Phil Spencer Emphasizes That Game Production Is the "Bigger Unknown" for Series X in 2020

Phil Spencer Emphasizes That Game Production Is the "Bigger Unknown" for Series X in 2020

Spencer tells CNBC that while hardware is "on track," game development presents different challenges.

We're less than a week away from the first dedicated showcase of Xbox Series X games, which can be taken as a good sign for both the console's launch and its initial lineup of titles. Still, echoing his comments from a month ago, Xbox Head Phil Spencer says that while the hardware end is on pace for Holiday 2020, game production is more uncertain as teams adjust to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spencer's most recent comments on the Series X's launch and the games planned for it comes via an interview with CNBC. "Teams are doing a really good job on keeping our hardware on track," says Spencer. "I'd say that the bigger unknown is probably the game production, just being honest. Game production is a large scale entertainment activity now, you have hundreds of people coming together, building assets, working through creative[...] we're learning every day. I still feel good about it, but I also need to make sure that the security and safety of the teams is the most important thing, and not unduly push when things just aren't ready."

Back at the start of April, Spencer also told IGN that safety and security of Microsoft's teams took priority regarding its evolving plans for the Series X's launch. Then, Spencer also volunteered the example of Halo Infinite. "[343 Industries is] doing a really good job on Halo Infinite right now and they're staying on top of the issues," said Spencer, before emphasizing that game delays could happen without a corresponding console launch delay: "We'll go in eyes wide open on what we're trying to get done, but I don't think we would hold the launch of the platform for any individual game."

Later today, Governor Jay Inslee is expected to announce an extension of Washington's statewide stay-at-home order past May 4, which will certainly factor into Microsoft's plans for a return to in-office work for its key Redmond, WA hardware team and other local teams like 343. Microsoft instructed the majority of its Seattle area workforce to transition to remote work before Washington's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order went into effect on March 23.

Spencer's comments on game production also apply to the Xbox Game Studios teams around the world and Microsoft's global third-party partners. It sounds like the Series X game showcase on May 7 may focus on third-party titles, which could mean we'll be waiting until summer to see gameplay from Halo Infinite, Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2, or other Xbox Games Studios titles coming to Series X.

While Microsoft continues to hold fast to a Holiday 2020 launch for the Series X, Sony has also not indicated a change in plans for the launch of the PlayStation 5. Still, neither company has announced a launch date or price, and a recent report from Bloomberg indicates that PS5 production may be limited to between 5 and 6 million units before March 2021.

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Mathew Olson


Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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