Transparency and proactive messaging have been common threads with Head of Xbox Phil Spencer for a while now, especially as Microsoft has geared up to launch the Series X and in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. In recent months, Spencer has been forthcoming on how the pandemic may impact software more than hardware, and recently, he clarified that he thinks games planned for 2021 and beyond are being slowed more.
In a Business Insider interview from last week, Spencer explains that games in the final stages of development have certain vital assets locked down that those planning to release about a year or more from now may not. "Through the summer, early fall? I feel pretty good about those games," says Spencer. "Games that were targeting a year from now or beyond? There'll be some impact, but they'll be able to react."
As for particular game dev tasks that can't or aren't yet being handled via remote working solutions, Spencer points to motion capture and "large audio work." The former has "basically stopped," he says. Likewise, projects yet to record something like a symphonic score will probably need to wait until recording studios can reopen. Xbox is not alone in seeing issues for games several months or over a year out from launch—it seems Nintendo is also likely to quietly delay some future Switch titles.
"It's really in those [types of] games that were trying to finally get all their asset base together in terms of art production that they might have the biggest impact," Spencer concludes.
While this optimism about near-term releases fits with Spencer's other recent comments about software production during the pandemic, Spencer says that the end of the year and launch of the Xbox Series X could still look different as a result of the pandemic. In April, Spencer told IGN he doesn't think the Series X's release would move for "any individual game" delay, and while speaking with Business Insider he again suggests the possibility of "some things that were going to launch, and maybe they moved a little bit."
Hardware-wise, Spencer still has a positive outlook, noting that he continues to play on his take-home test Series X most evenings. Spencer has had a test unit at home since December, shortly before the Series X's public reveal, which suggests that Microsoft had locked down key elements of the design at least a year before its planned launch. Sony, meanwhile, has indicated it is also on track for launching the PS5 in Holiday 2020.
Last week's showcase of Series X titles may have underwhelmed and reignited debate about what constitutes gameplay footage, but Xbox has multiple chances to wow players between now and the end of the year. Microsoft is planning to hold game showcases every month through the rest of the year, and July's show will focus on Xbox Game Studios titles including Halo: Infinite and unannounced projects coming to the Series X.