Phil Spencer Interview: The Head Of Xbox Dishes On Game Pass Xbox Shortages And Whats Next
The original Xbox console first launched 20 years ago to the day on Nov. 15, 2001, and to say Microsofts gaming brand has evolved since then would be an understatement. What was once a singular console is now an entire ecosystem, one that lets you play Xbox games on consoles, computers and even right from your smartphone via the cloud. And when you factor in Microsofts ever-popular Xbox Game Pass service, accessing the latest Halo and Forza titles is now as easy as signing up for a Netflix subscription.
To discuss this evolution and see where Xbox is headed next, we sat down with the person in charge of it all: Microsofts executive vice president of gaming, Phil Spencer. Heres everything we were able to glean from the head of Xbox, including some of the new ways youll be able to play Xbox titles, the big games to keep on your radar and why its still so dang hard to buy an Xbox Series X.
So When The Heck Will You Be Able To Buy An Xbox Series X
As great as Microsofts multi-platform approach is, lots of people still just want to sit on the couch and play their games on a console. So much so that the $499 Xbox Series X the companys latest flagship console built for immersive 4K gaming is still nearly impossible to find anywhere.
We need more of them! says a laughing Spencer the very moment we brought up the new consoles. Theres a lot of things were doing. Managing supply chain right now is quite a bit of work, and Im not an expert at it at all. Weve got good teams that are, but its from shipping to parts and supply to the whole, to retail availability, to dealing with scalpers and bots. The fundamental issue right now we have is more demand than supply.
Were big fans of the latest Xbox consoles here at Underscored. The Xbox Series X impressed us with its zippy load times and gorgeous 4K graphics, and the entry-level $299 Xbox Series S delivers most of the same features while ditching the disc drive and targeting a lower-resolution 1080p experience. The Xbox Series S is thankfully not that hard to find in stock these days, but if you want the premium next-gen Xbox experience, youll have to keep your eyes peeled for a chance to score one during a major restock.
Xbox Family Settings App
In May 2020, Xbox presented a preview version of an app that allows parents and guardians to set daily limits for their children’s playing time, provides weekly activity reports, filters out age-restricted games, and places limits on online communication. This is the attempt of Microsoft, Xbox’s owner, to promote a message of responsible gaming. The full release is expected in the end of 2020 or later.
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Xbox Series S Price: Cheaper Digital Edition
Rumours circled for months that Microsoft was working on a cheaper Xbox to launch alongside the Series X. Sure enough, the Xbox Series S is a digital-only version of its next-gen console in order to lower the barrier to entry.
It costs £249.99 . That’s just over half the price of the full-fat Xbox Series X and could be a very tempting price for UK gamers.
Gamers in 12 countries, including the US, UK and Australia, also have the option to pre-order the Series S and pay in instalments. Microsoft’s Xbox All Access service gets you Series S console plus Game Pass Ultimate and Xbox Live Gold in return for £20.99 per month over a 24 month period.
The main difference between the Xbox Series X and Series S is that the latter doesn’t have a disc drive. Another big difference is that while both consoles support high frame rates of up to 120fps, the Xbox Series X offers native 4K gaming, while the Series S is geared more towards 1440p. If you want to make the most of your 4K TV, the Series X would be the obvious choice, but those with gaming monitors might be perfectly well served by the Series S.
The Series S isn’t as powerful, though. Both consoles have the same Zen 2-based CPU but the Xbox Series X runs at 3.8Hz, while the Series S runs at 3.4Hz. And where the Xbox Series S has 10GB of GDDR6 memory running at 224Gbps, the Series X offers 16GB of GDDR6.
Xbox Series X Or Xbox Series S
Before you buy the first Xbox that becomes available, you should know that Microsofts two new consoles have some significant differences. The $499 Xbox Series X is the flagship powerhouse of the family, designed to deliver immersive 4K gaming complete with a Blu-ray disc player and 1TB of internal storage for housing your digital downloads. If you have a 4K TV and want to experience the highest performance available on a console, you should spring for the Series X.
The $299 Xbox Series S is the streamlined, entry-level machine, able to play games at up to 1440p resolution and has roughly half the internal storage at 512GB. The Series S lacks a disc drive, so youre limited to digital downloads only. Its also significantly smaller than the chunky Xbox Series X, if space is a concern. If youre still using a 1080p TV but want to enjoy many of the perks of next-gen gaming, this is the system for you.
Fortunately, these systems have a lot of key features in common. Both use a solid state drive , which allows games to load up within seconds. The Series X and Series S both feature Quick Resume, which lets you bounce between a handful of games at once without losing your progress in any of them. And theyre both capable of running games at up to 120 frames per second for super-smooth gameplay, complete with ray tracing technology that allows for ultra-realistic lighting and shadows.
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Xbox One X Vs Xbox Series X Verdict
The Xbox Series X is an enticing prospect, especially for those who are already invested in the Xbox ecosystem. Its graphical grunt combined with the excellent Xbox Game Pass subscription service means Xbox fans should seriously consider the latest and greatest console, with its impressive technical specs and plenty of hope for the future.
For early adopters, the Series Xs lack of exclusive games is at least offset by an instant collection of great games thanks to Game Pass and backwards compatibility. Numerous games are receiving Xbox Series X optimizations, too, making them look and play better than ever before. And with Smart Delivery, those looking to upgrade from their Xbox One X can buy supported games now and upgrade for free to the Series X version once they can afford the new unit.
Since the cost of the Xbox One X is likely to continue to fall, particularly now the Series X is approaching a whole year since launch, there are few reasons to buy it at full price right now. Even then, the better value prospect is the cheaper, but less powerful, Xbox Series S, though you will have to make do with a 1440p resolution output.
All things considered, it’s not really a battle between the Xbox One X vs Xbox Series X. Instead, Microsoft seems to be ensuring a harmonious, flexible transition between consoles for those who can afford an upgrade and want the best of the best from an Xbox.
So Which Should You Buy
Honestly: neither. You should look into picking up an Xbox Series S or a more powerful Xbox Series X. Both of these systems are in the next-generation console family for Xbox gaming, and are future-proofed for at least the next 5+ years. The Xbox One consoles will be sunset within the next two years, likely being cut off from future games.
If you absolutely are intent on getting an Xbox One console, and not a Series S/X console, the main issue here is whether or not you have a 4K television. There are gains to be had by using the Xbox One X with a 1080p set, but they will be nowhere near as pronounced as they would with a 4K display with HDR. I would argue that, unless you’re going to get a 4K TV or monitor shortly, that you could probably stick with an Xbox One S. However, as time has gone by, it feels like developers are increasingly prioritizing the development of the Xbox One X versions of their games. Many modern games run far worse on the Xbox One S. Even if you don’t have a 4K TV to enjoy the extra pixels, you’ll enjoy better performance across the board.
It all boils down to personal preference, but the Xbox One S is going to be the real bargain console for the remainder of the year. The X will compete for the hardcore audience against Sony’s less-powerful PlayStation 4 Pro and even some higher-end gaming PCs.
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Competing With The Xbox Series Consoles
Of the two last-gen consoles, only the Xbox One X comes somewhat close to holding its own against the Xbox Series S though nowhere close to the Xbox Series X. The Xbox One X has 12GB of memory versus 10GB with the Series S, plus 6 teraflops of graphics versus 4 teraflops with the Series S. They both have eight CPU cores, and the One X has a terabyte of storage versus 512GB on the Series S. Plus, the Series S is stuck at 1440p for gaming, while the One X offers 4K gaming if you own a 4K TV. While the Series S does support 4K streaming, it lacks an optical drive, meaning only the Xbox One X can double as a 4K UHD player.
Overall, however, the Series S is still a superior piece of machinery. Even if its smaller in pure gigabytes, its solid-state drive drastically reduces loading times versus the One Xs hard drive. Its eight cores hit 3.6GHz instead of a mere 2.3GHz. Even with fewer teraflops, the Series S supports effects like ray tracing and dynamic lighting that the Xbox One X cannot. Most importantly, the Series S consistently hits 60 fps and can rise as high as 120 for some games, while the One X may hit 4K but is stuck at 30 fps in that mode.
Overall winner: Xbox One X
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
While Halo: The Master Chief Collection doesn’t actually have an Xbox One-era Halo game, its still a must-have for any Xbox One first-person shooter fans. If youre new to Halo then this is the way to experience the four main Halo games as well as the seminal Halo: Reach and the decent Halo: ODST. There are modern enhancements, notably with Halo 2 sporting a rather fine makeover, as well as the original Halo: Combat Evolved looking much better after a lick of modern graphical paint. And the combat, level design and story tends to hold up rather well by modern standards, though some of the later missions in the original Halo can feel a little repetitive.
You also get all the multiplayer modes of the six games in one interface. That means theres a huge amount of online combat to be had, with a myriad of game modes to choose from. Just be aware that there are some very seasoned Halo players out there and are well-equipped to trounce you if youre lacking in FPS skill. Theres also support for classic split-screen multiplayer, which may feel novel in 2021, but is nevertheless a fun way to spice up an evening with some friends.
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Third Generation: Xbox One
The Xbox One was released on November 22, 2013 in North America, as the successor of the Xbox 360. The Xbox One competes with Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Nintendo’s Wii U and Switch as part of the eighth generation of video game consoles.
Announced on May 21, 2013, the Xbox One has an emphasis on internet-based features, including the ability to record and stream gameplay, and the ability to integrate with a set-top box to watch cable or satellite TV through the console with an enhanced guide interface and Kinect-based voice control.
On June 13, 2016, Microsoft announced the Xbox One S at E3 2016, which featured a smaller form factor, as well as support for 4K video and HDR. At E3 2017, Microsoft unveiled Xbox One X, a high-end model with improved hardware designed to facilitate the playing of games at 4K resolution.
Since November 2014, Microsoft has stated it will not release sales numbers for the Xbox One line. Industry estimates project global sales of the Xbox One family to be about 50 million units. Xbox head Phil Spencer said that while they do internally track sales figures, they do not want their developers to be focused on these numbers as to affect their products, and thus have opted not to report further sales of Xbox hardware going forward.
The Games: Microsoft Is Touting Thousands Of Games Spanning Four Generations But The Big Exclusive Just Got Delayed
In the console’e June 2019 announcement video, a Microsoft employee says “hundreds” of people inside and outside of Microsoft are already working on games for Xbox Series X.
The video also revealed “Halo Infinite” as a launch title for the next-gen Xbox console the next major entry in the decades-old “Halo” first-person shooter series.
The game has since been delayed to some time in 2021, and Microsoft has shifted focus to the console’s ability to play “thousands of games spanning four generations.”
The company has also announced a slew of upcoming post-launch games, including new “Forza” and “Fable” games, and “Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2.”
It’s safe to assume that major first-party game franchises, like “Gears of War,” are in production. Microsoft has said that “15 Xbox Game Studios are developing the largest and most creatively diverse lineup of Xbox exclusive games in our history” for the Xbox Series X.
Outside of Microsoft, at least two major next-gen games are in the works that we already know of: “The Elder Scrolls VI” and “Starfield,” both from Bethesda Softworks.
And beyond that, all the major multiplatform games are headed to the next-gen Xbox: “Call of Duty,” “Assassin’s Creed,” and all the major annual sports games are locks.
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How 20 Years Of Xbox Brought Us To The Game Pass Era
I thought it was a bold move by the company, says Spencer, who was joining a new internal games studio at Microsoft when the original Xbox first hit shelves in 2001. a group of innovative, disruptive thinkers inside the company that wanted to go do something different and were able to make that happen.
That big bet paid off, as the Xbox brand is now in its fourth generation with the Xbox Series X and Series S consoles, and is part of a larger ecosystem that includes Windows and cloud-based games. Microsoft is celebrating its 20-year gaming journey in a number of ways you can buy an Xbox Wireless Controller and an Xbox Stereo Headset adorned with the 20th anniversary logo, to name just a few examples. But if you really want to see what Xboxs two-decade legacy is all about, you dont have to look much further than Xbox Game Pass.
Microsofts monthly subscription service contains hundreds of games that span its whole console history, from OG Xbox titles such as Crimson Skies to modern hits like Forza Horizon 5. Weve long considered Game Pass to be the best value in gaming, and by the looks of things, its only going to get better and will soon let you play on even more devices.
- Xbox Game Pass for Console
- Xbox Game Pass for PC
- Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
Game Pass has really turned into that discovery mechanism for players looking for something unique and new that maybe a retail purchase wouldve been a barrier to them trying, continues Spencer.
Life Is Strange: True Colors
Release date: September 10, 2021 Genre: Narrative adventure
What is it? The next Life is Strange game, from developer Deck Nine.
What to look out for: In Life is Strange: True Colors, you play as Alex Chen who is reunited with her brother after eight years in the foster care system. However, the happy reunion celebrations don’t last long as her brother is killed in a mysterious accident. Thankfully, she’s gifted with the power to see and manipulate people’s emotions, and can use them to find out the truth behind her brother’s death.
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Better Graphics On Old Games Great Graphics On New Games
The Xbox Series X and Series S feature a new generation of graphics hardware that is more capable than the components of previous consoles in a variety of ways, though it might be some time before you see huge differences in the results. In most launch titles, you can expect higher resolutions, higher frame rates, and more detailed characters and environments, all with better image quality. Effects should also be more pronounced and sophisticated, as the new graphics hardware in these consoles can pull off greater amounts of fancy tricks like smoke and fog that has physical properties, and lighting that creates shadows and reflections more like it does in the real world.