Last Thursday's Xbox Games Showcase saw Microsoft pushing hard with Game Pass, console launch exclusives, and early looks at new titles from first-party teams including Rare, Obsidian, and Fable inheritors Playground Games. For some, it under-delivered on Microsoft's vision for its next-gen tech. In a new interview, Head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty argues that "technology is out of the way," letting teams focus more on the content of titles and less on particular limitations or advancements from a new console.
Booty caught up with The Guardian shortly after the presentation last week, and his comments about tech and Xbox's current ecosystem go beyond the Series X to touch on Game Pass and 5G delivery as well. As for the games we saw in-action during the showcase, Booty says hardware is less of a determinant or limiting factor for design now.
"In previous generations, the hardware and its limitations would leave a pretty clear fingerprint on a game," he says. "I remember the first early games that used sprite scaling and then suddenly every game had all these objects flying around the screen. You'd build a game around technical advances like that. But now we're at the point with the tech where we can just let the stories and the characters that the teams have in mind reach the screen."
Rather than talk up the Series X's GPU, ray tracing capabilities or other graphical advancements, Booty goes on to praise the growing speed and ease of digital delivery as paired with Game Pass. Booty even draws a comparison to Netflix, a model that Xbox Head Phil Spencer actually distanced Microsoft's approach from earlier this year.
"[Through] 5G, delivery is another thing we hope just gets out of the way," Booty says. "That's one of the beauties of online services like Netflix—you can browse so readily, it's instant. If you don't like one thing, you can move on to the next without much penalty. I think we're inching up on that with games."
With Halo Infinite's campaign demo raising tech limitation questions about Microsoft's cross-gen plans, plus the seeming confirmation that a handful of upcoming first-party titles such as Avowed will be Series X console exclusives, it may not be surprising to see Booty focus on how tech is improving accessibility to games and less on advances in fidelity. This year will see Project xCloud rolled into Xbox Game Pass; if the launch is successful early on, it will likely further drive Microsoft's emphasis on its services over a focus on a single platform like Series X.
Certainly, Microsoft's tech for the Series X remains formidable, and with reports of another new console on the way, deemphasizing the X's bells and whistles may make more sense as the company trickles out more details on its next-gen ecosystem. The company also reportedly plans to upgrade xCloud to Series X hardware next year.