As we enter the next generation I’ve noticed that the conversation within the XBOX community is centred on specs. Podcast after podcast sees the community delve deep into the importance of TFLOPS. They happily theorize about the complexities of SSD architecture. And often exhibit an unwavering devotion to all things RDNA, NVMA, GPU, and CPU related. But the one topic that seems oddly absent, as we stand on the precipice of a new generation, is actual next generation games. If pushed they’ll mention Halo, Gears, and Forza and like any gamer, all have a short list of IP that they hope is in development. But beyond that specific and narrow outlook, they appear oblivious to the critical component of this hobby, especially in this specific time, games and experiences that capture mindshare.
The Phil Spencer PR effect
However, this isn’t a new trend. For years we’ve watched the XBOX leadership pivot, incrementally, from games that resonate. To a reliance on meaningless PR statements. It’s a strategy that dates back to 2014 when Phil Spencer took over XBOX’s gaming division. And while XBOX fans are quick to point to Microsoft’s purchase of AA studios, they refuse to address the total lack of quality… Meaningless PR is the reason Bleeding Edge looks like Crackdown 3. And why those games share the same soulless graphical style as Grounded and Sea Of Thieves. Or why Gears Tactics at a glance, looks unrecognizable as a Gears game.
In a vacuum these issues seem fixable. However, the crucial flaw with this sub par, PR heavy, approach is that XBOX has a competitor. PlayStation. A company who has manoeuvred throughout this generation with a laser like focus on capturing, harnessing, and building mindshare. Mindshare that has made some within the XBOX community, openly question the metrics that followed PlayStation’s “Future Of Gaming” event. XBOX fans displayed a sense of unease via tweets as the PS5 broke every gaming related metric across every social media platform. Mindshare is the reason why PlayStation 5’s reveal trailer reached 24 million views in 5 days. Doubling the 12 million views that the Series X reveal generated in 6 months.
For XBOX gamers who were nestled in the comfort of Phil Spencer’s PR, Sony’s PlayStation 5 event landed like a short, sharp, and extremely loud wakeup call. The immediate questioning of Phil Spencers latest PR statement, where he suggested that he doesn’t care about Series X console sales… Despite bringing the series X console to market… Might just be the that critical springboard.
But as we hurtle towards a new generation I can’t help but wonder if it’s too little too late?