Between this quote today and word that the Xbox division is looking at companies like Netflix and HBO for inspiration on story-telling, it sounds like Microsoft’s in a weird spot when it comes to making story-focused and driven video games. Xbox boss Phil Spencer told The Guardian that audiences for huge, story-driven games aren’t as consistent as they once were.
Here’s the big quote in full.
“The audience for those big story-driven games… I won’t say it isn’t as large, but they’re not as consistent…
…You’ll have things like Zelda or Horizon Zero Dawn that’ll come out, and they’ll do really well, but they don’t have the same impact that they used to have, because the big service-based games are capturing such a large amount of the audience. Sony’s first-party studios do a lot of these games, and they’re good at them, but outside of that, it’s difficult – they’re become more rare; it’s a difficult business decision for those teams, you’re fighting into more headwind.”
The thing to infer from this quote is that Microsoft is starting to associate risk with story-driven games, and that’s a problem if you adore the likes of Horizon: Zero Dawn and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
What’s this “service-based games” thing?
Service-based games or, as I often read about them, games as a service doesn’t necessarily mean free-to-play. Overwatch is a great example of this model. You pay the price for entry, and then creators release content at a constant clip almost as a service to players.
There’s no doubt games like that are massive right now, but we need companies like Microsoft to take risks on the story-driven ones. At least, I do. I love story-based games.