Phil Spencer Says There’s “No Fundamental Change” to How Xbox Thinks About Exclusivity

The Xbox boss also speaks about industry layoffs – including at Microsoft – and why he thinks the industry needs to grow.

Posted By | On 16th, Feb. 2024

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Microsoft has announced that it’s bringing four of its first-party Xbox titles to rival platforms, and though the company hasn’t named those four games yet, it’s said that two of them are smaller releases that are at least a year old, while the other two are live service games that will benefit from an expanded pool of players by going multiplatform. At the same time, it’s been confirmed that bigger, flagship first-party releases like Starfield and Indiana Jones and the Great Circle will remain Xbox exclusives. So what exactly does this mean for Xbox’s first-party strategy as whole?

Well, according to Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer, it’s mostly business as usual. Speaking about the company’s strategy on an official episode of the Official Xbox Podcast, Spencer said there’s “no fundamental change” to how Xbox is approaching exclusivity, and that releasing multiplatform titles from time to time is something the company has been doing for a while. According to Spencer, Microsoft’s focus continues to be growing the games industry by reaching more players, and through that, finding ways to grow Xbox.

“There’s really no fundamental change to how we think about exclusivity,” Spencer said. “We just came out of Developer Direct, which was an awesome show where we showed great games that are coming to Xbox, PC, and cloud, which makes them accessible to hundreds of millions of people. So we’re really focused on a couple platforms and what’s going to show up there.

“But our key of, ‘play the games you want, with the people you want, anywhere you want, when everybody plays, we all win’- these have been part of our strategy for years, and will continue to be. Our focus is on, how do we continue to grow the games industry by reaching more players in more places, and how do we grow Xbox as part of that- Xbox as a hardware platform, Xbox as a publisher of great games, and Xbox as a platform for the world’s best creators.”

Interestingly, Spencer also went on to talk about the mass, widespread wave of layoffs that has struck the games industry over the past year, which also saw Microsoft announcing last month that it would be cutting 1,900 jobs across its entire gaming division. As per Spencer, focusing on expanding the industry’s player base will allow it to grow in a manner that ensures that things such as job eliminations become less frequent going forward.

“[2023] was an amazing year- some great launches, some of the games that I think will stand the test of time and people will be talking about a decade from now. But it’s an industry that didn’t really grow,” Spencer said. “And what happens when an industry doesn’t grow? You end up with some job eliminations, which we had. We had even our own hard decisions to make about building a sustainable business for ourselves, but in no way were we alone in that.

“When you think about a healthy industry, I want players who believe that they will find the best games on the platforms that they love. I want people who invest their careers in working here to feel like this is a place that they can be successful. And that really is down to being part of an industry that is growing.

“If you listen to Lisa Su, the AMD CEO, she’ll say that AMD-powered consoles are likely to decline in 2024. I think there’s an amazing set of games coming in 2024, but if we don’t get to growing as an industry, the industry will struggle. And today, there’s really two choices on how do you grow the industry- do you say, ‘I have a fixed number of players, the players that we have today, and how do I find new ways to monetize those players to get more money from the players that I have?’ Or do you think about, ‘how do I expand the business I have by finding new players and adding those to the base of players that already play?’

“Our focus on Xbox for the last decade has really been on that latter point, of how do we make sure Xbox is growing? Growing for our players, growing for our creators, so those people are finding success on our platform, which will grow the Xbox business and put Xbox in a position to be very strong for years and decades to come.”

Microsoft has also announced that Activision Blizzard titles are set to begin appearing on Game Pass, starting with Diablo 4 on March 28. Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass’ total subscribers now sit at 34 million.


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