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Phil Spencer on exclusivity, monetisation and game development

Gamereactor spoke at length with Head of Xbox Phil Spencer about first-party software, monetisation, and what The Initiative is actually doing.

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mrsolidsteel2030d ago (Edited 30d ago )

"First of all, I would like to say that we haven't acquired ZeniMax. We have announced our intention to acquire ZeniMax. It is going through regulatory approval and we don't see any issues there. We expect early in 2021 the deal will close. But I say that because I want people to know, I'm not sitting down with Todd Howard and Robert Altman and planning their future. Because I'm currently not allowed to do that, that would be illegal. Your question is completely inbound, but I get a lot of questions right now: "is this game exclusive? Is this game exclusive?" And right now, that is not my job in regards to ZeniMax. My job is not to sit down and go through their portfolio and dictate what happens.

In terms of what I want long term. I want those amazing studious to create the best games they ever created. That's when Todd and I sat down and had a discussion. Todd and I have known each other for years and years, and we talked about this partnership. We looked each other in the eyes and we said, 'okay, what are we really gonna do here?' And he said, 'I wanna build the best games that I've ever built and I want the support of Microsoft to be able to do that.' And I say the same thing about the studios at Arkane and id Software and Machine Games. I want them to do the most amazing work and support them in doing that."

It seems like he's bother by this constant question, but he had to know that this was coming. In any case, if I'm reading this correctly, it's up to Zenimax to decide where there titles go and they're just being funded by MS?

I wish he could give a straight forward answer, because he has a history of saying one thing and doing another.

DJStotty30d ago

"it's up to Zenimax to decide where there titles go?"

Until the deal is sealed (expected by mid-2021 latest), then yes, Phil has already stated any games currently in development, the deals will be honoured. Future titles, may be different but they will look at it on a game by game basis.

DJStotty30d ago (Edited 30d ago )

But to answer your question of

"if I'm reading this correctly, it's up to Zenimax to decide where there titles go and they're just being funded by MS?"

No, Zenimax is being acquired by MS (although not yet complete), so any details on games/platforms etc, Microsoft can not change or comment on, as they have not yet been acquired. All current "deals" i.e. ES6 etc will be honored so expect them to be multiplatform.

"We have announced our intention to acquire ZeniMax. It is going through regulatory approval and we don't see any issues there. We expect early in 2021 the deal will close."

Any future games, will be Microsoft's decision to control and comment on, once the deal is signed and the takeover complete in 2021.

Obscure_Observer30d ago

@DJStotty

"All current "deals" i.e. ES6 etc will be honored so expect them to be multiplatform."

The fact of the matter is that "All current "deals" only includes Death Loop and GhostWire: Tokio.

There´s NO deals in place for Starfield and ES6. No supported platforms was even mentioned, not even Xbox.

To think that MS paid $7.5 Billion to deliver both DL and GT exclusively on PS5 for a least an year and then go ahead and also release both Starfield and ES6 on PS5, is just be delusional.

Sayai jin30d ago

You don't purchase a company for 7.5 billion USD and not have control over it's media, exclusivity, etc.

darthv7230d ago

@jin... when the papers are signed... then you will have your answer.

It's like buying a house. Until you have the keys in hand, it's not your house.

DJStotty30d ago

@Obscure

I still fully expect Starfield and ES6 to be multiplatform, the Elder Scrolls fanbase is a large one, and would be silly to miss out on PS5 sales.

Starfield may be different as that is a new IP.

"To think that MS paid $7.5 Billion to deliver both DL and GT exclusively on PS5 for a least an year and then go ahead and also release both Starfield and ES6 on PS5, is just be delusional."

I do not get that statement? As surely having it stay multiplatform would make them the most revenue?

Sayai jin30d ago

@Darth, I am not awaiting the answer. I am covered no matter what I want to enjoy.

CaptainHenry91630d ago (Edited 30d ago )

@obscure

You're delusional if you think they'll make more money to have ES6 and Starfield go Xbox exclusive. They'll make more money if it's multiplatform 😂

mrsolidsteel2030d ago

@DJStotty

But remember, a couple of weeks ago Phil stated that purpose of this deal was to not purposely keep these games off other platform.

So I'm just wondering if MS is going allow Zenimax/Bethesda to still put games on Sony and Nintendo systems.

AngelicIceDiamond30d ago (Edited 30d ago )

It's true he doesn't have any real say right now. Once bought Zenimax has no say after words. He's hinted from the start he wants the game only on his systems and PC. Remember MS needs to make that money back they have 70 billion pocketed cash on hand so making up that money is on MS time, a decision made by Phil and the CEO Nadella. Case by case basis is referencing Death loop Ghost Wire (albeit timed) Elder Scrolls Online (future expansions/sequels), Fall Out 76 expansions. The Inevitable Skyrim on Next gen. Only New games like Star field and ES6 will be on Xbox and PC. If Phil wants to be competitive this gen, it just makes no sense to put those games on the competitors platform. Like I said something he's already hinted at.

DJStotty29d ago

@mrsolidsteel

"Phil stated that purpose of this deal was to not purposely keep these games off other platform."

And he is right, but he can not speak as the owner of Zenimax, as they do not own them (yet). He was speaking about games in development right now, so ES6 and starfield (plus anything in progress), which is why he also said future titles (new ip's, etc) they will judge on a game by game basis.

+ Show (7) more repliesLast reply 29d ago
East76lands30d ago

It's hard to take him at is word nowadays.

DiRtY30d ago

Well it is not like he lied to you with something ridiculous like "We believe in Generations!"

arkard30d ago

@dirty

Instead we get gems like exclusives are bad for gaming and then go on to buy entire publishers

RgR30d ago (Edited 30d ago )

@Dirty

Sony only said that because MS said in a conference that they would allow all future titles to be compatible with all their family of xbox consoles.

ElementX30d ago

@RgR There will be a cross gen window, nobody said anything about all future titles

+ Show (2) more repliesLast reply 30d ago
SatanSki30d ago

"Because I'm currently not allowed to do that, that would be illegal."

CURRENTLY. What's not clear about it?

DiRtY30d ago

" if I'm reading this correctly, it's up to Zenimax to decide where there titles go and they're just being funded by MS? "

I can't believe that is what you read here.
No, he can't talk about it, because it would be illegal.

They did not pay 7,500,000,000 USD to "fund" them.

4Sh0w30d ago

Pretty simple, the deal with ZeniMax is under normal regulatory review, so isnt final until 2021, so it would be illegal to speak on behalf of ZeniMax about details such as exclusivity of current games they dont own yet. Again its really simple unless you are purposely looking for another answer other than what he said.

Ausbo30d ago

“ Again its really simple unless you are purposely looking for another answer other than what he said.”

Welcome to N4G

rpvenom30d ago

It would be foolish to keep things exclusive right away.. they need to make up that $7.5B hit and by not selling to playstation.. will only take longer to recoup that money. They will need to try to make up that money first before considering exclusivity for their platform..

DiRtY30d ago

This is just BS, sorry.

Mcardle30d ago

What about that statement isn't straightforward? He explicitly explains why he can't answer that question as they don't yet own Zenimax. Seems pretty straightforward to me, standard N4G M$ bashing aside that is.

AngelicIceDiamond30d ago

The funny thing is If Zenimax knows or at least has a strong idea if Phil's Intentions in terms of exclusitivety of their games. If they really didn't like that, they can easily back out now at any given moment. Things are in place but nothing is stopping them from backing out. Because absolutely nothing is final.

Tbh we need to wait until next year to have our final answer, this question is very tiresome now. We simply need to wait at this point.

ziggurcat30d ago

"In terms of what I want long term. I want those amazing studious to create the best games they ever created..."

... only on Xbox.

Pickledpepper30d ago

From what I read, it's not his decision yet as the deal has not been finalised.

30d ago
DaveZero30d ago

And we all wished you wouldnt copy n paste what we can already read in the article ;)

+ Show (8) more repliesLast reply 29d ago
343_Guilty_Spark30d ago

I expect new games to be on GamePass: Xbox, PC, mobile and the rumored streaming stick. That's a potential audience of 300+ million.

GamePass only works if there is content to keep the end user subscribed. Exclusives as the Sony fans say. Netflix struggled in the beginning of the streaming era because they lacked high quality exclusive content. When they finally got that content and began producing their own original content their stock valuation swelled.

aaronaton30d ago

Netflix also struggle to get decent Metacritic scores for most of their original content.

343_Guilty_Spark30d ago (Edited 30d ago )

Well their subscribers don't seem to care - and request more seasons so what is your point? Plenty of entertaining games and movies that don't get extraordinary scores...or is your only metric of good content is if it gets a 9 or 10/10 in reviews or Rotten Tomatoes?

aaronaton30d ago

My point is that i believe in quality over quantity. From your statement, you seem to be more invested in Microsoft's monetary gain that actual quality of the product. So as i was saying, Netflix also shares a similar stance, and it's not entirely beneficial to the consumer, there's a reason they call it 'shovelware'.

Metacritic might not be the be all and end all, but i'd rather play the Top100 on metacritic than the Bottom 100. On a side note, i'm also interested in games that get 7's and 8's.

RgR30d ago

I only care about user score. More and more movies are seeing a clear difference between the sjw pandering critics and the more truthful audience.

343_Guilty_Spark30d ago

So you are interested in these 7, 8, 9 type games?

Forza Horizon 4 - 92
Forza Horizon 3- 91
Ori and the Will of the Wisps - 90
Ori and the BF - 88
Halo 5 - 84
Gears 4 - 85
Gears 5 - 84
Gears Tactics - 80
Halo MCC - 88
Halo Wars 2 - 79
ScreamRide - 71
Sea of Thieves - 69
Microsoft Flight Simulator - 91

Zhipp30d ago

I wouldn't make the mistake of conflating Metacritic game scores with movie scores. For games, a 7 is mediocre, for films it's quite good.

I'd also like to add that Netflix's productions aren't "bad" for a lack of investment. They put Hollywood budgets into all their projects, and their tv series are the most expensive in the business. They have both quantity and "quality"( from a cost perspective), but good reviews are never guaranteed.

+ Show (2) more repliesLast reply 30d ago
Dragonscale30d ago

300+ million my ass. More like 30 if they're lucky.

DJStotty29d ago

I do not know how you did not understand "potential audience"

As of sep 2020 GP subs were at 15 million. That is potentially 150 million dollars, per month. (at current sub levels)

Zhipp29d ago

Potential audience just means the number of customers that they could possibly sell to(I.e device owners). It's different from their actual total subscriber count.

DaveZero29d ago (Edited 29d ago )

There have been some proper excellent films on Netflix over past few years and that's all because of the position and buyout that the company made happen. If Microsoft can make that happen in gaming terms then they are in to a winner because Netflix is able to secure top top top actors and actresses ie Ryan reynoldd, Chris Hemsworth, Helen Hunt, Josh Brolin.

Netflix is booming and is paying off now thanks to the hardwork of everyone involved, there is no reason why Microsoft can not make the gaming version of Netflix be a massive success. Let's face it Gamepass is astonishing value for what it has on it, you can never get bored.

If people think there is no quality in that kind of service, they seriously need there head testing, just go look at Ryan reynolds or Chris Hemsworth film on Netflix, amazing all out action packed they are.

+ Show (1) more replyLast reply 29d ago
30d ago Replies(6)
RazzerRedux30d ago

"You know if I rewind five years ago, I would say over and over, that we are committed to PC and then get a bunch of eye rolls, and rightfully so for we weren't doing much. But I think now when you look at what our standing is on Steam and Game Pass on PC, we have shown that our commitment over time has paid off. PC customers may or may not love what we do, but they know that when we are shipping things, we're gonna do our best effort on PC as well as on Xbox."

Definitely have to give MS props for *finally* backing PC gaming the past few years. Took too long, but seeing all these Xbox games on Steam is nice to see. As is the Game Pass for PC service.

DJStotty30d ago

Yeah, their previous strategy fell flat (games for windows live), the current strategy seems to be picking up pace.

Once my Gold membership runs out i will be upgrading to Gamepass Ultimate so i can throw some PC gaming in the mix. Still no word on AOE or Flight Simulator coming to xbox :(

dlocsta30d ago

Don't wait for Gold to expire. If you switch now however many months you have left on Gold will simply be converted to the same number of months for GamePass.

DJStotty30d ago

No dlocsta,

12 months of gold only nets you 6 months Ultimate

DJStotty30d ago (Edited 30d ago )

Scratch that, 4 months Ultimate for 12 months gold

https://www.eurogamer.net/a...

At the moment i do not need to pay until May 2022, if i upgrade now, i have to pay Jan 2022.

neomahi30d ago

Business and politics are the same. It's all talk to get you to buy the product and screw you over later once they own the market or just lie to you altogether.

"I'm a voter! Aren't you supposed to lie to me and kiss my butt?" - Peter Vankmann (Bill Murray) Ghostbusters 2