Head of Xbox Phil Spencer received some heat from gamers earlier this week for making comments about narrative-heavy games like Horizon: Zero Dawn and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild losing their impact in today’s gaming landscape. Perhaps it was the phenomenal success of both of those games this year that caused gamers to scratch their heads so much at the remark.
Spencer is generally regarded as an executive of the video game industry who understands gamers, and took to Twitter to clarify his statements. Spencer, who revealed his favorite game last year was the (timed Xbox-exclusive) single-player game Inside, said it’s hard for narrative games to compete in the market with games that are “service games”:
@DannyCarreer It's healthy to disagree. I love playing SP games. Point is majority of play today is in service games, that's just a fact.
— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) April 28, 2017
By service games, Spencer is referring to games that continue to expand and offer fans more content post-release, which draw players back time and again. That’s pretty standard practice these days, led by franchises like Call of Duty, Destiny, and Overwatch. He wasn’t saying that single-player or story-driven games don’t have a place in the industry—in fact, that was pretty apparent in his original statement; however many gamers took his statement as an insult to single-player games.
Spencer went on in his discussions over Twitter to reiterate that Horizon: Zero Dawn “is great” and that he played Breath of the Wild over the course of an entire plane flight he recently took to the UK. He continued, saying that there’s a place for both online and offline games, and that both are needed for the video game industry to stay healthy, even though fewer single-player games are being built.
Spencer also deflected the accusation that he focused so much on online games in his original interview in order to downplay the fact that Xbox currently does not have many direct competitors to Sony and Nintendo’s narrative-heavy, offline games:
“Not downplaying anything. Some try to turn everything into console wars, I don’t. […] I apologize if that’s how you took my comments. That wasn’t my point. I honestly want all games to succeed.”
At the end of the conversation, Spencer acknowledged the complaints and made reference to his tradition of wearing t-shirts at trade shows featuring the logos of games and developers:
“Feedback taken. Maybe I should wear a [Horizon: Zero Dawn] t-shirt at E3.”
Now that would be something to see. Speaking of E3, Xbox is set to fully unveil its Project Scorpio and likely a number of games to go with it at the industry event. Perhaps somewhere in there, a Triple-A single-player game will make an appearance.