Reflecting on the current state of the brand, Xbox boss Phill Spencer has concluded that the Xbox One and PS4 generation was the "worst generation to lose."
During an interview with Kinda Funny, Spencer pointed out that great games alone won't pull Xbox out of its third-place position in the console race. "We lost the worst generation to lose in the Xbox One generation, where everybody built their digital library of games," Spencer says. "So when you go and you're building on Xbox, we want our Xbox community to feel awesome, but this idea that if we just focus more on great games on our console, somehow we're gonna win the console race, I think doesn't really [match] the reality of most people."
Spencer adds that "like 90% of the people every year who walk into a big retailer to buy a console, and are already a member of one of the three ecosystems, and their digital library is there. This is the first generation where the big games that they're playing were games that were available last-gen," Spencer says, citing examples like Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft
"The continuity from generation to generation is so strong. I see a lot of pundits out there that kind of want to go back to the time where we all had cartridges and discs and every new generation was a clean slate, and you could switch the whole console share. That's just not the world that we are in today. There's no world where Starfield is an 11/10 and people start selling their PS5s. That's not going to happen."
There's an irony in the fact that Microsoft fell behind in the Xbox One generation as players started to build their digital libraries on other platforms. The initial pitch for Xbox One was an online-focused platform built to push people into digital, rather than physical, ownership of their games. Back in 2013, that idea was soundly rejected by fans, and while it wasn't the only factor in PlayStation's success that generation, Sony's quick capitalization on that sentiment helped propel PS4 to an early lead that never dissipated even as Xbox backpedaled.
Now, it feels like Microsoft is positioning Xbox to be as much of a service as it is a console brand, and while Spencer emphasizes that the console itself is central to Xbox, the brand's vision is much broader. "We have this unique vision because we see what creators want to do. Creators want to build games that can meet players on any screen. People play with their friends regardless of what other screen they're on," Spencer says.
"Some people want to hold us up [to] being just being a better green version of what the blue guys do, and I'm just going to say there's not a win for Xbox in staying in the wake of somebody else."
Spencer also noted that he was "disappointed" by Redfall's launch, but reassured Starfield fans that there's nothing to worry about from the next big Xbox exclusive.