Big changes are afoot.
Sony is launching the PlayStation VR later this year, and they are also rumored to be launching a more powerful PlayStation 4K. Nintendo is obviously bringing the NX this year– but where does that leave Microsoft? One of their big holiday titles, Scalebound, is delayed, and while Xbox head Phil Spencer has openly speculated on the possibility of upgraded Xbox hardware in the future, the lack of leaks suggests that if such a new Xbox exists, it is not coming any time soon.
So what will Microsoft’s year look like? What will they be showing off at E3 this year? We got the chance to ask well known and outspoken industry analyst Michael Pachter, who stated that he believes Microsoft will push for further Windows 10-Xbox One integration.
“I think Microsoft is positioning themselves for the inevitable, which is you won’t need a console,” Pachter said. “They’ll continue to try to integrate, so they’ll continue to try to keep the console as relevant as possible, they’re not getting out of the console business, but you know, it’s the same thing- you don’t need a PC to access the internet. You used to, but now you do it on your phone or tablet! And I have read that there are countries like Vietnam and India where more people access the internet through their phones than their PCs. I don’t know what the number is in a fully developed country, like in western Europe or the US, but I would imagine that it is north of 50% on PC. But I am sure the number drops every year.”
Them readying themselves for this future is what has led to a gradual de-emphasizing of the Xbox hardware at Microsoft, in favor of an overall ecosystem- and the integration of this overall ecosystem is what Pachter thinks will be Microsoft’s big play at E3.
“We’ve had a couple of changes at Microsoft. You don’t have Steve Ballmer running the company anymore, and I think that Nadela, who is the current CEO, is absolutely focused on keeping Microsoft relevant. One aspect of Microsoft’s business is its software, Windows, and obviously they have a Cloud business as well. But I think Xbox was an island before Nadela moved up, and I think Ballmer didn’t really understand it. I’m not sure that Nadela understands it, but he definitely has a strategy to integrate Xbox into everything going on at Microsoft.
“If you look at the leadership at Xbox- although Robbie Bach was a career Microsoft guy, there was Peter Moore, who was from Sega, followed by Don Mattrick, who was from EA. And currently it’s Phil Spencer, who is a 20-something year Microsoft employee. So instead of having a game guy run it, which was the case for the first thirteen years of Xbox, you suddenly have an internal Microsoft guy running it. And I just think it makes sense that they’re now part of the team. I don’t mean to suggest that Peter or Don weren’t good teammates, but I think they were game guys first.
“And Phil is a game guy, but he’s a Microsoft game guy. He went to work there when he was an engineer. He worked there in the ‘90s, when they had Windows, and Excel. That’s the company he went to work for. I think he morphed into a game guy, but I actually think they’re far more unified today than ever. And I think they’re all on the same boat, rowing in the same direction now, and they weren’t necessarily doing that before Phil became head of Xbox.
“[So] one would think [that Microsoft will push for integration]. I mean, we don’t know how close we are to it. It was a modest theme when Microsoft had a showcase a couple weeks ago. It was sort of a theme, but it wasn’t crystal clear how it all worked together and it was primarily a game event. So my guess is E3 will still be primarily a game event, but each time they speak, we’ll get a little bit clearer picture of where they’re going.”
It sounds like big changes are afoot at Microsoft- the company is clearly trying to reinvent itself all around as it tries to tackle a new of computing, and effects of this are likely to be felt on the Xbox front as well. Whatever Microsoft is planning, we should find out soon at E3 this year.