Xbox head Phil Spencer reflects on gaming going mainstream
In 1993, the US Senate held hearings about violence in video games and the influence of those games on children. Now, 27 years later, members of Congress are playing video games online.
Last week, Microsoft and Sony released their Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 video game consoles, capping off years of research and development. At this point in time, the game industry has become a central part of popular culture and entertainment.
“There’s 7 billion people on the planet, and there’s 3 billion people who play video games — It’s almost half of the world plays video games on some device,” Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s Xbox chief, said in an interview with CNET sister site GameSpot. “When I started in this business, 20-plus years ago, it wasn’t that way.”
The video game industry today has grown to $120 billion worldwide. Large swaths of humanity are playing games on their phones, or on Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation or Nintendo’s Switch. Some of that’s been driven by the games themselves, which have not only gotten scarier and gorier than the fighting game Mortal Kombat, shooting game Doom and interactive movie game Night Trap, but also more mainstream with puzzle games like Candy Crush Saga and competitive titles like Fortnite.
Over that time, the people who played games as children have grown up. Some of them still play games, and they’ve brought their children into it too. Entertainers like the rapper Drake and sports stars like Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield talk about playing too. President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign created an island, complete with voting information, that people could visit in the city-building game Animal Crossing. And New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez broke view count records in October when she started playing the online who-done-it game Among Us to promote voting.
And because of the social aspect, gaming has become particularly popular during the coronavirus pandemic as a way to connect with people.
“We’re just seeing record levels of engagement, meaning people playing every day, playing online, connecting with friends and family,” Spencer said.
Spencer also talked about the company’s Xbox Games Pass subscription service, how the Xbox Series X has been received by fans and how his company’s trying to make enough of the consoles to sell to eager customers. Listen to the interview up top for the full story, and you can read other details in his interview with GameSpot as well
Now What is a video interview series with industry leaders, celebrities and influencers that covers trends impacting businesses and consumers amid the “new normal.” There will always be change in our world, and we’ll be here to discuss how to navigate it all.
If you subscribe to only one CNET newsletter, this is it. Get editors’ top picks of the day’s most interesting reviews, news stories and videos.