Xbox Loves You. Yes, You, the Individual Reading This

Xbox Loves You. Yes, You, the Individual Reading This

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | Phil Spencer takes pandering to new heights as Project xCloud is added to Game Pass Ultimate.

It was another Microsoft-heavy week for next-gen news, as the biggest PS5 happening of the week was a Geoff Keighley stream showing off the PS5 controller. Perhaps Sony wanted people's focus on the current generation instead and today's launch of possibly the last big triple-A PS4 exclusive, Ghost of Tsushima.

As for Microsoft, it teased next week's Xbox Games Showcase and perhaps more significantly, announced how it was going to monetize its Project xCloud streaming service, and that's to include it in Game Pass Ultimate.

That's good news for Game Pass subscribers, but I hated the way it was revealed.

QUOTE | "Our vision has one hero at the heart of it all: You." – Head of Xbox Phil Spencer cranks the knob labelled "pandering" all the way to 11 in a post announcing that Project xCloud streaming would be included in Game Pass Ultimate at no additional charge.

I've heard gaming execs embarrassingly butter up their customers before, but I don't think any of them have been quite this brazen about it. The language alone would be hilarious if it weren't so straight-faced.

Microsoft has a "vision," not a business strategy. And this vision has a "hero," a noble and just savior instead of a customer, a consumer, or even a gamer. That hero is at the "heart" of the vision, the essential organ pumping life into the entire thing. And finally, that hero is "You," the individual reading this who is considering spending hundreds of dollars on a new box to hook up to the TV to entertain yourself.

Gaming fandom is already plenty toxic. We already have too many people believing that simply consuming games gives them ownership over the medium itself, some right to say who is or isn't a real gamer, who games are and aren't for. The last thing we need is to have more consumers being told they are the sun around which this $100 billion-plus global industry revolves, the lone hero at the heart of the vision.

Spencer's pandering is a drop in the ocean, but it would be nice to see prominent and powerful people in the industry doing what they can to make things better rather than worse.

QUOTE | "All games will look and play best on Xbox Series X—whether they come from our 15 Xbox Game Studios, like Halo Infinite, or from our world-class publisher and developer partners." – Spencer in the same post, promising something he cannot know to be true and is almost certainly false – that every last Xbox Series X game will be equal to or superior to its PC and PS5 counterparts—while being legally protected by the utterly subjective nature of whether something looks better or plays better on one platform or another.

QUOTE | "Seen some wild expectations so if helpful this show has one focus, games. No business, devices or similar news, just games. A whole show about hour long focused on games. Hope you enjoy it!" – Xbox marketing head Aaron Greenberg confirms next week's Xbox Games Showcase won't have Xbox Series X pricing or release date news, or any news on the rumored Xbox Series S.

QUOTE | "I don't have regrets. You make decisions with the best information you have at the time, you apply your best effort, and we're in a creative industry. We are in a hits-driven industry. And if we get into this space that we get afraid of disappointment that we won't achieve what we're trying to achieve as an organisation." – Phil Spencer says he has no regrets about Mixer, the livestreaming Twitch competitor that is shutting down next week, less than four years after Microsoft acquired it and less than a year after signing a multi-year exclusivity deal with Tyler "Ninja" Blevins reported to be worth $20 million to $30 million.

QUOTE | "By making streaming into a feature a large proportion of users will have access to, it allows developers to think about how to leverage that remarkable new portability in the plans for their next-gen titles, rather than merely treating it as a headache of how to make their existing titles playable with bad input lag and video encoding artifacts." - GamesIndustry.biz's Rob Fahey sees Microsoft's xCloud play as a cautious evolution of gaming rather than the table-tossing disruption some streaming services are promising, but one that could produce better results.

QUOTE | "As we ramp into the future with Xbox Series X, we're taking the natural step of stopping production on Xbox One X and Xbox One S All-Digital Edition." – Microsoft confirms that only the Xbox One S remains from its current-gen console lineup.

QUOTE | "The minute you second-guessed or criticized or disagreed, it's almost like you put a mark on your back and all of a sudden life was hell." – One of 14 current or former employees with QA studio GlobalStep who spoke with GamesIndustry.biz and accused studio management of numerous misdeeds, including "ghosting" up to 30 employees, not paying people correctly, and fostering a culture of misogyny.

QUOTE | "The Montreal HR boss intervened and said: 'These articles are unfair, and if Yves [Guillemot, Ubisoft's CEO] doesn't share a public statement that exonerates HR, it's simple, I will leave Ubisoft with half of my team.' After this, all his right-hand staff fell in line: 'I agree', 'I agree'..." – An Ubisoft employee in a meeting with about 90 of the company's HR managers describes how some HR staff threatened to resign if the company didn't find someone else to blame for the litany of horror stories women have come forward with accusing various Ubisoft employees and executives of sexual misconduct and other unacceptable behavior.

QUOTE | "Ubisoft will be appointing a new Global Head of HR to replace Cécile Cornet, who has decided to step down from this role, as she believes it is in the best interest of the Company's unity." – In response to the allegations, Ubisoft takes its former HR head out of that position, although she will remain with the company. It was part of the same executive shake-up where Ubisoft announced that chief creative officer (and the subject of numerous accusations) Serge Hascoët would be leaving the company, as would Yannis Mallat, the CEO of Ubisoft's Canadian studios, where a number of transgressions took place.

QUOTE | "A search for her replacement will begin immediately, led by an industry-leading recruiting firm. In parallel, the Company is restructuring and strengthening its HR function in order to adapt it to the new challenges of the video game industry." – Immediately after the previous quote, Ubisoft implies the solution here is to stop women going public with stories of abuse (the only "new challenge" this whole scenario presents for HR) rather than to stop the abuse of women (which many of the stories show has been happening for a very long time).

QUOTE | "Our world today has a changing level of interaction and communication, which we believe can be used to create incredible esports events and encourage Americans to work together in new ways." - Harena Data chief strategy officer Bill Dever explained why the company is bringing back the drive-in theater concept to host esports competitions, proving once again that 2020 is Nostradamus-proof.

QUOTE | "Per our Terms of Service, promotions on Twitch must comply with all applicable laws. This promotion did not comply with our Terms, and we have required them to remove it." – A Twitch spokesperson explains why it shut down a U.S. Army contest where the link for the contest registration form was actually directing users to an Army recruitment form with no mention of the contest.

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Brendan Sinclair

North American Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry International in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at CBS-owned GameSpot in the US.

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