Skating to where the puck is, not to where it will be.
The question of keeping things fresh is doubtless one that haunts the executives at every major company- see, if you lose the ability to surprise the customer, you risk becoming stale. And if you become stale, if the customer knows exactly what to expect from you, you risk losing the customer- they can become disenchanted and move on to other pastures.
Given that Microsoft’s Xbox division has been comprised of the same few people for so long, how do they ensure that they’re not getting stale? Surely for Microsoft Game Studios, who are responsible for Xbox’s first party lineup, and who have long been fighting against the company’s output being reduced to a Forza/Gears/Halo cycle, understand this. So how do they ensure that they don’t get stale? How do they ensure that they retain the ability to surprise the customer?
“We do bring new people into our leadership team pretty regularly,” Shannon Loftis of Microsoft Game Studios told GamesRadar. “For example, Dave McCarthy is someone who only joined us a few years ago, and he brought a great, fresh perspective. We got to work with Kudo Tsunoda for a few years and he’s one of the most creative people that I’ve ever worked with; he’s still a friend and a mentor, and he’s moved on to something else.
“So there are a few leaders like myself, [head of 343 Industries] Bonnie Ross and [head of Xbox] Phil Spencer that have been around for a long time, but I think that when you keep the consumer at the centre of everything you do, it’s almost impossible to become stale because our consumers don’t get stale. Gamers change all the time, and gamers told us that they want more choice, right? That’s why we made the announcements we made.”
“Through ID@Xbox and my publishing team we can engage with game developers on every spectrum, from the one- or two- person shops all the way up to the big AAAs. It keeps things moving and it repeatedly challenges what we think about game development and what we think is the right direction for the future.”
If Microsoft’s intent, then, is to keep responding to the changing customer’s desires and wants, then that at least ensures that their lineup doesn’t get too homogenous- and sure, we’re seeing that, what with Microsoft funding games like Quantum Break, ReCore, Scalebound, and Sea of Thieves in addition to their traditional Halo/Gears of War/Forza output. But at the same time, I think something is lost as a result- if Microsoft are forever chasing trends, then they will no longer blaze trails like they once did, with prescient, at that time unprecedented games like Halo and Gears of War. While Microsoft’s output now is, I suppose, more varied, it’s also become safer. Something is lost, and I have to wonder if it was worth the trade off.