We flew over to Sydney to have a one-on-one chat with head of Xbox, Phil Spencer. We talk at length about Project Scorpio, the changing state of the console landscape, and Microsoft's plans for the future.
How are you finding Sydney?
I’m loving it – I mean look at this weather.
I flew up from Seattle on Saturday, landed on Monday. Still spinning a little bit, but people have been great. We’ve gone to some really nice events – we’re doing our FanFest here, and Xbox Fans in Australia are some of the most passionate, so I’m really glad to be down here for my first time.
I went to the Forza event yesterday. It’s location seemed appropriate, because the game is set in Australia. Did you stop by for that?
I was at the Forza event last night.
Oh, you were?
Yeah, I had to do a couple Microsoft things here, and then I went out to the drag strip. Got to do the drifting – did you do that?
I did – it nearly made me sick.
There’s a lot of stink, a lot of it [laughs].
Yeah I got used to the smell of burnt rubber, it was real weird.
[Laughs] Yeah! And then we did the drag strip with the two cars that the community built, or designed. I thought the event was great. It was really good to see all the fans out there enjoying themselves, and I always get great face-to-face feedback when I’m talking to users of our products. It’s an important part of what we do.
So Microsoft at the start of this generation had a bit of a shaky start, but recently you’ve built up a lot of momentum.
It’s been interesting seeing you guys pivot; less of an emphasis on Kinect, backwards compatibility, the One S, your Play Anywhere initiative. Even the Scorpio – you posit it as the most powerful console on the planet. But with the length until its release being so long – about a year – will that dampen any of that momentum?
That’s a good question. If I rewind all the way back to E3 and the decision we made to talk about both of them – which, you can say is a little crazy.
It was cool though; it was the hardest hitting conference.
But I mean you could imagine going into the planning, and “OK, we’re going to open with the S reveal,” but I think everybody knew we were going to do something like that – we hadn’t shown it. And then closing with the Scorpio – it was a lot of noodling going over whether that was the right plan. We’ll still have to wait until it launches to say “OK, did we do what we said we were going to do.” The gamers are always good at keeping us honest.
I’m really, really happy with the response to S. I think most of the hard questions I got after E3 is “Did you just kill the S?”
That was the meme – because everybody is just going to wait. But when people finally got their hands on it, and saw what we did with S in terms of the 4K UHD blu-ray, 4K streaming, and the nice form factor – I think people saw what we saw as we were designing both of the products. That this console stands on its own, it’s at a price point -- $499 [for the 500GB model] in New Zealand – and that price point is just different than the Scorpio’s when it comes out, right? There’s a real price-conscious, value-conscious customer who’s going to look at that aspect of your product line, and that’s what they want.
And then there’s some core people who are looking for the best price and performance, and that what’s we designed Scorpio for. I wanted to make sure it was all part of one console, so that if you move from one to the other, or happen to have two, you’re not buying two versions of the games. Your games just work across both. A lot of that learning came from our work with Back Compat, and just the reception we’ve seen over that.
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