Microsoft’s Xbox business has a new chief, and he says he’s a good listener. Go ahead and tell him your problems … with Xbox One.
Earlier this week, former Microsoft Game Studios boss Phil Spencer left that position to take over the entire Xbox division. He now oversees the game studio as well as the hardware side. He is also in charge of Xbox Video and Xbox Music. Despite his broadening responsibilities, he is making it clear that his focus is on the Xbox One as a game platform, and he is even going so far as to say that he is on Twitter, message boards, and other Internet forums listening and learning from the consumer.
“I know a lot of times, people give nods to the different forums out there — the different communities. I will honestly say that I learn a ton from listening to the feedback and reading the forum ideas,” Spencer told Microsoft “evangelist” Larry “Major Nelson” Hyrb in an interview. “I saw, when I was announced for this position, [a forum post that said] ‘the first things Phil Spencer should do as the head of Xbox.’ There were a lot of great ideas there. That two-way dialogue is important to us as we drive this product forward. It will be a foundational element.”
So, what are these ideas that he is listening to? Well, Hyrb asked Spencer about dropping the price of the Xbox One, expanding it to new international markets, and offering better titles from the Games with Gold program.
Spencer, however, didn’t get into any details.
“No announcements today,” he said. “But [gamers should] know that the things [they] are saying — those [things] are really important to us.”
While Spencer didn’t say whether he is planning a price cut for the system, he did talk about some of his early ideas to get better performance from all the various Xbox teams.
“We have a great creative internal development team in Microsoft studios. We have a great platform-technology team and a great Live technology team,” he said. “[I want to bring] those teams physically closer together to make sure they know each other. [That way], as the creatives are coming up with new ideas, those ideas are getting injected right into the platform and what is coming next. I think it can lead to a lot of growth in the product we have.”
While Spencer is thinking about reorganizing his teams, his first priority is preparing for the upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show in early June. Last year, former Xbox boss Don Mattrick and platform architect Marc Whitten took to the E3 stage (along with Spencer) to discuss the Xbox One and its games. Since then, Mattrick left for social-publisher Zynga, and Whitten took a job as chief product officer at wireless sound-system company Sonos.
“E3 is really important for us,” said Spencer. “People are looking to see this change in Xbox. [They want to know] what it means to have a head of Xbox that is really focused on games. E3 is a great gaming show, and I want to make sure that when we’re there, that the fans hear us and understand what this product should mean to us.”
Spencer says that means Microsoft will have a ton of games and their creators onstage at E3. He doesn’t want to take up time with what he calls “Microsoft middle management.” He’s held weekly meetings — going back into his time with Microsoft Studios — to figure out what they should announce.
“People invest a lot of their money in Xbox,” he said. “That money is invested so they know they have the best place to play games and that’s where their friends will be playing. It’s our responsibility to stand up on stage and give them the promise of the games that are coming.”