It seems like there are Phil Spencer news every other day of the week, and that’s because there are Phil Spencer news every other day of the week. With Sony and Nintendo execs being pretty hermetic about their upcoming projects and plans, the gaming industry has to thank the outspoken Phil Spencer for keeping us entertaining through the rough times.
In the latest “Phil Spencer says” news round, the Xbox executive keeps pushing forwards the new Xbox mantra of “The console war is over, and now we are creating experiences for the player.” It is a mantra that the company has held for the past few years, as they have refused to reveal their own tally of Xbox One sales, and for the most part, have been out sold by Sony during this generation by a larger than 2-1 margin (112 million PS4 units to Xbox One’s 48 million).
The future looks grim in that regard. Analysts predict that once again Sony will outsell Microsoft by at least a 2-1 margin, which might be the reason why Spencer continues to preach that the console war is over, and that the Xbox brand is doing its own thing.
Microsoft has set its sights on the future of video game streaming. Their Game Pass game service is superior to Sony’s, and Nintendo doesn’t really have anything to compete in that arena. Microsoft has had troubles securing “must play” first party franchises, while Sony’s first party studios crafted at least 3 of those over the last 7 years to add to the company’s already spectacular First Party catalogue.
Nintendo on the other hand, quit the home console business and went portable with the Switch (though maintaining the system’s TV functionality). Nintendo has maintained the extraordinary quality of their Mario and The Legend of Zelda mainstays while pushing forwards every other major franchise under their catalogue (Animal Crossing might end up being their bestselling game ever).
Microsoft hasn’t been as lucky. Halo has had a pair of “good” entries and Halo Infinite (the game that was supposed to showcase the Xbox Series X) has been delayed until 2021. Only the Forza franchises have maintained an above 90 Metacritic on this generation. Microsoft has a new winner in Asobo’s Microsoft Flying Simulator (currently 93 at Metacritic), but the company still needs 3 or 4 more exclusives of that quality to catch up with the competition.
Because of this, it is likely that the Xbox Series X will not outsell the PS5, and the Switch’s successor. The company has known this for years, which is why Game Pass has been such an important platform for them. If the xCloud, and Game Pass subscription model pans out, they might, in the long run, out wit Sony and Nintendo by generating far more money on video games than them.
Spencer’s appearance on the talk show “Animal Talking” did not only shed light into Spencer’s adulation of Nintendo, but on his view of the current console war,
“How many consoles do I sell versus how many consoles does another company sell, Sony or Nintendo or other companies back in the day, we’re just not… that’s not our approach. If that was our approach, we wouldn’t put our games on PC, we wouldn’t put our games on Xbox One, we wouldn’t do xCloud and allow people to play games on their phones. And I’m not disparaging someone else’s approach, but when I talk to fans and customers, what I say is when you’re a member of Xbox, we want to build the experience around you.” – Phil Spencer
Spence’s argument holds weight, Microsoft cannot overcome Sony and Nintendo by fighting the conventional war, but even though Microsoft states that the console war is over, Game Pass and xCloud are not available on competing consoles (PS4, Nintendo Switch). So, the war is not over. Microsoft still wants you to buy and Xbox Series X even if they don’t admit that they do, and they still want Halo (and Gears) to do numbers comparable or better than Sony’s first party titles.
It will be interesting to see how this strategy pays off, and whether their tune will change if the Xbox Series X is successful enough to compete with the PlayStation 5’s sales.