Xbox’s Phil Spencer: From Savior To Villain

With his recent comments on the future of single-player games, a refocusing of the Xbox brand on hardware, and a fading confidence among his fans, Phil Spencer is losing a grip as Head of Xbox.

Xbox's Phil Spencer: From Savior To Villain
The Xbox One's launch in 2013 was nothing short of a PR nightmare. From DRM restrictions to obligatory Kinect bundling to a steep price point and more, fanboys everywhere demanded Don Mattrick's head on a plate lest the Xbox brand be driven to the ground entirely. Microsoft's corporate headquarters listened, luckily, and following Mattrick's "resigning" instilled Phil Spencer as Head of Xbox. After that the Xbox One blossomed and grew in sales and in good favor with the industry, and everything wrong with the world of gaming was made good again.


In all seriousness, Spencer has managed to do a lot of right for Xbox. Removing Kinect and offering Xbox One was smart, sure, but going the extra mile and bringing backwards compatibility to the console – something its closest major competitor still doesn't offer in the same capacity – was a huge win for hardcore fans and scored huge points amongst industry professionals, even if its legitimacy is being brought into question.

A restored goodwill was brought to the brand, with sales surpassing that of the PlayStation 4 during one holiday season. Substantial exclusives were finally something Xbox had to offer, and even if they were in the vein of Rise of the Tomb Raider, they were enticing exclusives nonetheless.

But things started to slow down.

With long periods of nothing too noteworthy, gamers began losing faith, most notably towards the end of last year and continuing to the present day. This was made very apparent during the cancellation of Scalebound, an action-JRPG from PlatinumGames that appealed to hardcore sensibilities. For many, this was the title that would make them actually purchase the console, a defiant stand that Microsoft was still pining for the Japanese market and making an effort to capture it. Sadly, things got worse from there.

The focus of Xbox on hardware this E3 was not a smart move, especially when considering both Nintendo and Sony took the opposite route. Announcing so many exclusives appearing at the conference only to come up with a handful of truly appealing ones was a bad choice of words. To top it all off, giving us no reason to buy a $500 upgrade this late into the console generation's life cycle was borderline insulting.

Xbox is retreading familiar ground, the same that made the original console not as successful as it could've been. For Phil Spencer to say things like the Xbox is in a "different league" to its competition is misguided and cocky – something its not in the position to be right now. Saying that exclusivity deals are not the aim and not healthy to gaming only to exhibit them at full display at your conference is hypocritical and untrustworthy. And now, saying that single-player games lack a future indicates a significant out-of-touch with your community, especially considering the recent success of games like NieR: Automata, Persona 5, and Horizon Zero Dawn (two out of the three just so happen to be Japanese, mind you).

As I mentioned in an earlier opinion piece, Microsoft needs to start doing, and Spencer needs to be at the forefront of that again. It seems as though the current Head of Xbox has gotten lazy with the confidence he's accrued, but he can't rest of his laurels. Promises are made and then unkept across companies within the industry, sure, but Xbox is in no position to keep doing this, especially with the scrutiny its gained with the Xbox One X.

Regardless of what may happen with the brand, it will be interesting to see what Spencer says next. Let's just hope he holds his tongue.

The opinion expressed in this article is purely that of the author and is not representative of KeenGamer as a whole. Follow David on Twitter: @ZenoCreator125 

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