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A chat with Phil Spencer about next gen Xbox consoles

Expect backwards compatibility to continue.

During Microsoft's E3 2018 media briefing, Xbox boss Phil Spencer announced work had begun on "the next Xbox consoles". Here's the quote in full:

Xbox boss Phil Spencer on-stage during Microsoft's E3 2018 media briefing.

"The same team that delivered unprecedented performance with Xbox One X is deep into architecting the next Xbox consoles, where we will once again deliver on our commitment to set the benchmark for console gaming."

While confirmation that Microsoft is working on a new set of Xbox consoles (note the plural) wasn't particularly surprising, hearing it come from Phil Spencer's mouth on-stage at this year's E3 was. Why do it now? That's what I asked Spencer during an interview that took place just a few hours after Microsoft's media briefing.

Spencer said he wanted to make a statement: Microsoft is committed to video game consoles. They're here to stay.

"We think people playing great console games is critical to our success," Spencer told Eurogamer.

"It is how most people think of an Xbox. An Xbox is something you plug into your TV. It's the world's most powerful console - I like saying that! - and you get to play great games on your television. I want that to continue. And I don't want that to just continue in words. I want it to continue in action. In the last two years we've shipped the S console, which I love, and the X console - we said what it was going to do, and I love the fact we were able to deliver that.

"Why other people might not want to say, hey, there could actually be another console, when we all know there likely is, is because it's a, hey, I need to keep people buying the console that's there. When people buy an Xbox, they buy into an ecosystem and they become an Xbox fan. Many of the Xbox fans we have today started on the original Xbox, were with us on 360 and they're with us now on Xbox One. I trust their commitment to our devices and our services as we go through this journey with them. So, I'm going to be open with them.

"I don't have anything to announce specifically, but I do want people to know that we're committed to the experience they love, of playing great games on a console on their television, and we think that's an important part of the future of our brand."

Cover image for YouTube videoHalo Infinite - E3 2018 - Announce Trailer

Clearly, Spencer sees video game consoles as a long-term prospect for Microsoft. Indeed, Microsoft's E3 2018 media briefing offers us a glimpse into the future of Xbox and the investment that's going into it. We got a tease for Halo Infinite that was more about announcing 343's new game engine, Slipspace, than the game itself. We got word of a new game streaming tech Microsoft is working on. And we got announcements around studio acquisitions that setup Microsoft Studios to hit the ground running when the next-gen Xbox consoles finally do come out.

New Xbox consoles are on their way. But that's about all we know for now. We don't know what they're called, how powerful they'll be or how they'll work. But Spencer did tell me that backwards compatibility remains an important selling point for Xbox, so expect that to be a feature of the next Xbox consoles.

"What I would say specifically, without announcing anything, is I'm very proud of our track record of compatibility and us respecting the purchase of games you've made with us and bringing that to the current generation," Spencer said. "It is in our core on who we are.

"As you think about this next wave of hardware that eventually will come, so many of the large, large games people are playing today are still going to exist when the next hardware comes out. You're not likely to see a '2' after all those, as people are trying to move you to the next version of those games. In the old model of games shipping, getting played and then going away - and that was all of the games - a console transition was an easy step-function.

"We went through it with Minecraft. We didn't ship Minecraft 2 on Xbox One to try to compel everybody to move to the next console, because that's not what Minecraft players want. They just want Minecraft to get better. When you look at games like PUBG and Fortnite and you think about these large games and ecosystems that'll be out there, when new hardware comes, people are still going to want to play those games, and it's going to be important for us as platforms to support them."

Cover image for YouTube videoWhy Ninja Theory has joined Microsoft Studios

We know the next-generation of consoles is coming. Spencer's confirmed new Xbox consoles are in the works, after all. But will the next-gen of consoles be the last gen?

That's what Yves Guillemot, boss of Assassin's Creed company Ubisoft, claimed in a recent interview. Speaking to Variety, Guillemot said: "There will be one more console generation and then after that, we will be streaming, all of us."

Spencer, though, disagrees.

"I could see why he would say that," he said.

"I'm a little more bullish on people having local hardware to run games for many, many years. What we will find is more people playing the quality of games we're used to seeing on a console on other devices. But that doesn't mean this experience of playing on my television with a great sound system and great frame-rate and great resolution is going to go away that quickly. What you'll see is a diversifying of the places where people can play great content.

"For a lot of us today, there's a certain kind of game we expect on a phone and another kind of game we expect on our console. It's not always true they're separate. You can see PUBG and Fortnite now on the phones doing much better, but a lot of the games there are very casual. I know content developers want to reach as many people as they can with their content. So, I do think as we move forward, more people will be playing more kinds of content on other devices. But television will be one of those.

"We're committed to that."

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Wesley Yin-Poole avatar

Wesley Yin-Poole


Wesley worked at Eurogamer from 2010 to 2023. He liked news, interviews, and more news. He also liked Street Fighter more than anyone could get him to shut up about it.