Phil Spencer talks AI, “living games” and more in new interview

Robert Collins

Phil Spencer Xgs 23 Custom

Phil Spencer has been a busy many this week, what with the Xbox Games Showcase/Starfield Direct on Sunday and the FTC’s latest efforts to halt Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The Microsoft Gaming CEO recently gave an interview with Polygon in which he discussed a range of topics.

On the topic of artificial intelligence, Spencer notes that it is by no means a new tool in the gaming space. In fact, AI in gaming has been there from the beginning; even the simplest early games like Pong used some rudimentary form of AI to react to the player’s actions, to use the example Spencer provided.

Artificial Intelligence - AI

Now, today, when people say AI, they really mean large language model-driven AI. The ChatGPT equivalent. But I think gaming has a long history in using AI to make games better and more robust.

We’re having a lot of conversations with creators, where they’re saying, “How can AI make my games more complete?” A lot of it, frankly, is on the “How do we ensure the quality of our game?” Testers do a great job of playing a game and getting a very human perspective on a game. But games are so large today, I think there are opportunities for us to think about ways where AI can kind of traverse what a game is. And help us understand if there are gaps in our logic.

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Spencer also discussed living games. If you are unfamiliar with that term, it refers generally to live service games like Apex Legends. That is—games that are “active” in that they have a social element, and are constantly, if incrementally, updated.

When queried on how much living games might be a part of the Xbox future, Spencer points out that in the last 5 years Xbox first-party studios have created 10 games that have more than 10 million players. He added that “They create almost a platform unto themselves.”

I’d say for us in terms of how the business works of it, which is a little bit what you’re asking as well — and it’s going to sound like a Game Pass ad — but the fact that I have a content subscription that’s at scale means I don’t need to think about every game monetizing every engagement. Because Xbox Game Pass’ success is enabling us to invest more in driving engagement than in driving the dollars. The dollars will come from people loving the games that they’re playing. So it does open up opportunities for us to not be as incremental on every piece of content in terms of how we charge, and thinking about, Is this going to re-engage some Sea of Thieves players? Is it going to bring in some new Sea of Thieves players?

Sea of Thieves is an example of a living game.

The Xbox chief touched on a range of other topics in the full interview with Polygon. Spencer was the subject of much online criticism following the disastrous launch of Redfall back in May, and at the time it looked as though his place at Xbox was in question. Following the big hit that was this years Xbox Games Showcase, and a renewed outlook for the Xbox platform heading into 2024, it’s safe to say Spencer feels confident in where Xbox is heading.

Featured image via Everyeye.