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Xbox Boss Phil Spencer Says Modular Console Upgrades ’Not Our Plan’

by Mike Futter on Mar 07, 2016 at 02:06 AM

Last week, comments made by Xbox boss Phil Spencer at a recent showcase took an interesting spin. While speaking to a group of journalists, Spencer mentioned “new hardware capability” during a console generation.

Some outlets assumed this meant that Microsoft would be allowing consumers to make at-home, modular updates to console hardware. On the most recent Major Nelson podcast, Spencer shut that down completely.

“The feedback I’ve received about, ‘Hey, am I going to break open my console and start upgrading individual pieces of my console?’ That’s not our plan,” he said. “There’s something special with what happens with a console. You buy an appliance-like device. You plug it into your TV, and it just works when you plug it in. It’s not like I’m going to ship a screwdriver set with every console that comes out.”

During the talk at the Xbox showcase, Spencer pointed to Sony’s incorporation of virtual reality into this hardware cycle as an example. He reiterated that basic thrust in speaking on the podcast.

“What I’m saying is that hardware innovations happen, we want to be able to embrace those in the console space and make those available and maybe not have to wait seven or eight years for that to happen,” Spencer explained. It took nearly a week to clear the air, as Microsoft was unwilling to clarify the statements when we spoke to them in follow-up last week.

Spencer also obliquely addressed the furor around the company’s Universal Windows Platform approach that more closely links PC and Xbox gaming. On Friday, Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney took Microsoft to task for what he feels is a move to monopolize the PC gaming space.

“We’re Microsoft. We build Windows. Success of gaming on Windows is incredibly important for us,” Spencer said. “Success of Steam on Windows is incredibly important for us. They are one of the most important software developers we have on Windows, and having them be successful. I believe that taking gaming on PC as a really important endeavor for us - a strategic endeavor - is great for Windows gaming.”

You can listen to the full podcast on Major Nelson’s Soundcloud page. For more from the Xbox showcase, check out our full coverage roundup.

[Source: Major Nelson on Soundcloud]


Our Take
Spencer’s follow-up statements align with our original interpretation. It’s just a shame that it took nearly a week for the company to directly quell the frustration and confusion that emerged following the showcase. 

The good news here is that Microsoft is investigating ways to enhance consoles with newer technology. The company tried this with the HD-DVD add-on (though that format lost the high def war). Kinect, which sold well despite core gamer disappointment, is another example we’ve already seen. 

Should HoloLens become a gaming reality in this generation, it could be the first big push of this philosophy during the Xbox One cycle. At least we know the Xbox isn’t going the direction of the Steam Machine.