Pretty lengthy interview full of interesting stuff. Among the more interesting stuff, Microsoft isn't trying to dictate right now what can or cannot happen in the future with ZeniMax games because legally, they can't. So people should probably remember that when they read a Microsoft interview and are upset that there is supposed confusion about whether the next Elder Scrolls or DOOM will be Microsoft exclusive. It's also why I have tread carefully when wording the deal, it's not done yet. It won't be done until next year. All that was announced is that they intend to purchase them.
First of all, I would like to say that we haven't acquired ZeniMax. We have announced our intention to acquire ZeniMax. It is going through regulatory approval and we don't see any issues there. We expect early in 2021 the deal will close. But I say that because I want people to know, I'm not sitting down with Todd Howard and Robert Altman and planning their future. Because I'm currently not allowed to do that, that would be illegal. Your question is completely inbound, but I get a lot of questions right now: "is this game exclusive? Is this game exclusive?" And right now, that is not my job in regards to ZeniMax. My job is not to sit down and go through their portfolio and dictate what happens.
Admits that putting games on PC hurts the strength of the Xbox console, but it doesn't really matter in how they measure things:
The fact that we sell our games on PC does undermine one of the value propositions in that it doesn't force somebody to go buy our console. Our high-level goal inside of our team, of how we measure ourselves, is how many people are playing on Xbox. And when we say 'playing on Xbox' it doesn't mean an Xbox console. It means somebody who is logging in and playing a part of our ecosystem, whether first-party or third-party. And it could be on an Android phone. It could be on a Switch. It could be on a PC. That's how we think about it.
A common complaint of GamePass is that Microsoft will supposedly force developers to make cheap games loaded with microtransactions, Papa Phil rejects that nonsense:
We don't dictate at all the business model behind the games that are built, but I will say, I think that a healthy games industry, the more business models works for video games. So I think retail is an important part of video games, I mean I'm buying my games and I want that to continue to flourish. We've seen growth in subscriptions like Game Pass, free-to-play is obviously a huge business model for video games. I think there's other business models we could potentially bring into video games that could help, but the diversity of business models should be a strength for us as an industry. So for first-party, I would like us to kind of experiment with the different models, because I don't think we want to be beholden, as an industry, to one model to rule them all, if we were everything would be free-to-play, because free-to-play is clearly the biggest business model on the planet today, not even close. But I don't think we want one business model, I think we want gamers to have choice in how they engage and pay for the games that they're playing.
Another common "concern" is that GamePass will be loaded with GaaS titles. He thinks the opposite, that a stable of GaaS titles would not benefit GamePass. I agree and have been preaching this for months. The service doesn't work if everyone is just subscribing for one or two games. The strength of the service is in the value it offers, and the value is based on the wealth of content you get access to.
The last thing I want in Game Pass is that there's one game that everybody is playing forever, that's not a gaming content subscription, that's a one-game subscription, that's WoW, right? So for us, having games in the subscription that have a beginning, middle, and end, and then they go on to play the next game, maybe those are single-player narrative-driven games, I just finished Tell Me Why, an amazing game from DontNod, those games can be really strong for us in the subscription. In many ways, they're actually better than one or two games that are soaking up all the engagement in the subscription. I want a long tail of a lot of games that people are playing, and I think the diversity of online multiplayer versus single-player, we have to support the diversity there, and that's my goal. If anything I'd like to see more single-player games from our first-party, just because that over time we've kind of grown organically to be more multiplayer-driven as an organisation.
Also says that he is most excited about the new games from both Compulsion, and The Initiative. I have no idea what Initiative is making, but I have heard from numerous people that the Compulsion game is very innovative and very exciting, can't wait to see what they are making.
There's a lot more in the interview. It's a great read into the mindset of the Xboss and where he is taking Xbox in the future.