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When there's more than a 10 million install base difference between two products, it's pretty safe to say that the generation has been decided. Xbox's head honcho Phil Spencer has reluctantly admitted that Sony will likely win this generation with the PS4.
Videogamer.com transcribed a healthy portion of dialogue from an interview Spencer had during the 2015 GeekWire summit. While he's usually confident when he answers questions, he was a little reluctant engaging about whether or not the PS4 would win the eighth generation of home console gaming, especially with the PS4 leading with more than 23 million units sold while the Xbox One is still under 15 million. According to Spencer...
You know, the length of the generation... They [Sony] have a huge lead and they have a good product. I love the content, the games line-up that we have
Spencer, however, quickly shifted off of the Xbox being in second place to a more pertinent topic of discussion: how they ended up in second place.
The Xbox boss talks about how demoralized the team was due to a few decisions that were made up at the top of the executive chain and how it affected everyone, from the team of engineers, to the product managers to the customers.
Spencer even takes a moment to make a pointed shot at former Microsoft executive Don Mattrick and the few interviews he gave that not only set the Xbox fanbase ablaze with indignation but also made Microsoft come across as truly anti-consumer, saying...
I sit back and I think about an [organization] of thousands of people, you're down in the organization and some words and some actions from executives kinda just trash all the work that you've done over the last three years, many weekends and nights, and you start to question why am I doing this? Why am I working so hard when a few crass comments can actually position our product more directly than any work that the team was doing?
That's branding for you.
The thing is is that it wasn't just comments from Don Mattrick, but a build-up of events. There was the Diablo 3 fiasco, the SimCity DRM fallout and an entire year's worth of rumors positioning Microsoft as having a DRM-laden game console. The gaming community was having none of it.
People just wanted to know they were buying a product where they could play their games.
After Spencer took over he mentions in the interview that the number one task was to regain the trust of his employees and staff (they're gamers too). After that it was about re-branding the Xbox as a games console and not as an entertainment hub where you watch TV on your TV (which was how it was first introduced).
But the most striking quote from Spencer as to how they ended up behind Sony had nothing to do with Sony, it was about what the Xbox One's purpose was and who it served. Spencer stated...
Whether it's always-on, used games, whatever the feature was, we lost the trust in them that they were at the center of our decision-making process, were we building a product for us, or were we building a product for the gamers? And as soon as that question came into people's minds and they looked at anything, whether it was the power of our box, our launch line-up, microtransactions, any of the features that you talked about, what you find is very quickly you lose the benefit of the doubt. You lose your customer's assumption that the reason you're building your product is to delight them and not just build a better and more maybe manipulative product.
Brilliant... absolutely brilliant.
Spencer has his thumb on the pulse of the gaming community. He sees the feedback, he listens to consumers (a lot) and actually knows gaming. Heck, he has some pretty mean stats in Destiny, and he's abnormally good in the PvP... like e-sports champion-tier good.
Gamers love him and the brand has seen a huge turnaround with him at the helm. People no longer call it the DRM Box One, or the Xbox Fail, or the Xbox Done. The community shows more ambivalence towards the Xbox One than they do negativity, which while it sounds bad it's better than where the product was two years ago (or even a year ago).
Winning this generation is not on the table but I imagine by the end of eighth gen the Xbox could be positioned in a positive light with the mind-share of the gaming community and if Microsoft plays their cards right they could have a beastly launch with their next console.