Phil Spencer has been heading Xbox for the last seven years now. That he has done a lot to keep things going for Xbox is undeniable - he turned things around on the hardware front, he pioneered Game Pass, he led some major acquisitions for the company, and he is essentially the reason that Xbox is still a thing and not a brand that Microsoft divested of, if accounts are to be believed.
However, the flip side of this is that Microsoft’s showing on the games front has really, really slipped under his tutelage. The first few years that Spencer was in charge still saw some games release, but especially in the last few years, Xbox has had repeated fumbles with their annual lineups, repeated fumbles with the games they do release: they mostly end up reviewing very poorly, (although there are exceptions such as the excellent Forza Horizon games, the two Ori games, and Sea of Thieves once they managed to turn that one around); they generally tend to have little to no hype or buzz in the zeitgeist (very few Microsoft games ever take over like a new Sony or Nintendo release does); the few wins they do have (such as Halo Infinite) somehow end up managing defeat from the jaws of victory, after the victory (seriously, this especially is baffling). Their marketing is poor, they consistently end up being no shows at major industry events (or where they do show up, they end up overshadowed by Nintendo and Sony). The sales of Xbox have not necessarily gotten better (it is impossible to truly gauge the extent to which here is any difference at all in Xbox sales, since Microsoft does not report these numbers anymore, but they are a consistent third place player in the market, not only outsold by Sony, but also lapped by Nintendo who were coming off of a system as dismal as Wii U, which did far worse than any Xbox ever has).
It’s really a mixed bag here, to be perfectly honest, at least in my opinion, and I was curious to see what others might think, particularly in light od the discussions I have been seeing on the internet in light of Microsoft’s no-show at TGA, and them promising that next year will be different again, this time for real (as they have been for the better part of a decade at this point). How would you judge Phil Spencer’s tenure at Xbox?
A (fantastic, little to no complaints)
B (mostly very good, some complaints, but the overall takeaway is largely positive)
C (mixed bag, there’s some great stuff, but also a lot of fumbles)
D (mostly very bad, there have been some wins, but much of it has been errors upon errors)
The Wii U did even more damage to Nintendo than Xbox One ever did to Microsoft (the Xbox One sold over 50 million units, and had the support of the entire industry, the Wii U sold 20% of that, was abandoned by the entire industry, and drove Nintendo to the point of near irrelevance). If Nintendo could come back from that, and quicker, then how long do we need to give Microsoft?
Xbox already came back from it. They are absolutely on a growing pace, revenue wise they are making more than Nintendo, it’s just that they’re not just about console anymore so it’s not apparent to you, and first party hasn’t gotten to a consistent release cadence yet but is surely looking like it very soon.
Phil’s tenure ensured Xbox stayed in business/wasnt spun off into irrelevance. He convinced Microsoft to go all in. He advanced partnerships. Pushed the development of two potentially huge markets. He ensured Xbox is the RPG and Shooter box. Phil gets an absolute A+ from me. Hats off.
Why are we only fixating on the first party capability here? Nintendo lost something worse than first party capability in the era, they lost third party support (and the fact that losing third party support even with full first party support is worse than the inverse is evident in the fact that a system like Wii U did significantly worse than a system like Xbox One).
Nintendo had to work to repair their relationships with third parties, coming back from a significantly larger scale failure; Xbox had to work to amend their first party capability, coming from a stronger base (since Xbox One is a better, and better selling, console). The comparison is that I don’t think Xbox did too good a job of it right now.
They started their acquisition crusade in 2018 and outside of Playground Games all their acquisitions had the contractual obligations for years. Then COVID happened. Also restructuring happening and relatively recently too.
Yeah, they need to put a statue in Xbox division building
I think he’s been doing great, I do think there are some issues on the games side but I also don’t think there’s much anyone could have done about some of these things. I mean we really are in a perfect storm situation this year with completely different reasons for various studios not to have delivered. Studios are growing for AAA gaming, new teams are just getting started, studios are upgrading their tech for next gen and so on and so on - and on top of all that you’d got covid taking a wrench to everything.
Hopefully soon, I think next year they absolutely have to show something for their work, I think we are getting to a point where the goodwill and benefit of the doubt they’ve earned is about to run out, and they need to have something concrete to show for their work soon.
Didn’t the Windows brand or something or the other want Xbox gone, and almost got their wish too? I think Phil/Xbox has had some major anchors that were only somewhat recently unlocked.
Anyway I chose B, but I’m maybe 60% B and 40% C. My biggest complaints are always that Xbox ghosts the community too much, does little to get exposure for the brand out and that the brand revolves around the US and is barely supported outside the anglosphere.
But Phil has also done major good work. I don’t think I need to explain Game Pass, he’s also done very good work at bringing Japanese games back to Xbox (I still have some problems here, but I won’t discredit what’s been done so far). When XGS DOES output a big game it’s almost always really good, XGS is my #1 Western game publisher even, especially with Bethesda in there now.
So IMO, I’m frustrated, but Phil has done wonders, I’d say.
I think if you think the situation with the Wii U is comparable to the one with N64 (or GameCube, or any of their other systems), then you were not paying attention to the Wii U much (which I don’t blame you for, it was, as I mentioned, a shitty console that rightly almost drove Nintendo itself to irrelevance).