But he also says that keeping customers happy is what matters more to the Xbox team anyway.
The PlayStation 4’s lead over the Xbox One (and the Wii U) is comical. It’s so vast, as a matter of fact, that it’s hard to see how the Xbox One can ever even hope to catch up to the PS4, particularly now with a resurgent console market in Japan. And it seems like Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, agrees- he doesn’t think beating the PS4 is possible any more.
Asked whether Microsoft could beat Sony this gen during a panel at the 2015 GeekWire Summit, Spencer said, “You know, I don’t know. You know, the length of the generation… [Sony] have a huge lead and they have a good product. I love the content, the games line-up that we have.
“One thing that probably I didn’t realize as much as I should have when I started in this role was the impact that the launch had on our team here in Redmond, the Xbox team,” he continued. “Because it’s easy to read the blogs and the sites and my Twitter feed and see what the customers think of our brand and our product, but the team in Redmond took as much of a hit as the external community did around the launch. And I sit back and I think about an [organization] of thousands of people, you’re down in the organization and some words and some actions from executives kinda just trash all the work that you’ve done over the last three years, many weekends and nights, and you start to question why am I doing this? Why am I working so hard when a few crass comments can actually position our product more directly than any work that the team was doing?”
When Spencer took over last year, regaining the confidence of the Xbox team first and foremost was the most important item on his agenda, he says- yes, regaining customer importance was necessary too, but it would be impossible to do with a team that did not believe in its own messaging.
“Being very forthright with [the team] about where we were and our ability to do things like beat Sony was critical. What I’ve seen in the 18 months that I’ve been in the role is the team is getting more work done in a day than I would expect.
“Every time I sit down and I do a product review, mostly every time, the team comes in with surprise and delight around the momentum that they have, more than I’m able to add. And when I see that transformation of a team that’s questioning the leadership of the organization to a team that’s motivated by the customers that we have and their ability to delight them, I see a team that’s making amazing progress. [Backwards compatibility] was one. We didn’t know back compat would work. We started it. A few ninja engineers went off and figured it out, how do you go from PowerPC to X86 and translate game code that’s about as time-critical as any piece of code that you would want in terms of its performance, and they got it done. So I would never question the ability of our organization, but I’ll say we’re not motivated by beating Sony, we’re motivated by gaining as many customers as we can.”
It’s a refreshingly honest and candid answer, even for Phil Spencer- and I will say this, if the Xbox team’s motivation remains to please the customer, rather than to win a corporate war, then only good things will come for the Xbox One, and for the Xbox brand in general.