During Microsoft’s Extra Life Livestream Xbox division head Phil Spencer provided some interesting insight about the company’s gaming business.
Spencer was asked what is the hardest part of his job, and he mentioned that while “hard” is not the right word for it, in a creative industry like gaming at times he wants to try things that aren’t going to work to push the boundaries.
“If we stay in the safe zone where you’re 70-80% sure that’s gonna work, I don’t think we’re actually doing our job to kind of push the state of the art forward.”
He explained that he trying to motivate the team to understand that failure is as important as success is a challenge.
“Everybody wants to be on the team that scores a hit […] but in reality, you want to do great work on things that don’t work as well because that’s how you learn.”
According to Spencer, there are teams that ship games or launch their live services. They get some negative feedback or no feedback because people aren’t using their product. It’s important to talk to the team and explain that the work they have done was valuable as they have learned a lot. There are many things that on the first attempt don’t hit their goals, but if the team stays at it they can be successful.
That is a challenge because a team might see the other team next to them “running victory laps” on a successful product, but it’s important that both teams learn, stay humble, and understand that both things that are successful and things that aren’t are “probably equally important in the long-term trajectory to try to make a platform that is the best place for gamers.”
Spencer also talked about Xbox’s acquisition (or more precisely the signing of the LOI for the acquisition) of inXile and Obsidian Games. He explained that one of the things he really loves about those studios is that the kind of games that they do are great for Microsoft’s lineup.
“When I look at those studios they have a history of building great RPGs. I love PC RPGs and I grew up playing games like Baldur’s Gate and MMOs like Ultima Online… The kind of asymmetric RPG history these studios have… I don’t know if that’s exactly what they’re gonna do going forward, they have creative freedom on what they’re gonna go do. But I will say the thing that’s exciting for me about those studios is what those studios are today and where they come from, not something about what we need to turn them into. I love what they are right now and when I think about where our platform and services are going, we know we need to have more PC DNA inside of our Studios teams, not solely for PC, but clearly, games that have come from PC.”
Spencer also feels that it’s good to have three Xbox studios in southern California. Like what Microsoft is building in the U.K., it’s cool to have centers where teams can get together. This is something Rare did with Playground Games and Ninja Theory after their acquisition. There is a lot of creative sharing between the teams, and it “can only lead to good things happening.”
Another element that Spencer mentioned as relevant is Microsoft’s ability to bring stability for those studios and increase the funding for their games. Both studios have the capability to do great games, but there is potential in them that the partnership with Xbox and Microsoft can help them realize. The goal is to make those studios the best at what they are, using the resources Microsoft has as a platform holder and a more diverse business as opposed to one studio running one franchise.