Microsoft is spending more money on console games than it ever has before, and Phil Spencer is the man with the chequebook - which he's putting to good use at Capcom, Remedy and Crytek. He's also got his one-time nemesis, former Sony Worldwide Studios boss Phil Harrison, on the team to run the company's European studios.
At E3, we spoke to Spencer about how he's picking Xbox One's first-party offering, which ranges from meaty blockbusters like Ryse: Son of Rome to protean world-builder Project Spark. You might want to check out this earlier chat with Spencer and former Xbox head Don Mattrick, too.
Why have Forza as a launch game?
We knew that racing was going to be really important to Xbox One. For Sony, for us, for Nintendo with Mario Kart - it's just a massive category. We built Turn 10 from the ground up and it was bumpy at the beginning - Forza one was a nice game, but it was about six months late, Forza 2 had similar problems hitting dates - but the quality was always there. It has grown into a true first-party studio, in that the team think about all aspects of the platform and how they can really leverage them.
So we saw them embrace Kinect early on, with the head tracking. They didn't do the Joy Ride thing; they said "Forza is a racing simulator, what can we do with the technology that is part of the race simulation experience?" So head tracking makes sense. The SmartGlass implementation they did around Forza Horizon, I thought that was great. And they have kept the quality bar of their games at an incredibly high level.
You see a studio diving in deep, for a core gamer, for a racing fan, what do I really care about in terms of the racing franchise? Well I care about realism, I care about immersion, I care about the sound. They just really are embracing what it means to take the full fidelity of the box and bring it to mark and we want to be there day one. Which is sometimes a crazy endeavour for a studio to try, but they have their army hats on and they're going to do that.
Where did the idea for Quantum Break come from?
When we began talking to Remedy about Xbox One, we started to talk about things that we were really focused on as a platform holder - immersion, using the full breadth of the platform, connecting to users, what we're trying to do in television. And if you know anything about Remedy, storytelling is in its DNA.
And one of its challenges is, how does that artform of storytelling actually get to the masses? Because how many people got to the end of Alan Wake? Of course I hope everybody did, but not everybody did. How many people even looked at something like Max Payne, which from 30,000 feet is a cop shooter game, and realised there's a strong story underneath it?
So Remedy had this idea around live action and games coming together. Not like Forward Unto Dawn, which basically previewed one of the characters in Halo 4, but actually putting these things side by side and having them interact with one another. Where choices you make in the game can actually impact the television show and the television show will actually change over time based on choices people make in the game.
There are some production challenges there, in how you think about timelines and how you produce content, but this is what we've been working on. We're early, this isn't a day one game, but we're in production, so we're in a phase where we can say we believe in this, we have a mechanic that can really work.