Spencer talks PS4 lead, impact of Xbox One launch struggles

Ben Parfitt
Spencer talks PS4 lead, impact of Xbox One launch struggles

Xbox boss Phil Spencer has admitted that he doesn't know if the Xbox One can ever catch PS4.

"You know, I don't know,” he responded when asked that exact question at the GeekWire Summit 2015, as reported by Videogamer. You know, the length of the generation... They [Sony] have a huge lead and they have a good product."

A very forthright Spencer also discussed the impact that Xbox One's troubled launched had at the company. Prior to his appointment as Xbox boss last year Spencer, as head of Xbox Studios, was the public face of a string of u-turns by the company.

Strategic changes included the scrapping of Xbox One's controversial always-on internet requirement and the need to always be connected to Kinect, changes to its indie publishing policies, a delay to the console's European rollout and the addition of a headset to the launch SKU.

All of which Sony has been quick to take advantage of. Under Spencer, however, Microsoft has often (although not always) adopted a less corporate, more personal approach to Xbox PR. This was perfectly illustrated by Spencer's humble E3 2014 presentation.

"One thing that probably I didn't realise as much as I should have when I started in this role was the impact that the launch had on our team here in Redmond, the Xbox team," Spencer added.

"The team in Redmond took as much of a hit as the external community did around the launch. And I sit back and I think about an [organisation] of thousands of people, you're down in the organisation and some words and some actions from executives kinda just trash all the work that you've done over the last three years, many weekends and nights, and you start to question why am I doing this?

Why am I working so hard when a few crass comments can actually position our product more directly than any work than the team was doing? Were we building a product for us, or were we building a product for gamers? And as soon as that question came into people's minds and they looked at anything, whether it was the power of our box, our launch line-up, microtransactions, any of the features that you talked about, what you find is very quickly you lose the benefit of the doubt.”

It may come as a surprise, too, that despite all the effort – an unprecedented effort, it could be argued – that has gone into responding to the criticism, even today Microsoft has to deal with customers who have an incorrect perception of its machine.

Have we recovered? I feel really good about the position and the product and the brand right now, but I was at the Gamestop Manager's Meeting about three weeks ago and I'm sitting with 5000 Gamestop manager's in Las Vegas and they'd come up and they still have customers that walk in the store that think that the Xbox One won't play used games,” he admitted.

Just to be clear, Xbox One has always played used games from day one. But that perception that gets set early on, because consumers have five seconds to internalise your brand and your message and then they move on. They're not going to spend time to read what we say afterwards. Regaining that trust and the mindshare with the customer, the gamer, is incredibly difficult."

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