On the latest episode of The Game Maker’s Notebook hosted by Ted Price (President and CEO of Insomniac Games), Phil Spencer (Executive VP of Gaming for Microsoft and Head of Xbox) stopped by and had much to say about broader topics that impact the gaming industry.
If you haven’t listened to the episode yet, we would highly recommend it. In terms of gaming industry presence and notoriety, Spencer is near the top. His accessibility is notable and his concepts and ideas of the larger scope of “gaming” have helped move the industry forward.
There are many notable quotes, but here are the ones that stuck out to us as the most meaningful.
With regard to how designers can develop games so that it feels as though the controller goes away in your hands…IE seamless control of on-screen inputs.
Price: “I think that’s a really important part for designers to keep in mind.” he continued “As we move into, potentially, a new generation of interfaces, that seems even more important”
Spencer: “I think the canvas for how people are going to control games going forward…where the line between where you play a game and the input on that device…is getting blurry. If you look at a massively successful game like Fortnite, what device is Fortnite played on? The answer is kind of…yes”.
With regard to accessibility to gaming, Spencer’s belief that gaming is innately “good”, and that we are better off as an industry when more people can participate.
Price: “Does that permeate the organization? Not just controlling games, but the features within games. Has Microsoft made a bigger and bigger effort within studios to be a leader in terms of the features games provide?”
Spencer: “I’d probably take a step back on the word leader. What we want to be is a catalyst for the conversation.” he continued “Now we have a large enough first-party organization that the decisions that we make and being public about those decisions can be light posts for other people as they’re making their decisions and building their games. I think as an industry we’ve got a long way to go. I think gaming is a leader here.” he continued “I think about how many kids have their first online social interaction in a game like Minecraft and what can we do as an industry to set some of those social norms early on.”
With regard to the amount of cynicism that can be found online in today’s industry and how to challenge that as developers and organizations.
Price: “There’s a lot of cynicism that’s just amplified by everything that’s available online. And to attack that cynicism in an authentic way, you really have to be transparent.”
Spencer: “That’s right.
Price: “If we’re completely one-sided either way, overly positive or overly negative, it doesn’t work that well.”
Spencer: “You lose objectivity. Like I said, I think one to one we do.” he continued “The more public we are, the more we own the opportunities that we see so it’s not some senator or somebody in the EU or somebody in the press who feels like they’re trying to point out something we’re trying to hide, I think it’s just better for us to be transparent. We say there’s social responsibility in the social aspects of gaming, we also have to say there are negative aspects to the social aspect of gaming. They’re real and we have to tackle them.”
With regard to developers and studios communicating with one another openly to thus learn from one another and collaborate more broadly for the good of the industry.
Price: “I think the next step, which would be exciting and in both of our fantasy worlds, would be for us to cross the lines between giant organizations. We should be talking to The Intitiative.” he continued “It would be great to talk to Stadia developers, I mean, there’s so much that we share in terms of challenges that have nothing to do with the technology and have nothing to do with the platforms we’re on.”
Spencer: “This is one I would say for you at some point in the next three or four months they should flip the microphone on you to talk about the experience for Insomniac and Sony.” he continued “What does it mean to be running a successful independent studio for such a long time and all of the learning, struggles, successes that have been part of that, and how is it now different.”
With regard to how games can be monetized and how that’s continuing to evolve over time.
Spencer: “I think for us as an industry, we should embrace monetization dexterity because I think it leads to the best creativity.” he continued “When I think about monetization, I really think about how I acquire the ability to play.” he continued “I think as we reach new pockets of the planet with new players, with their own lifestyles and monetization and the amount of cash flow they want to apply to gaming, we as an industry should be flexible in thinking about people playing.”
As we noted, it is a fantastic interview with both Price and Spencer and we highly suggest you give it a listen if you appreciate the broader topics of the gaming industry (as we’re sure our readers do!).