Phil Spencer on-stage at E3.
New Xbox boss Phil Spencer has discussed his 26-year career at Microsoft and how he intends to take Xbox One forward in a new video interview with Major Nelson.
Spencer, who started at Microsoft in 1988 as a software development intern from the University of Washington, joined the Xbox team when Ed Fries, one of the creators of the first Xbox console, asked him to work with developers on Xbox games.
Spencer worked with then Lionhead chief Peter Molyneux on fantasy role-playing game Fable and Brian Reynolds on real-time strategy game Rise of Nations in the early days of Xbox.
But his favourite game he’s worked on is 2003 original Xbox title Voodoo Vince, created by designer Clayton Kauzlaric.
“It’s the first game my daughters and I finished together, where my daughters really felt they were part of us solving the puzzles in the game,” Spencer said. “I’ve worked on Halos, Gears of Wars, Forzas, just fantastic games, but to me it’s about the memories that are created and the fun you have.
“I’ll always remember Voodoo Vince and finishing it with my daughters… That was an amazing soundtrack.”
Spencer was named new boss of Xbox last month after a shake-up at Microsoft triggered by the arrival of new CEO Satya Nadella.
His promotion came after a tumultuous year for Xbox that saw Microsoft U-turn on a number of key Xbox One policies, including always-online DRM and having to have the Kinect plugged in at all times. While the Xbox One is selling faster than its predecessor, the Xbox 360, it’s currently being outsold by its competitor the PlayStation 4 in a number of key markets, including the UK.
Now, Spencer is pushing the core gaming angle of the Xbox One, saying his intention is for it to be the “best gaming console for fans”.
“The discussions I’ve had with Satya about this role and what Xbox means, we have the ambition to build the best gaming console for fans,” he said. “A gaming console that plays the best games and has the best entertainment. To be in a company that has the resource, ambition and the drive to make that happen, that’s incredibly motivating for me.”
The former Microsoft Studios chief has already combined the Xbox, Xbox Live and creative teams, which include Xbox Music, Xbox Video and Microsoft Studios. Previously, Xbox Live operated independently of Microsoft Studios – a frustration for some developers.
This reorganisation, Spencer said, was an attempt to rekindle the impact the original Xbox Live service had on the console landscape.
“We’d launched the console and there was this port on the back that we weren’t really using for online gameplay,” he said. “We knew it was going to light up later. We had a bunch of games lined up: NFL Fever, Mech Assault, Halo 2, things we knew would rely on Xbox Live, but we really didn’t know Xbox Live would turn into what it is today.
“That feedback loop we found between the game creators, the console and the platform team, is really what I’m striving for now in bringing all those teams together, to create those magical moments where the creators are impacting the platform and the platform is pushing on the creators. It’s a unique capability we have that I think leads to the best product for fans and for creators alike.”
All eyes now turn to E3 in June, where Microsoft is expected to announce a raft of new Xbox One games. In his interview with Major Nelson, Spencer, who praised the likes of Xbox Live Arcade hit Limbo, Press Play’s Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, teased one new game set to be revealed on stage that sounds similar in tone to those titles.
“We’ve got a game we haven’t announced yet that we’re going to show on stage at E3, but I was looking at it yesterday,” he said. “It’s another fantastic setting and there’s a soulful feeling to the game.”