to Game Pass – but some of that is financial, you know. These games are $70. That's a lot of money compared to these other artforms that we talk about."



(Image credit: Playground Games)

"Now we have more than three billion people playing video games, and when nearly half the world does something, I don't know how you designate between a gamer or non-gamer"
Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox
So does this mean we're going to see a switch toward a predominately free-to-play model, as popularised by battle royale? "I think the diversity of business models in the game industry is a strength – and a creative strength, not just a business strength. If you have a great game, whether it's a single-player game with a beginning, middle and end; a game that has downloadable content to extend the chapters; a free-to-play game, an ad-driven game, I want all of those to be able to succeed. As an industry we have to embrace that diversity. We have to ensure we don't fall into thinking, okay, everything's got to be a battle royale free-to-play game now. A creator should use the business model that allows them to deliver the right experience for them. And as players, we have to be open to the fact that creative teams need to see the financial benefit of what they create, and that there isn't one business model to rule them all."

Spencer also seems genuinely interested in the idea of user-generated content, of players making contributions to the games they enjoy. The creative options in Minecraft and Fortnite are the obvious examples, but the expanded challenge/circuit design mode promised in Forza Horizon 5 hints at a future where the ability to modify a game experience and then upload the new version to the cloud will become commonplace. This is, after all, something the youngest generation of players has been taught to expect through the way they use social media.

"TikTok is about finding what somebody else has done, whether it's a music track that they use, or some kind of funny meme, and then people remix that with their own content on top, and it becomes this almost self-perpetuating thing. I think we should see that in video games. I think we should try to open up those tools, and also retain value for everybody in the chain. We want creators to be able to monetize what they build, and see the value in that. And I don't think there should be any one genre that it's tied to."

Xbox wants to end the console war​

It's interesting that throughout our conversation, Spencer doesn't talk about competition with other consoles. Although he got a sly dig in about Sony's PlayStation strategy during E3, his focus is clearly on converting non-gamers into gamers rather than shifting the current user-base from one machine to another. When I ask, for example, about a lack of epic, self-contained single-player games on Xbox, he knows straight away what I'm referencing: Sony's recent success with titles such as Spider-Man and The Last of Us 2, and he's not having any of it.

"Our strategy is not to just go be like someone else," he says. "I get a push sometimes of 'where's your version of this or that [game]?'. I've been in this industry for a long time, I have a ton of respect for creators on all platforms, and I know many, many of them. But it's good if we're doing something different than what other platforms are doing. We're not in the business of just trying to create a green version of somebody else's blue or red coloured platform. That's not the example of creativity that I want to see in the games industry."

But what of these rumours that one of the platforms that Microsoft wants to put its Xbox app on is Nintendo Switch. "You know, evolution always takes time," he says. "There are different strengths that different companies have built through hard work, and some of these changes they might see as disruptive. And they'll have their own kind of business cadence and pace at which they want to make those changes."



(Image credit: Microsoft)
Advertisement

"We're not in the business of just trying to create a green version of somebody else's blue or red coloured platform"
Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox
"For us to succeed, I don't think another company has to get smaller. I want the industry to continue to grow and accelerate its growth, and if you buy a Switch, and you want to play Minecraft, and I happen to buy my kids a PlayStation… if they can't play together, that doesn't help gaming grow, in my mind. That war might help one device win over another device, but it doesn't help the industry. I believe focusing on player joy, ease of play, and accessibility, in the long run, is the right strategy. And I think the industry will move in that direction, because that's what gamers will demand."

So, the Xbox app on Switch then, I ask again. "You know, it's the right question because people usually ask me about releasing one individual game or another. And what I say is I want the full Xbox experience to be something that we deliver. We have no plans to bring it to any other kind of closed platforms right now, mainly because those closed platforms don't want something like Game Pass. There's a ton of open platforms out there for us to grow in: the web, PC, and mobile. So all of our focus, frankly, is on those platforms."

Later on he says that he totally understands why that's the case ("That's not a slam on anybody else who has a system that works for them. I can see why the disruption of Game Pass is not something that they want right now.") But the concept of Xbox existing on other consoles is not a total dead-end, at least not in Spencer's vision. "In the end," he says with a smile, "when we say we want everybody to be able to play on Xbox, we really mean if we can bring that full experience to a device that players want, we are totally open to those discussions."


Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 are slated to launch on Xbox Series X, PC, and Game Pass later this year. In the meantime, why not check out the best Xbox Series X games to keep yourself busy.
 
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reksveks

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I know people think we might see the TV app this year but suspect its going to be a ces 2022 thing. I just wonder if they come with the Xbox wireless protocol supported more likely bluetooth though.
 

Umbasaborne

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I honestly think they should say fuck it and just go multiplatform. They can still sell xboxes, and id still use mine because i like the eco system and they have had a bit of a power advantage. But if you want your games every where, why not just put it on ps and switch, if that were the case sony and nintendo might be willing to let them put gamepass on their consoles, and thats where the real money is
 
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reksveks

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I honestly think they should say fuck it and just go multiplatform. They can still sell xboxes, and id still use mine because i like the eco system and they have had a bit of a power advantage. But if you want your games every where, why not just put it on ps and switch, if that were the case sony and nintendo might be willing to let them put gamepass on their consoles, and thats where the real money is
You don't get that 30% from being multiplat, that's where the money is.
 

RoadHazard

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"The concepts of cloud streaming and cross-platform play have dissolved the whole idea of the standalone machine with a disc drive, its own online service, and exclusive titles."

No they haven't. Game streaming is still highly niche, the traditional console is still by far the norm. I personally don't know anyone who games through streaming, and I live in a country with some of the highest uncapped internet speeds in the world. Streaming is never even part of the conversation, it's all local console and PC gaming. So I find it super weird when people pretend that this is now what gaming in general is or is turning into. It's not.

They don't want to pay a tax to Nintendo or Sony for being on their platforms, that's why he specifically said no closed platforms.

Except their own closed platform.
 
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reksveks

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Spencer also seems genuinely interested in the idea of user-generated content, of players making contributions to the games they enjoy.

I think we should try to open up those tools, and also retain value for everybody in the chain. We want creators to be able to monetize what they build, and see the value in that. And I don't think there should be any one genre that it's tied to."

The other two things that need to be highlighted imo, this is about creating a living and thrive metaverse which is another reason that they need to be on PC imo.
 

Zones

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Under a different management, Microsoft's idea for eliminating the barrier to gaming and making Xbox truly flourish was through, quite literally, removing the controller (Kinect).

Under the current management, Microsoft aims for the same results, but this time, it's through making games cheaper and available through more means (as seen in this article). Results for those are pending, but let me tell you why this isn't particularly all that smart.

First and foremost, traditional console gaming is a rather demanding activity beyond its price of admission and the means to play them. Many games, including single player ones, are long and require your time and attention to get through. This in itself don't magically go away by simply having an Xbox app on your TV like MS thinks so.

Another important point to note is that most modern games are complex in nature for those not used to gaming. Just because the game is available through your TV via streaming, it doesn't mean using a controller with around two dozen buttons is not a potentially daunting experience.

There are more points that I believe are worth mentioning, but I am not going to write a wall of text here, so all in all, Microsoft's current plan sounds good on paper, but in reality, it faces many obstacles that could hinder its potential.
 

kingfey

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Book Fail GIF
dog didnt read GIF by FirstAndMonday

... a paid promo or the whole article got copied over?
Its my way of delivering news. Most people don't click on link article, and just argue. So its easy for me, to bring the entire article here, so people can read it, without intruisive ads. Also easier for people to learn something.

Ps. The verge is annoying sometimes, with their paid page ads. Makes it hard to read the article sometimes.
 
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Eddie-Griffin

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A lot of people who complain about exclusives dont realize this is a monopolistic tactic called selling covered calls over a product ecosystem

If Xbox is everywhere, but PS and Nintendo are only in one place, what's the consumer going to by more often? You have 95% more exposure.

Soon Samsung, HP, and LG will sell licensed Xbox machines with the Xbox app on it.

You will play on your toaster, your TV, your washing machine, your refrigerator, your car, your thermostat, everywhere.
 

GHG

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The other two things that need to be highlighted imo, this is about creating a living and thrive metaverse which is another reason that they need to be on PC imo.

Sounds like paid mods vs the community round 2.

We go again.
 

Banjo64

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Shame they’ve had a definitive no from Nintendo and Sony then.

“We have no plans to bring it to any other kind of closed platforms right now, mainly because those closed platforms don't want something like Game Pass."

I had little hope for PlayStation but I did hope Nintendo might have allowed an xCloud app for a fat cut. Maybe Phil will try again if they acquire another publisher or two, they’ll aim to have enough leverage eventually.
 
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Warnen

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I’ll stick with the console but great for casuals.
 
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Azurro

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Of course he does, he wants GamePass on anything with Bluetooth so that the money black hole that it is actually has a chance of success.

The problem is that, as with cloud gaming, they are after a mythical market of people that want to game but don't want to buy a console/PC/laptop.
 

Warnen

Can he swing from a thread? Take a look overhead / Hey, there, there goes the Spider-Man
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Of course he does, he wants GamePass on anything with Bluetooth so that the money black hole that it is actually has a chance of success.

The problem is that, as with cloud gaming, they are after a mythical market of people that want to game but don't want to buy a console/PC/laptop.

yeah that mythical phone gamer… who the fuck ever heard of one of them…
 

Hawke502

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A lot of people who complain about exclusives dont realize this is a monopolistic tactic called selling covered calls over a product ecosystem

If Xbox is everywhere, but PS and Nintendo are only in one place, what's the consumer going to by more often? You have 95% more exposure.

Soon Samsung, HP, and LG will sell licensed Xbox machines with the Xbox app on it.

You will play on your toaster, your TV, your washing machine, your refrigerator, your car, your thermostat, everywhere.
And how is it a monopolistic tactic if Nintendo and Sony can do just the same if they want to?
 

Eddie-Griffin

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And how is it a monopolistic tactic if Nintendo and Sony can do just the same if they want to?
No they can't lol?

But anyway I was clearly playing around in that post by the last line, but neither have the connections to pull such a strategy on such a scale.
 

Dabaus

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Ya know, i was just thinking its strange how quiet MS has been since E3. It seemed like everyday for past 2 years we'd get some headline or article about how cloud gaming or gamepass is the future of gaming or some insane rumor about an acquisition.
 
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elliot5

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Of course he does, he wants GamePass on anything with Bluetooth so that the money black hole that it is actually has a chance of success.

The problem is that, as with cloud gaming, they are after a mythical market of people that want to game but don't want to buy a console/PC/laptop.
There's plenty of people that have tvs, phones, laptops, non gaming equipment that would want to play without investment and to carry their older equipment forward.

I can boot up xCloud on my M1 Mac and play near natively on the go on a good screen. I'm sure my cousin with his MacBook would do the same to play sea of thieves with me.

Sure, it's hard to picture people subscribing who ONLY have a TV, but that's not the only purpose. It's also good for those that are in and can access their content ANYWHERE without needing duplicate hardware or hauling things from room to room. Playing in the bedroom vs office vs living room or theater room.
 

kingfey

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Ya know, i was just thinking its strange how quiet MS has been since E3. It seemed like everyday for past 2 years we'd get some headline or article about how cloud gaming or gamepass is the future of gaming or some insane rumor about an acquisition.
"This Wednesday, they will acquire Sega"
 

Hawke502

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No they can't lol?

But anyway I was clearly playing around in that post by the last line, but neither have the connections to pull such a strategy on such a scale.
Yes, they can? Why wouldnt they be able to create streaming services for TVs and other devices if the want to? Sony is already investing in streaming.
 

GHG

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Paid mods by the community.

I know, and the last time Bethesda (with valve in tow) tried that stunt it was wholeheartedly rejected by the community.


And this is the current take from from Bethesda's creation club FAQ:

  • Is Creation Club paid mods?​

    No. Mods will remain a free and open system where anyone can create and share what they’d like. Also, we won’t allow any existing mods to be retrofitted into Creation Club, it must all be original content. Most of the Creation Club content is created internally, some with external partners who have worked on our games, and some by external Creators. All the content is approved, curated, and taken through the full internal dev cycle; including localization, polishing, and testing. This also guarantees that all content works together. We’ve looked at many ways to do “paid mods”, and the problems outweigh the benefits. We’ve encountered many of those issues before. But, there’s a constant demand from our fans to add more official high quality content to our games, and while we are able to create a lot of it, we think many in our community have the talent to work directly with us and create some amazing new things.


Don't get it twisted, the reason they want to do it is because it benefits them. They will take a chunky cut of every mod sold and they don't have to do any work for it, it's basically free money.
 
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Eddie-Griffin

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Yes, they can? Why wouldnt they be able to create streaming services for TVs and other devices if the want to? Sony is already investing in streaming.
Neither have the channels are back end for scale, your diminishing streaming to just a 100mb app only.
 

LordOfChaos

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Darn about the last part. You know, it would be pretty darn cool to be able to stream Halo Infinite to my PS5. They get virtually free money, but at the same time it wouldn't help them sell a box.

Although, does it really have an app store per se...There's streaming apps, but not really much more. Maybe if it opened up the web browser Xcloud could happen though.
 

Kimahri

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I think possibly the evolution of the npc meme is that it is now people who click lol on everything anyone from Microsoft says.

It's like they're holding up a sign yelling "Hey! Look at meee, I have no independent thoughts whatsoever."

It's fascinating how willing people are to undress and embarass themselves publicly for a dumb cause.
 

kingfey

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Yes, they can? Why wouldnt they be able to create streaming services for TVs and other devices if the want to? Sony is already investing in streaming.
Streaming isn't easy. They will need to partner with cloud companies.

Netflix uses AWS for nearly all its computing and storage needs, including databases, analytics, recommendation engines, video transcoding, and more—hundreds of functions that in total use more than 100,000 server instances on AWS.
 

Hawke502

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Streaming isn't easy. They will need to partner with cloud companies.

Netflix uses AWS for nearly all its computing and storage needs, including databases, analytics, recommendation engines, video transcoding, and more—hundreds of functions that in total use more than 100,000 server instances on AWS.
Sony is already partnering with Azure, no?
 

Captain Toad

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Microsoft wants the console war to end? Hmmm, I wonder why.

Of course, Microsoft wants GamePass on PlayStation and Nintendo. Why wouldn't they want those players giving Microsoft money instead of the actual platform holder. It would be incredibly stupid of Sony or Nintendo to do that.

But, as a sign of good will, why don't you offer to allow Sony to put PS Now on Xbox?
 

Banjo64

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Microsoft wants the console war to end? Hmmm, I wonder why.

Of course, Microsoft wants GamePass on PlayStation and Nintendo. Why wouldn't they want those players giving Microsoft money instead of the actual platform holder. It would be incredibly stupid of Sony or Nintendo to do that.

But, as a sign of good will, why don't you offer to allow Sony to put PS Now on Xbox?
That would see the number of subscribers explode. It’d go up by about 30 users.
 
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Ritsumei2020

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Makes perfect sense lol

You wouldn't want the service reach actual console players on Nintendo/Sony hardware

That would be bad business
 

Ezekiel_666x

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"I don't mean this in a negative way," he says, "but video games started as an enthusiast, almost hobbyist driven industry, and 'gamer' was a label that we wore. Now we have more than three billion people playing video games, and when nearly half the world does something, I don't know how you designate between a gamer or non-gamer." Spencer's ambition is to put Xbox games within reach of everyone on the planet, regardless of what tech they have – and that's going to require a re-think of what games and games consoles are.

Yeah, that's the fallacy.

He thinks someone who plays Bejeweled once a week on his phone is the same as someone who plays console/PC games with deep systems and complex input devices.

The only way you can get to that 3 billion number is by including those very casual "gamers".

You don't just take someone who occasionally plays a free sudoku game on their phone and say « Hey, you want to pay us 15$ a month? You'll be able to play competitive Halo multiplayer by streaming on your phone! »

At the end of the day, the barrier for gaming isn't that big. 8 year old's can get a Switch on their birthday and jump in a game.

But you got to give it to Phil, the man's got to do what the man's got to do to keep his job.
 
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