Microsoft’s Phil Spencer on launching the new Xbox and the future of games

It’s not everyday that someone like Phil Spencer echoes my own arguments on how streaming models have to be different in gaming, not emulate the ones that work in the video space, so it’s multi-quote time. That said, this is a very good interview you can either read or listen to and I advise you to do so. There are many interesting tidbits for a whole range of topics.

Moving on.

When I play it out, I want to get to the world — you’ve seen developers, it’s been great as Game Pass has grown, start to come out and say, look, Game Pass is actually a critical part of the discovery process of my game. It’s actually created business opportunity for me. Which isn’t true in video and music today. Because when certain people try to call Game Pass the Netflix of, or the Spotify of, there is a fundamental difference that …

Calling Xbox Game Pass (or even Apple Arcade for that matter) the Netflix of Games is, I believe factually wrong and, at times, borderline dangerous for the understanding of the market by consumers and professionals alike. The moment we leave behind media that are bits sent to us once we hit play and we move to media that have us send bits back to someone else, everything changes and nothing scales up the same way. There is not way around that.

We invest in our first-party [games] as a catalyst for growth. In the end, I do know that most of the games, just like most of the games that are played on an Xbox, should be third parties. Those third parties have to build a healthy business on Game Pass. Otherwise, it doesn’t work.

This is the exact opposite of what video streaming is all about nowadays. Can’t be less like Netflix than this.

We can actually raise the visibility of the content. That’s just not true in the video space. There’s definitely some third-party series that I’ve found season 1 and 2 on Netflix. Then I’ll go to watch [it] on the studio’s service or even on broadcast, if it’s something that’s on broadcast. I just don’t think the video companies were there to catch that growth in Friends. You think about something like The Office or Friends or these things that were critical parts of Netflix growing, I think the opportunity that was missed there, and I’m not disparaging anybody, but if you’re going to grow a bunch of interest in Friends because it hit Netflix, what do you do with people’s interest when they get to the last episode that’s on Netflix?

I too argued that gluttony of content, much like what we encounter in video and music streaming services can be counterproductive, that curation is critical and can make or break games, a reality that is vital in gaming, much more so than in video.

I will say, and this is a healthy thing for Game Pass — it’s true, it sounds like, of Apple Arcade as well — the No. 1 metric that we see that drives success of Game Pass is hours played. It’s not catalog size.

I’ve had to push back numerous times when someone shows up to insist that Xbox Game Pass’s value (and any similar service’s value of course) is directly tied to the depth of its catalog. I didn’t have numbers to back this up, just a feeling. Microsoft has numbers. Feel free to argue against numbers. I can wait.

Lost “Sega VR” game unearthed, made playable on modern VR headsets

Gamers from that era likely heard about Sega VR, as the game publisher’s PR push included plenty of mentions in gaming magazines, a public reveal at 1993’s Summer CES, and even a segment on ABC’s Nightline. But the ambitious device, slated to launch at a mere $199, was quietly canceled, and former Sega President Tom Kalinske eventually confirmed why: researchers found the device made a huge percentage of testers sick with headaches and dizziness.

The good old days. When products were being announced before doing any R&D first. 15fps. Imagine that.

Exclusive: Foxconn to shift some Apple production to Vietnam to minimise China risk

Taiwanese manufacturers, wary of being caught up in the tit-for-tat trade war, have moved or are considering moving some production from China to countries such as Vietnam, Mexico and India.

This has been going on for a while and you can expect the trend to continue. A number of companies being so heavily reliant on a single country’s manufacturing capability was never a recipe for perpetual success. India has been playing quite the hardball as it requires more and more that foreign products have to be manufactured domestically if they are to be sold to Indian customers.

Controller use on Steam has doubled in past two years

Games that lend themselves to controllers can “easily” see 60% of Steam players using pads, Valve said, while certain genres like skateboarding games can see that number go “well over 90%.”

The keyboard/mouse combo will become the niche. An awesome niche that will probably never go away but a niche nonetheless. In time, ergonomics beat familiarity. Then again DVORAK lost the battle to QWERTY so, hey, maybe there’s hope yet for PC elitists.

Steam Shows CPU Core Counts Slowly, Finally, Creeping Upwards

Despite its flaws, the Steam Hardware Survey remains our best source of information for this kind of data. As always, keep in mind that the SHS is a survey of every machine on which Steam is installed, not every computer used to play games. If you download Steam to a low-end laptop to install a game like League of Legends or Darkest Dungeon, it counts for just as much as if you build a dedicated gaming rig and bring it online for the first time.

Keep this caveat in mind. Though I feel I have to point out that a laptop used to run League Of Legends is still a system used for gaming and it feels more nonsensical to not count it than count it.

While quad-cores are still the most popular configuration by far, 36.63 percent of the market now uses six cores or more. If you want to see games using more CPU cores in the future, moving the needle on median CPU core count is how we’ll get there.

Consoles have had (crappy) 8-core CPUs since 2013. In 2020 we got consoles with actually good 8-core CPUs. In the same year, 4 cores are still the most popular CPU choice in the PC space with 6 or more cores at second place and the upward trend clear and inevitable. One has to wonder which segment was it that’s pushed game developers more aggressively towards better workload threading over the last decade? Was it the PC or the console lot? I know where I’d put my money.