Xbox Boss Is Confident Xbox Series X Will Launch On Schedule, But Games Are Another Question
2020 is a huge year for Xbox, with the launch of a next-generation console and Halo Infinite.
Xbox boss Phil Spencer has commented on the impact of COVID-19 on Microsoft's plans to launch the Xbox Series X and new games on schedule.
Speaking to CNBC, Spencer said he feels confident that the Xbox Series X hardware will be able to launch on time this Holiday period. He said there was "some impact to schedules" for the hardware, but his team has been able to overcome those. Overall, Spencer said Microsoft is in line with its expectations for where it would be at this point in the year as it relates to the Xbox Series X hardware.
As for games, however, that's a different story. Spencer said the nature of large-scale game development means that the work-from-home setup may lead to production slowdown.
"The bigger unknown is probably the game production, just being honest," Spencer said. "Game production is a large-scale entertainment activity now. You have hundreds of people coming together, building assets, working through creative [decisions]."
Spencer said Microsoft still has a positive feeling about its game development roadmap, but he stressed that the health and safety of its developers is Microsoft's top concern right now.
"We're learning every day. We still feel good about it, but I also need to make sure the security and the safety of the teams is the most important thing, and not unduly push when things just aren't ready," he said.
This is at least the second time that Spencer has spoken publicly about the impact of COVID-19. He previously spoke about how the Xbox development teams are feeling "stretched" with the new work-from-home policies.
"We have nothing right now that says we're not going to make the dates that we've been planning, but I'll also say this is real-time stuff. I'm gonna put the safety and security of our teams at the top, along with a quality product. I don't want to rush a product out if it's not ready," he said.
Spencer confirmed that Microsoft has no "plan B" in place right now for what could happen if COVID-19 crisis continues for an extended period of time. That being said, Spencer said he does not want to launch the Xbox Series X on a staggered basis as it did with the Xbox One. In Japan, for example, the Xbox One launched a full nine months after the system arrived in other parts of the world. Spencer said he wants the Xbox Series X to have a global simultaneous rollout.
This brings up an interesting scenario with Halo Infinite. Spencer said Microsoft "won't hold the launch of the platform for any individual game." Based on this comment, it sounds like Microsoft will ship the Xbox Series X this holiday even if Halo Infinite--or any other marquee first-party game--is delayed. No matter what happens, Spencer said Microsoft plans to be "very transparent" with people about their plans.
Halo Infinite being delayed would be a big loss for the Xbox Series X, as Microsoft hasn't launched a new Xbox console with Halo as a launch title since the original Xbox back in 2001. For its part, Halo Infinite developer 343 Industries has said the COVID-19 crisis "may get worse before it gets better."
For what it's worth, Microsoft has said there will be multiple pre-release beta tests for Halo Infinite, and Microsoft has never said if the Holiday 2020 release date for the game is for the full release or its beta tests.
Microsoft will show off Xbox Series X games as part of a livestream event on May 7. These will be third-party games, including Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Valhalla, so fans shouldn't get their hopes up to see Halo Infinite. Microsoft is planning a separate, later event to show off first-party games.
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