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Xbox Boss Talks About A Netflix For Games, "Upping" First-Party Investment

"I want to make sure both narrative-driven single-player games and service-based games have the opportunity to succeed."


Xbox boss Phil Spencer has shared new insight into the future of Microsoft's gaming business. As part of a broad-ranging interview with The Guardian, he touches on providing better support for things like the platform's first-party lineup, story-driven narrative games, and smaller developers interested in creating service-based games.

Spencer spoke about the success of the games-as-a-service model, where games like Destiny are supported over the long-term rather than being released as a title that's never updated or expanded. This in turn led to the subject of single-player, story-based games and how they don't necessarily lend themselves to that model, which could lead to a decline in how often we see them.

"I've looked at things like Netflix and HBO, where great content has been created because there's this subscription model. [Xbox first-party publishing GM] Shannon Loftis and I are thinking a lot about, well, could we put story-based games into the Xbox Game Pass business model because you have a subscription going? It would mean you wouldn't have to deliver the whole game in one month; you could develop and deliver the game as it goes."

Spencer has expressed a similar sentiment before, but Microsoft still has not announced any formal plans to release original games through Game Pass. The service's alpha ends tomorrow, with a full launch set to follow sometime this spring.

"The audience for those big story-driven games... I won't say it isn't as large, but they're not as consistent," Spencer said. "You'll have things like Zelda or Horizon Zero Dawn that'll come out, and they'll do really well, but they don't have the same impact that they used to have, because the big service-based games are capturing such a large amount of the audience. Sony's first-party studios do a lot of these games, and they're good at them, but outside of that, it's difficult--they're become more rare; it's a difficult business decision for those teams, you're fighting into more headwind."

Citing his own enjoyment of games like Inside and Thimbleweed Park, he said, "As an industry, I want to make sure both narrative-driven single-player games and service-based games have the opportunity to succeed. I think that's critical for us."

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Also in the Guardian interview, Spencer acknowledged criticism of Microsoft's first-party games lineup, stating, "Right now the focus is really on the content that we're building. I know I get some community pushback on our first-party [slate], and what position we're in, and I want to say to people: that same level of commitment you felt from myself and from the team as we've evolved platform over the last three years--as we've evolved service over the last three years, as we've evolved and innovated hardware over the last three years--is going on with our first party. I don't want to go and pre-announce a bunch of things, but we are upping our investment, there's no doubt about that."

You can read the full interview over at The Guardian.

Besides Game Pass, one big launch Microsoft has coming up this year is that of Project Scorpio. We recently learned the final specs of the souped-up Xbox One console and got a look at the kind of visual improvements it may bring.

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