Q: How is Xbox One being received by the media and gamers in Japan?
Phil Spencer: We have a long history in Japan, from original Xbox, to the Xbox 360 and Kinect, we've been here for about a decade. Support from creators has been great. TGS seems like there's a lot of excitement this year. With two consoles launching I think the interest and excitement going on right now is pretty incredible.
Q: What titles here are really catching people’s attention?
Spencer: Well, obviously we're the first day, and it's the press. And press – you know how they are.
Q: Cards stay close, sure.
Spencer: We had a tremendous E3. Xbox One exclusives won more awards than any other console. Titanfall, an Xbox console exclusive, won more awards than any game in E3 history. Gamescom was good. The thing that I love about these events – Gamescom and TGS – everything's kit, consumers are here, you're handing them a controller and they get to play. It's less about goons like me talking and more people playing the games and telling you what they think. So I think it's a really exciting time as we're going towards launch.
It's exciting out there on the floor. I was watching some people play Crimson Dragon, some goods lines for that, a game built here in Japan, and it's always good to see that.
Q: It's the sort of game, or a style of game, that very much appeals to Japan, too.
Spencer: Yeah. Futatsugi-san who is the creator of the game, is a friend of mine, I've known him for a very long time. He was one of the original creators of Panzer Dragoon, which is kind of, you can see, it's a spiritual successor to that. And I think you're exactly right, it feels very much like a Japanese game. But, the nice thing now, is with no region locking and other things on the console, those games can find a global audience, and do well in Japan and even outside Japan.
Q: Is more Japanese games something that you want to push for the Xbox One?
Spencer: Yeah, you know, I look back at a lot of the trends in gaming and I find that a lot of them started here in Japan. Obviously, Nintendo has a very deep history of success in Japan, you think about Pokémon, collectibles, and platformers.
Q: That said, you don't actually have a release yet for the Xbox One in Japan?
Spencer: Yeah, we don't have our date locked yet for Japan, which is the reason, actually, we're not announcing it. We're saying 2014, committed, we know we can land it in 2014.
Xbox One is a full entertainment product. It's more than just getting games that run in the Japanese language. You've got the voice model, the voice response, you've got all the entertainment content and services, the marketplace service capability that you want to have put in place.
Q: Are you happy with where Xbox is at in Australia and New Zealand?
Spencer: Australia's been a great success for us with Xbox 360, and you see us investing in content. Forza has been big down there and we’ve announced the Bathurst track.
I think there's still opportunity for us to grow in Australia. We want to make sure we're obviously there on launch and making sure we have great content and great services.
Q: In some regions, you’re launching the Xbox One just slightly before the PlayStation 4. Is that a big deal for you? Do you think that little bit of time advantage will help in terms of competition or do you think it's not a big factor?
Spencer: The way I think about this, and I've been doing this for awhile, this holiday is actually not the big, competitive holiday. There are some great PlayStation fans out there, some great Xbox fans out there, and I think they're kind of going to make their choices based on the platform they love, the exclusives that they love. And I really think about this as a competition if you want to look at it that way. I mean, really for us, the competition is gaining the hearts and minds of the gamers. But I think it will play out over a couple of years, when you really think about those kind of swing voters that are making choices in the second holiday, the third holiday. I don't think a week or so, plus or minus, is really the swing in terms of the whole platform lifecycle.
Q: Platforms sometimes come out with a dozen launch games, and then there’s nothing for six months. How have you prepared for that?
Spencer: If I look back at the Xbox 360 launch, as a first party we had three or four games at launch, depending on what region you were in.
I thought we took too long before our next great games came out. This year, and this generation, I really took a two and three year view on our portfolio. And I think we've got a great launch line-up, we also have great games coming. We have D4 coming in February, we've got Titanfall coming later on in the spring. We've announced Halo, Quantum Break, and Sunset Overdrive. Black Tusk is working on a new game. So we've started to give gamers an insight into other games that are going on.
We're working on this thing called Project Spark, I don't know if you've seen it. Project Spark is actually, maybe I'll call it an App, It's a creation experience.
It has a high level programming language in it. Creation tools, so that I, or a kid, can create all the terrain, all the characters in a game, create their own story. I can do this on Windows or I can do it on console. And when I'm done with what I've created, I can share it with my friends. So I can actually send you what I created in Project Sparkand then you can go play it on a different device.
When you unlock the creative potential of people with these consoles, it's different to a sim, different that a first-person shooter or something else. Project Spark, to me, has the potential to just create this whole kind of ecosystem of creators. And as a father, I love that, I love the fact that my kids can actually get something. I have two daughters, and they can create their own worlds, their own characters and then share those stories and those gameplay segments with a friend.
Q: How important to are indie games to Xbox One?
Spencer: I mean they're huge now. One of the things I like to say, and I haven't built the data point on this, so I don't know if it's right, so it's just a “Philism”, but I look at phone, tablet, PC, consoles, I think we probably have more people playing games on the planet than we've ever had, whether it's Plants vs. Zombies on my phone or Clash of Clans on my iPad or Call of Duty on like Xbox, right?
One of our partners, Ska Studios, they just did a XBLA came called Charlie Murder, it's really fun game.
Q: I've seen it but I haven't played it.
Spencer: Yeah, it's a husband and wife team. It's literally two people that do that game. And that's what they do. You think, what a great time in our industry, where two people can go create a game, do a digital marketplace and find hundreds of thousands of customers. They're doing fine, they're making a living, putting food on the table, building games. That connection with small independent studios that are finding success on phone and tablet, bringing it to console, I think is incredibly important to us. Small games, medium games, big games, I think there's a world for all of those.
Q: What are some of the big games that you’re looking at from indie developers? Are there titles that you can shout out now that are what you're really looking forward to seeing on Xbox One?
Spencer: I'll pick two. One I have no affiliation with, but I finished it last weekend and I love it. It's called Brothers and it's by a Scandinavian called Starbreeze. It came out on Xbox Live Arcade. It's also out on Steam and PlayStation, so I'm not even just touting an Xbox exclusive. But it's a fantastic game. It's very soulful, it's got a great ending to it, it's got a great story. There's no English in it. You play the game and I think it's a made up language. But the story is incredibly engaging and I think that that's just a small indie game that I love.
One that is one of ours that I'm excited to see where it might go – and we don't have anything to announce on it yet – is State of Decay. That was a Zombie game that we did with a local Seattle studio, so a little bit of Seattle love.
We're having some good discussion with them about where that franchise could go if they had a bigger platform. That was their first game as a studio together so now they've got their own capability together. That was the fastest selling new intellectual property in Xbox Live Arcade history.
It did incredibly well. I wore their t-shirt on stage at E3, more just to shout-out to my Seattle friends, the success they had. But that would be a great game to see on Xbox One, see what that can turn into.
Q: Do you think that indie games are going to be a bigger deal with the rising cost of developing AAA titles?
Spencer: I don't think it's actually a cost thing, I know some people go there. If I look at, I'll just pick Halo, because it's one of mine and I know more about it. We shipped Halo 4 last November and it was the fastest selling Halo game of all time. 343 Industries did a great job with the game. It makes sense for us to keep doing Halo at that scale, there's no doubt about it.
I think the importance of indie is as much about developers finding their footing on other platforms, and us wanting to embrace them on Xbox One. But I'll say there's something else about the way Xbox One works with television and fast App switching and my ability to run multiple things at a time. A game on my television where the play session lasts about three to five minutes might be really interesting, whereas on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, it's really not as compelling because of the start up time and the shut down times.
Now I'm able to go and switch to anything else that I want to switch to. If I want to go back to the main, it's right there. So in a world like that where I can switch between TV, Skyping, and web browsing that quickly, I think you might find games that have a much smaller loop, where the play session is quicker, they’d actually find a footing on television that they've never had.
Q: The “I’m on a bus for seven minutes” experience.
Spencer: Yeah, exactly, but on my television. I'm not going to say I might switch out while a television commercial was on, but you can imagine, I'm watching a sports game and it's half time. I'm not interested in half time but I want to switch over and play a game for 10 minutes.
I think that is going to open up some new gaming opportunities where it's not just about put in a disk, play for five hours, take the disk out, but things that are quicker.