Head of Xbox Phil Spencer has clarified Microsoft’s strategy for next-gen and, once again, stressed that Microsoft doesn’t necessarily need to sell the Xbox Series X to be successful.
"Our high-level goal inside of our team, of how we measure ourselves, is how many people are playing on Xbox," Spencer said. "And when we say 'playing on Xbox' it doesn't mean an Xbox console. It means somebody who is logging in and playing a part of our ecosystem, whether first-party or third-party. And it could be on an Android phone. It could be on a Switch. It could be on a PC. That's how we think about it."
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This approach is a stark contrast to Sony’s strategy, which is laser-focused on creating unique and exclusive experiences that only exist on PlayStation hardware like PS5 – though the company has started to port older PS4 exclusives to PC like Horizon: Zero Dawn, while Death Stranding was allowed a PC release, too.
While Microsoft’s vision may seem like an early declaration of defeat, the company is banking on Xbox Game Pass to provide a regular and recurring revenue stream. Over 15 million people subscribe to the “Netflix for games” style service, and it’s clear that Spencer wants to continue to invest in new studios to help bolster Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft recently spent $7.5 billion to acquire ZeniMax, the holding company of Bethesda.
“Teams that can build new franchises, tell new stories, those are always sought after. That's why I'm excited about projects like Starfield and the next Compulsion game because I like teams that think about new creations,” Spencer said. “And frankly, as Game Pass continues to grow, we need to continue to feed that subscription. So, with the growth that we are seeing, I expect we will constantly be in this mode of bringing more creators into the fold."
Xbox Game Pass anytime, anywhere
Spencer also hinted that Xbox Game Pass could expand to more platforms in the future, specifically Chromebooks and FireTV via cloud streaming, and that iOS users will eventually be able to play Xbox games on their devices.
“I think for us it's all about priority, and reaching more players. So we went to PC first after Xbox, because there's just so many players there, globally, that don't own an Xbox, that we could go reach,” Spencer explained. “We went to mobile next because there's a billion Android phones on the planet. It's significantly larger than any console player base.
"We still have iOS to go after, we will come to iOS at some point. We're still working on some of our technology on PC for larger screens in terms of streaming, and getting to iOS, and I think once we get through that, we look at what the other options are.
“There's smart TV's out there, there's Chromebooks out there, there's FireTV out there, there's a lot of discussions we would have, we would prioritize it based on where we would find the most new players, that we could naturally bring content to.”
Xbox Series X pre-orders continue to be sold out as launch day approaches on November 10, so it’s clear Microsoft will have some new users on Xbox hardware, despite its differing strategy to Sony.