Microsoft has beefed up on its investment in and commitment to exclusive content with its recent announcement of acquisitions of five new studios, doubling the count of studios under the Microsoft Game Studios banner. In an interview with CNET, Xbox boss Phil Spencer was surprisingly candid, admitting that first party content had been an area of weakness with the brand until recently, and that their work isn’t done on trying to address the problem.
“I’ve been explicit that we needed to up our investment in our first-party studios, and at E3 we announced the addition of five new studios,” Spencer said. “I don’t think we’re done. People want to play great games on our platform.”
Spencer also talked about where he stands on the expansion of video gaming as a medium, talking, for a moment, not as an executive of the Xbox brand, but as just someone who seems to be genuinely interested in expanding and spreading the scope of games.
“What I look at now is this opportunity where 200 to 250 million people will buy a console, whether it’s from us or Sony or Nintendo — or even something else out there that could be coming to the 2 billion people who play video games,” he said. “And I say, ‘How can we enable the great content and stories that I see happening on my television screen, or my PC laptop to reach every screen in the world?'”
Spencer also hinted at alternate models for game distribution, such as subscription services and game streaming, pointing to the TV industry, which is currently undergoing a similar paradigm shift, with the onset of video on demand services like Netflix.
“Look at television,” he said. “I think we’re at an interesting time with new business models, and I think about building some of the most creative and engrossing content we’ve seen from companies like Netflix, HBO and Showtime. That content gets consumed on all kinds of screens, but it’s designed for a large screen on the wall.
“We have great stories, characters and worlds in gaming that have been locked to certain screens because of the technical capability that you need to see that content. And we’ve really taken this view of, how can these characters reach more and more people on the planet?”
I agree with Spencer’s ideas in principle. I also agree that gaming will see a paradigm shift in business models, and it is probably one of the reasons that Microsoft has been pushing so hard for Game Pass. That said, I just hope that Spencer’s focus is more on creating great content for now, than on coming up with new ways to disseminate it. For the time being, the former is the biggest problem Xbox faces- you can’t distribute content that doesn’t exist, after all.