The 360 manufacturer reveals why it has placed faith in projects such as Natal and the long-delayed Alan Wake
Microsoft Game Studios head Phil Spencer says the publisher’s key priority is to ‘define its own space’ by betting on new concepts such as Natal.
In an interview with Develop, Spencer stressed the importance of not merely outselling the competitors, but “making the big bets that define our platform.”
He cited both Project Natal and Remedy’s long-delayed Alan Wake as key examples of this.
“When I became head of MGS… Natal was one of the things we wanted to do and wanted that to be the big focus across the studios,” he said, “and Kudo [Tsunoda, MGS’s Natal chief] was someone I wanted to place as the real creative director behind all that effort.
“At the same time I wanted to see the same kind of leadership around Live. I asked: how can we make the organisation more focused around our key strengths and make sure that all the games exist for a reason?
“Because it’s easy to look at a game and get focused on its financials or what competitive titles are doing, and justify that project based on the marketplace and what others have done. But as a first party it is important to define our own space.
“So I cut back on a few things I thought were nice, but not necessarily strategically aligned with where we were going. That meant also starting to make investment in people and companies working on the areas that were important: Natal, Live and Core games.”
Of those core games, Remedy’s upcoming Alan Wake remains a high-profile case in point. When asked why MGS has stood by the studio for so long – through a number of years where many speculated the project was canned – Spencer replied,
“We believed in it. We believed in the team and the idea. Don’t get me wrong –to make a hit property you make a lot of bets, and sometimes you have to shut things down, not because it’s personal or a business decision, for creative decisions.
“Microsoft Game Studios is not going to ship 20 games a year – that’s not what the 360 customer needs. It’s not about having the third shelf of decent games – we want the top tier to include our eight to ten games to be a gold standard for Xbox.
“And that’s what has been important for Alan Wake. If you’re going to emotionally engage the player in a way that draws them in to build a connection with the story… well that’s something different that not many games are doing today. It was important for us to work with it and support it. And Remedy we value very much. That’s why we closed the software part of the E3 press conference with that game; I was very proud to see it as part of the climax of the show.”