If E3 2020 hadn't been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's likely that we'd be learning about release dates and pricing for the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 this week. Those are still some of the biggest questions as we head into next-gen, and what Microsoft and Sony settle on could very well be influenced by the new economic conditions that have emerged. In a new interview, Xbox head Phil Spencer speaks to exactly that idea.
Talking to the BBC, Spencer remains confident that the Series X is in good shape for an "autumn launch" both in terms of its software platform and hardware production despite the pandemic. While that phrasing is a bit different than Microsoft's usual line of Holiday 2020—one which it recently stuck to hard after a page erroneously listed "Thanksgiving 2020"—it doesn't necessarily narrow the release window down much. Still, it's important to recognize as Microsoft HQ enters a fourth month of remote work on the Series X, it's still holding fast to its hardware launch plans.
When asked if he anticipates any other problems, Spencer says it "looks like we're moving into a period of massive economic uncertainty," echoing concerns he first relayed in April. Spencer says Microsoft wants "to be really tuned in to that" as it settles on a price for the console. "How can we make it as affordable as possible? How can we give buyers choice?"
While affirming that Microsoft plans to continue supporting the Xbox One, Spencer mentions the Xbox All Access subscription program for upgrading to a Series X. He also makes a point of highlighting Microsoft's Smart Delivery as a boon for folks who are sticking with the Xbox One for now.
"If this is not the year when a family wants to make a decision to buy a new Xbox, that's OK. Our strategy does not revolve around how many Xboxes I sell this year," says Spencer, a stance he also adopted strongly back in 2019. Microsoft has also gotten behind this idea by emphasizing the performance of its services and stats like time played over hardware sales in recent months.
It's still anyone's guess as to when we'll hear about the pricing for the Series X or PlayStation 5. Sony was planning to have a PS5 game reveal event last week and will likely reschedule it for sometime soon, and Microsoft is set to have a first-party showcase in July where it'd make sense to see details on pricing and release timing. Spencer has indicated that the Series X launch likely won't be pushed back for any game delays, even Halo Infinite, though he's also more concerned about delays to games planned for 2021 and beyond.