Phil Spencer: We Shouldn’t Have “Sugar-Coated” Xbox One Controversy


Microsoft Studios chief Phil Spencer believes the initial Xbox One messaging was “confused,” and states the core of why MS is in the video game industry was not “an evil reason.”

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Microsoft hasn’t had the smoothest of console reveals when it unveiled the Xbox One to the general public last year. Part of this was due to how the company relayed its message to gamers regarding the Xbox One’s key “features” — a notion shared by Microsoft Studios corporate vice president Phil Spencer. Speaking during the SXSW gaming expo, Spencer admits that Microsoft’s Xbox One messaging during its key reveals last year could have been handled better and even deems it as “confused.”

I look at last summer and that wasn’t a highpoint for me, coming out of the announcement of Xbox One and E3, where I thought our messaging around what we believed in was confused.

While Spencer doesn’t specify which messaging Microsoft got wrong, chances are, it references the Xbox One’s former DRM and always-online stance, which thankfully, got reversed. Continuing, the Microsoft exec states one of the reasons why he wanted to be more active socially was because he knew the core of why Microsoft was in the video game business was “not an evil reason,” but to build a great product that “millions of people would love.”

One of the reasons I wanted to be a little more active socially was because I knew the core of why we were in this industry was not an evil reason. It was to really delight consumers and build a great product that millions and millions of people would love.

Spencer states that he believes when when you’re going to say something to a consumer, it’s better to be direct and honest about it, rather than try and “sugar-coat something that might be controversial.” He also adds that he thinks the members of the Xbox brand “leadership team” are building on what they learned during the console’s reveal.

I learned a ton last summer as leader of our groups about being true to your core vision about what a product is, not being confusing, and frankly, when you’re going to say something to a consumer that might put them off, it’s better to just be direct and honest, rather than trying to sugar-coat something that might be controversial…I’d rather deal with the controversy of what we’re doing, and have an above-table conversation about that topic, rather than trying to sugar-coat it with some other news. And again, my interactions over the last six months, and I really think the interactions of [Xbox chief marketing and strategy officer Yusuf Mehdi] and [Xbox corporate vice president Marc Whitten] and other members of the leadership team – we’re meaning to build on what we learned last summer, and just build on who we are as people.

You can catch Spencer talking about the Xbox One’s messaging at the 11-minute mark in the video.

In the same event, Spencer also addressed the difference between PlayStation Plus and Xbox’s Games With Gold program and says it will be “more true” to what he thinks it should be in the future.

I don’t know about you, but I like Spencer’s honesty and candid reaction to the questions that most executives might avoid or even gloss over with standard PR fluff. Do you think Microsoft is doing a better job with the Xbox One’s messaging now? What other areas should they improve regarding the company’s public image and how it communicates to gamers?

Source: YouTube via TotalXbox

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