Xbox's Phil Spencer Says 2021's Games Are More Likely to Feel Impact of the Pandemic

Xbox's Phil Spencer Says 2021's Games Are More Likely to Feel Impact of the Pandemic

Spencer sheds light on what's not keeping pace during the pandemic.

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.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

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.

In other news

Halo 3 Gets New Armor in the Master Chief Collection, But Many Aren't Happy About It

The new additions look out of place to many, but 343 says a toggle option is being explored.

NPD: PS5 Sets New US Console Launch Records While Switch Holds Strong

A strong debut for Sony hasn't stopped Switches from flying off shelves.

The Last of Us Part 2 Takes Home Top Prize at The Game Awards: Here Are All the Winners

Hades, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and Among Us did get some well-earned love too.

Perfect Dark Revival Unveiled at The Game Awards

Joanna's back in a new story conceived by The Initiative.

Need help?

Call of Duty Modern Warfare Weapons Tier List

Here's our guide compiling the Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2019 weapons list, including all weapon unlock levels, and more.

Borderlands 3 Shift Codes List (August 2020)

All the info you need on getting and redeeming SHiFT Codes in Borderlands 3, plus how to get Golden Keys to earn loot.

Destiny 2 Xenophage Quest - How to Get the New Xenophage Machine Gun

This is how to complete the Destiny 2 Xenophage quest, including all puzzles, and more.

Apex Legends Wattson - Abilities, Skins, How to Win With Wattson Apex Legends

This is our guide to Wattson in Apex Legends, featuring all her legendary skins, new abilities, tips, and more.