November 10, MOSCOW. /TASS, Dmitry Medvedenko/. The gaming industry is welcoming the dawn of a new generation of consoles as Microsoft releases its latest platform, the Xbox Series X/S, globally. Sony will follow suit with the release of its PlayStation 5 console on November 12 in select countries, and November 19 in the rest of the world. The video games market surpassed the movies and music industries as the largest entertainment market in the world, and given COVID-19 restrictions this year, the number of gamers staying at home has seen a dramatic surge across all main platforms: mobile, PC, and consoles. TASS talked exclusively with Ben Decker, Head of Gaming Services at Xbox, ahead of the console’s release.
On the console
“Games are going to look better on the Xbox Series X than on any other console. It is the next level of fidelity. It’s not just how they look - they’re going to play better. A quantum leap in load times,” Ben Decker said. He added that the release of the new generation of consoles does not make the current (now yesterday’s) generation immediately obsolete. “All these games are still going to ship on the Xbox One for years – we don’t want to leave anyone behind.”
Ben also added that game developers will be free to make their own decisions on the platform when they release future games. “Third-party developers are going to do what’s right for their game, what’s right for their fans and what’s right for their business, and they should. I can speak for Microsoft first-party, and we’re committed to supporting the entire ecosystem.”
In September 2020, Microsoft announced one of the largest acquisitions in the history of the video games industry on the purchase of ZeniMax Media. Microsoft said they were buying the parent company that owns Bethesda Softworks, developers of game franchises like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, for $7.5 bln. This could result in Bethesda becoming an exclusive first-party developer for Microsoft and its Xbox console. TASS asked Ben Decker for clarification.
“We have agreed to a purchase price with ZeniMax. ZeniMax is not owned by Xbox or Microsoft currently. We’re still working through the completely standard - happens every time for an acquisition of this size - regulatory bodies, working through all the details, making sure that everything is by the book and meets whatever rules individual parties have. What happens after that point, I’m not going to comment on that, because we’re going to have to wait for the actual transaction to be done. What I will say is what Phil [Spencer, Microsoft’s executive VP of Gaming – TASS] said - that we will make this decision on a case by case basis, but what I will say is: look, our goal is to get as many people into the Xbox community, to get as many people playing our games as possible, that’s what’s going to guide us.”
On console wars and the future of gaming
The console market has always been a battleground with two giants competing for dominance. In the 80s, it was ZX Spectrum against Commodore 64, in the 90s - Sega vs. Nintendo, and in the 21st century it quickly became the rivalry of Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation console. But now that games are no longer perceived as a kids’ toy (and the average gamer age is more than 35), the trends are changing. Ben Decker says the notion of ‘console wars’ is ‘antiquated’.
“It’s not the way we think about it, I don’t think it’s the right way to think about it anymore, it’s quite antiquated. The idea of a console war is just about how many pieces of plastic I can sell, and nobody at Xbox thinks about it that way anymore,” Decker said.
“I see three billion gamers in the world. If you’re going to try to [make] a compelling proposition to all three billion of those gamers, you’re going to have to enable people to join the community to participate in your games the way that they want to,” he said, adding that many gamers nowadays own several consoles and/or play on their mobile devices and PC as well.
With AAA-games now making attempts at setting the price tag at $70 apiece, Xbox is promoting its Game Pass subscription model which gives players access to hundreds of games for a monthly fee, Netflix-style. “The average game that goes into Game Pass sees its audience increase by six times. So, it’s a fantastic value proposition from that perspective, but it’s a choice – a gamer choice, a publisher/developer choice,” Ben Decker said.