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Phil Spencer: "There is no world where Starfield is an 11 out of 10 and people start selling their PS5s"

"That's not going to happen."

A Starfield screenshot showing a pilot in their spaceship cockpit, mountains visible in the distance through the glass.
Image credit: Bethesda

Xbox boss Phil Spencer has insisted making great games won't help Microsoft catch up to Sony and Nintendo in the console race.

Microsoft's Xbox Series X and S currently lag behind Sony's PlayStation 5 and the Nintendo Switch, with sales struggling.

And after the disastrous launch of Redfall - something Spencer has personally apologised for - Microsoft faces increasingly tough questions over Microsoft's ability to regularly release high quality triple-A games, and the future growth of subscription service Game Pass.

In a video interview with Kinda Funny Games, below, Spencer explained why he believes Bethesda's Starfield potentially being a superb game will do little to help turn things around for Xbox.

Kinda Funny Games interviews Phil Spencer.Watch on YouTube

"There is no world where Starfield is an 11 out of 10 and people start selling their PS5s," he said. "That's not going to happen."

But why not? Why wouldn't great first-party games from Xbox move the needle? According to Spencer, Xbox's fate was sealed after it lost the last generation.

"We lost the worst generation to lose in the Xbox One generation, where everybody built their digital library of games," Spencer said.

"We want our Xbox community to feel awesome, but this idea that if we just focused more on great games on our console that somehow we're gonna win the console race, doesn't relate to the reality of most people.

"Like 90 percent of the people every year who walk into a retailer to buy a console are already a member of one of the three ecosystems. And their digital library is there. This is the first generation where the big games they're playing were games that were available last-gen. When you think about Fortnite and Roblox and Minecraft, the continuity from generation to generation is so strong.

"I see a lot of pundits out there who want to go back to the time when we all had cartridges and discs, and every new generation was a clean slate, and you could switch the whole console share. That's just not the world we are in today."

Zoe runs through six reasons Redfall is a massive disappointment.Watch on YouTube

Because of this, Spencer insisted, Microsoft is trying to pitch a unique offering, one that includes Game Pass, cloud gaming and the idea games can be played on any device by everyone. "We're not in the business of out consoling Sony or out consoling Nintendo," Spencer said, before admitting it has little chance of competing with its rivals.

"There isn't really a great solution or win for us," he said. "And I know that will upset a tonne of people. But the truth of the matter is when you're third place in the console marketplace, and the top two players are as strong as they are and have in certain cases very discrete focus on doing deals and other things that make being Xbox hard for us as a team - that's on us, not anybody else - our vision is that everybody who's on console has to feel like they have a great experience and they're a first-class citizen, they've invested a tonne in our platform, but we are not in a position...

"... and I see it out there, I see commentary, that if you just build great games everything would turn around. It's just not true that if we go off and build great games all of a sudden you're going to see console share shift in some dramatic way.

"We have this unique vision because we see what creators want to do. Creators want to build games that can meet players on any screen. People play with their friends regardless of whatever screen they're on. And the console is the core of the Xbox brand. There's no doubt. So we will stay focused on making sure that console experience is awesome.

"But I know some people want to hold us up as just being a better green version of what the blue guys do. I'm just going to say, there's not a win for Xbox in staying in the wake of somebody else. We have to go off and do our own thing, with Game Pass, with the stuff we do with xCloud and the way we build our games."

Redfall on Xbox - the Digital Foundry console tech review. PC is to follow and the early signs are not looking favourable there either, unfortunately.Watch on YouTube

It's important to contextualise Spencer's comments by pointing to Microsoft's proposed $69bn buyout of Activision Blizzard.

The Competition and Markets Authority's shock decision to block the takeover infuriated Microsoft executives, who declared it "bad for Britain".

As part of its attempt to convince regulators to approve the deal, Microsoft has painted a dim picture of Xbox as it competes with Sony and Nintendo. Spencer's comments here reinforce this message - he is talking to regulators as much as he is talking to Xbox owners.

There is now immense pressure on Microsoft's upcoming Showcase event and Starfield direct in June to help convince disgruntled fans that the future of Xbox is bright.

"When I look at Showcase - and I'm not going to try and oversell Showcase here - I'm very enthusiastic about Showcase," Spencer said. "We're going to announce some things people haven't seen, some new games, we're going to give some updates to some things."

What can fans expect from Xbox in the future? "We've got Starfield coming, we've got Forza coming, we've got Hellblade coming, we've got collections of games, I'm seeing very good builds of Avowed... I can see it," Spencer teased. "But, until you have a controller in your hand and you're smiling from playing our games, none of my words should matter."

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