In an interview with Bloomberg, Phil Spencer, whose latest job title is executive vice president of Xbox business for Microsoft Corp., more or less owns up to what some Xbox One owners have been feeling for years. The first party software has its highlights, but there aren't nearly enough high-quality exclusives on Microsoft's console.
The article says that "[Microsoft] plans to increase investment in developing in-house video games, including starting or acquiring studios to do so." Spencer goes on to add:
“We need to grow, and I look forward to doing that. Our ability to go create content has to be one of our strengths. We haven’t always invested at the same level. We’ve gone through ups and downs in the investment.”
Having spent many hundreds of pounds on an Xbox One at launch, I can certainly relate to ups and downs in the investment. My great white hope was always Scalebound, alas. The Xbox division in this generation hasn't moved much beyond the older hits, relying on new iterations of Gears or Halo or Forza to keep things ticking over. That's fine as far as it goes, and the quality of these games remains high enough for many.
This has never seemed like a long-term strategy. Video games is a massive business but it's also a creative industry and, next to Sony's first party production for PS4, not to mention Nintendo's outstanding 2017 thus far, Xbox feels comparatively poorly served. This could be a turning point in the quality and quantity of first party software output for Xbox.
It's been clear for a while now that Microsoft wants to reconfigure Xbox as a general gaming brand and ecosystem that works across platforms, rather than being tied to one particular console. The interview ends with Spencer trailing a future streaming service, the kind of thing that you need great software to be able to sell.
Microsoft will probably debut a streaming service that doesn’t require a console for some types of content in the next three years, Spencer said. A 2012 trial of such a service inside the company was too costly and never made it to the market, but Microsoft’s progress in Azure cloud services over the past few years is changing the economics and quality level, he said.
Exciting times for the Xbox division, then, even if we won't see the fruits of these investments for several years. The games industry is better when all of its big players are in rude health. This generation may have given Microsoft a bit of a bloody nose, but bring on the comeback.