Phil Spencer on Scorpio, and the Changing Console Landscape

Phil Spencer on Scorpio, and the Changing Console Landscape
 
 

One of the hardest battles that you’ll have with the Scorpio is showing it off at a press event, or via stream. How do you show that bump in fidelity and strength in a public environment – how do you intend to attack that?

Yeah, that’s also a great question. It’s funny – after E3 of this year, and then I watched the Sony event. I happened to be out of the country so I saw it on a stream – and they run into the same streaming issues that anyone runs into: How do you show a 4K HDR stream when a majority of people are on the web?

It’s something we’re seriously looking at for E3 of next year. How do we make sure in the venue itself – that 100 ft. screen behind us as we’re talking – that wasn’t 4K, I don’t even think they have 4K displays that big yet.

And then I think about more importantly all those people at home, and how you get to 4K. In the end, I think it’s going to be about – and you’re hitting it – gamers seeing it for themselves. I look at our Microsoft Stores – we just launched one here in Sydney, our first store outside of North America – and I was out there in the last two days, it was fantastic. And I look at how we show the games there. We’ve got to make sure that we’re showing them at 4K in stores, that’s going to be critical. Where 4K TVs are being sold Xbox One S today is getting shown a lot with Netflix and 4K blu-ray.

But we’ve got to make sure for people at home that we get a way of showing the fidelity of what’s actually coming out of the box. It’s something we’re actively working on right now.

So I’m from New Zealand, and we have terrible internet.

I hear that about Australia too – is it worse in New Zealand?

It’s probably slightly better in New Zealand, because we’re smaller. But generally it’s kind of dreadful – to the point where streaming 4K content isn’t a very realistic option for many people down here. Does the Scorpio lose any of its value if some of its audience can’t stream 4K content – is there any way around that? Or are the games themselves a big enough feature for that?

It’s one of the reasons we’ve put the 4K blu-ray drive in. There are a lot of markets – either because of bandwidth caps or bandwidth capability – where having physical media with 4K – and I’m buying a lot of 4K UHD blu-rays right now, they look fantastic. I watched Revenant the other day and it was ridiculous how good it looked.

[Laughs] That bear scene must be really gross.

I mean literally! The Martian looks great.

It was one of the reasons we made the physical media decision that we did. I know that if you look at usage on the box, you would say “Hey, everybody is watching YouTube, everybody is watching Netflix. Why would you do anything physical?”

But I do think markets where bandwidth capabilities and caps, and cost is prohibitive. So we wanted to make the decision that there would be physical media. I think for us games and the native rendering of 4K games is going to be important for Scorpio, which obviously alleviates any kind of need to stream.

But I think we’ve been conscious that not everybody lives in a bandwidth happy, uncapped world.

So you said the Scorpio would have that 4K drive –

I didn’t confirm that. [Laughs]

OK – well, [laughs].

We’ve seen great adoption of it with the S. People seem to like it, but those kinds of decisions aren’t the decisions that we announced at E3. That’s not a push-back, I’m just saying those are the kind of decisions that can kind of bind later, what the drive is. But it has been really great to see how people have responded to the S, and it seems like we would want to continue to ride that option.

So yeah – it’s going to have, as far as we know, more RAM. Bigger processor. Stronger GPU. Those things can’t be cheap. If this thing is going to be a premium system, is the cost also going to be prohibitively higher than what regular console buyers are used to?

You use the word “prohibitively,” and I don’t think the word “prohibitive” is –

[Laughs].

No, no. I’m trying to be honest.

So you can see the price of the S today. When we designed both of these, which we kind of designed it in parallel. We thought about the price performance of what we wanted to hit with the Scorpio, relative to what we were going to be able to do with the S. So that we would have a good price continuum, so people wouldn’t look at these two things as so disconnected because of the price delta.

So I think you will feel like it’s a premium product, a premium console. And not something, anything more than that. So I wouldn’t get people worried that this thing is going to be unlike any console price you’ve ever seen. We didn’t design it that way.

That said, the opening price point for the Xbox One S, and the different hard drive sizes, that is a critical part of this whole product. When I think about it as a product line, you should expect the pricing to kind of be in line with that.

Where do you see Microsoft at the end of this console generation, if that is even a thing anymore? Are you confident that you’ll catch up with the competition? Where do you want to see Microsoft at the end of this?

The thing that’s probably most important to me and the team is not a direct competition with Sony and PlayStation in terms of catch-up. And people question whether I’d say that if we were in the lead, but I honestly kind of believe that. We don’t drive our program, thinking about how that’s the primary goal.

I want to be the best platform for developers and gamers. I want gamers to feel like their best gameplay experience is on an Xbox – from an Xbox Live performance standpoint, from a feature set like cross-play and mods, and game previews and stuff like XPA that we’ve been adding.

Developers see it as a place where they can deliver their best content, reach the most customers. And while it’s not the most sexiest [sic] thing to say, make the most money. That’s the thing that keeps game development going. I’m listening to them on things like game preview, supporting things like EA Access, and unique business models that publishers and studios are coming up with.

The indie community. The indie community here in Australia and New Zealand is really critical. I know a lot of the big publishing work isn’t here anymore. On Thursday I’m going to see Swinburne [University] and go to the arcade. There’s a real vibrant indie community here. A lot of them are publishing on Xbox, and that feedback we get from them to be successful is critical.

So I’ll say at the end of this generation – and I don’t think you and I know what that is yet – but I’ll say I want Xbox to be seen as a great consumer, gaming brand. Where gamers feel like they have the best experience from the capability of the hardware, all the way to the service. And developers see it as the best platform for them to deliver their best work, and make the most money.

Cool! Thank you for your time.

Thank you, I appreciate you for coming!





 

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Comments Comments (19)

 
Posted by Outlaw213
On Thursday 29 Sep 2016 12:11 PM
2
Good interview, I'm interested in how the Scorpio will turn out.
 
 
 
oconnomiyaki
Posted by oconnomiyaki
On Thursday 29 Sep 2016 12:28 PM
4
Cool interview. Spencer always comes across as so likable. I'm glad he's in charge of the division now; it's done wonders for not only the quality of the product and the public image as well.

I would have liked to have seen him quizzed on the ratings obstacle when it comes to launching indie games Down Under, especially when he states "The indie community here in Australia and New Zealand is really critical." It's fairly possible that these kinds of issues get drowned out when moving up the food chain and that's why they don't get addressed. I would have liked to have seen if he had any position on it and any possible solution.
 
 
 
Posted by CoffeeAddict
On Thursday 29 Sep 2016 1:07 PM
3
Great read and good interview. I like Spencer and how he seems to be someone you would like to sit down and have a conversation with. I like how he avoids baiting/diminishing Playstation overall whilst still acknowledging them.
 
 
 
Posted by Tin-Automaton
On Thursday 29 Sep 2016 1:16 PM
1
29 September 2016, 01:07 PM Reply to CoffeeAddict
Great read and good interview. I like Spencer and how he seems to be someone you would like to sit down and have a conversation with. I like how he avoids baiting/diminishing Playstation overall whilst still acknowledging them.
he is a /very/ nice dude
 
 
 
Posted by drunk_monk
On Thursday 29 Sep 2016 1:30 PM
1
Great interview.
 
 
 
Posted by ThatUndeadLegacy
On Thursday 29 Sep 2016 1:46 PM
4
Spencer sure is a good face for a company.
 
 
 
Posted by LukeB
On Thursday 29 Sep 2016 1:53 PM
1
Awesome interview man. Lots of good Scorpio info there :)
 
 
 
Posted by Bank
On Thursday 29 Sep 2016 3:42 PM
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29 September 2016, 01:46 PM Reply to ThatUndeadLegacy
Spencer sure is a good face for a company.
You sure are nice today my lad.
 
 
 
Posted by ThatUndeadLegacy
On Thursday 29 Sep 2016 4:12 PM
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29 September 2016, 03:42 PM Reply to Bank
You sure are nice today my lad.
Just less thing's for me to complain about :p
 
 
 
Posted by jtbthatsme
On Thursday 29 Sep 2016 8:18 PM
1
Great interview he is definitely the right man for the job...better than that other guy they had doing their promo stuff Don Mattrick. That guy is a polar opposite of Phil who has taken Xbox forward a long way (sadly needed it too after DM).

Look forward to more for the Xbox team and certainly look forward to the Scorpio and seeing what it can do.
 
 
 
Posted by Ron
On Thursday 29 Sep 2016 8:24 PM
1
Great read, he came across very well and clearly has a good sense of humour.
 
 
 
Posted by ptys
On Thursday 29 Sep 2016 11:14 PM
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The more he discusses forward and backwards compatibility, the more I question where they were when we requested this before the Xbox One was even in development.
 
 
 
Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
On Friday 30 Sep 2016 9:19 AM
3
Im more a Playstation sort of guy, but Phil is easily the best thing that could have happened to Xbox, he certainly makes me like the brand and the direction they are going.
 
 
 
Posted by Nick2016NZ
On Friday 30 Sep 2016 10:19 AM
1
Yeah I agree with everyone here, he really does come across as a nice guy, and honest as well. He seems genuinely passionate about what he does and respects the gaming community at large. If he had of been in charge of Xbox right from the start, I'm positive the Xbox brand would be seen vastly different from some of the negativity it has generated in recent years. Great read.
 
 
 
Posted by D4nzy
On Friday 30 Sep 2016 2:00 PM
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Awesome interview and great read!
 
 
 
Posted by AdamC
On Saturday 1 Oct 2016 6:51 AM
1
30 September 2016, 09:19 AM Reply to SpawnSeekSlay
Im more a Playstation sort of guy, but Phil is easily the best thing that could have happened to Xbox, he certainly makes me like the brand and the direction they are going.
This. After the horrid direction they were taking at the start it really has become more appealing lately.
 
 
 
richitvgamer
Posted by richitvgamer
On Sunday 2 Oct 2016 6:26 AM
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i think he's acting up
 
 
 
Posted by captain X nz
On Sunday 2 Oct 2016 11:55 AM
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"It was cool though; it was the hardest hitting conference." - E3 16? Really Keith?

He is a great face for the brand though, I sat through one of his presentations on Friday and I was convinced, after being a concerned sceptic that he was going through the motions, I came out thinking he was genuinely engaged with the community and open to listen.

He's quite open that they are building a platform to make the most of VR and advances in the future rather than rushing tech out to first adopters like me.
 
 
 
Posted by mchumdinghy
On Saturday 8 Oct 2016 10:36 AM
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It's been funny listening to "N-Zee gamer" cited on some of the big gaming podcasts I have been listening to in reference to this story. You guys are famous :)