Phil Spencer’s GDC chat spans PC, VR, ID@Xbox, paid-Alphas, Xbox One debug

Saturday, 22 March 2014 20:28 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

During GDC, Microsoft Studios head Phil Spencer touched upon a myriad of Xbox One topics such as paid-Alphas, retail to dev kit conversion, the potential of VR, and a renewed “commitment” to PC gaming.

Paid Alphas and allowing users to invest in projects

During his “fireside chat”, Spencer said Microsoft is looking into ways to allow gamers to invest in games they want built, and to ensure developers “have the funds to bring those things to market.”

“Paid Alphas I look at as one of those things,” he said. “I think there’s an area of evolution that, as platform holders, we’ll go through this generation in helping developers fund their games socially.

“You don’t really have that in place on console as you do in some other places. I think that in order for great diverse content to exist, it’s going to be important that us as platform holders think about how we can allow gamers invest in things that they want to see built, so that developers have the funds to bring those things to market.

The Virtual Reality Trend

When it came to the topic of virtual reality, Spencer said offerings such as Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus were “cool tech” and he believes there is a real “there, there,” but doesn’t feel “every game requires me to put goggles on my face to go play it.”

“The big hump will be in the middle, or even closer to the casual side in terms of real usage.”

“The big hump will be in the middle, or even closer to the casual side in terms of real usage, but I think the technology is really interesting and it’s definitely something we’ve been playing with for quite a while,” Spencer said.

“VR is cool tech. “One of the things we have is this huge Microsoft research organisation that is important to us as platform holders in helping us think what might came next. That’s where Kinect came from, it’s where voice recognition came from, it’s where Drivatar came from.”

Microsoft is rumored to be working on its own VR tech unitizing Kinect 2.0 to aid with tracking.

Xbox One as a Debug Unit

Another topic of discussion was the continued delay of the ability to turn retail consoles into development units. Microsoft announced the functionality in July 2013, stating that it would allow Xbox One retail units to be converted to a debug console in order to to play pre-release code.

This would be implemented via Microsoft authorizing specific consoles to play said pre-release codes and for large-scale beta testing. However, the firm said at the time the option will not be available at launch. Four months later, it’s still hasn’t be implemented.

Spencer said during his chat Microsoft still has plans for such functionality, but at present, its indie outreach program ID@Xbox is the top priority.

“We want to make sure the people that are signed up are getting the most support from us,” Spencer said. “Seeing all the games in development and trying to give the teams feedback on the games as they come through is the focus.

“What we’re trying to do is facilitate the games coming to the platform as quickly as possible and right now there’s been focus on the people that can build today.”

A Renewed Focus on PC

Finally, Spencer reiterated that Microsoft has renewed its focus on PC gaming, and such promises will be evident later this year.

Spencer went on to praise Valve for keeping the PC torch alight, stating the company has been “the backbone of PC gaming for the last decade.”

“As the Windows company, I appreciate what they’ve done. They have, in a lot of ways, focused more on PC gaming than we have,” he said. “A renewed focus on Windows and PC gaming inside Microsoft is definitely happening.

“You will see more focus from us — not to go compete with what Valve has done, but because we also understand as the platform holder it’s important for us to invest in the platform in a real way. We’re fundamentally committed to that.

“A renewed focus on Windows and PC gaming inside Microsoft is definitely happening.

“But we’re going to invest significantly more in that space, not less,” he said. “It’s just whether what we have today is the core of what we have [in the future] and it’s probably not.

“We’ve got to have this message out in a thoughtful way [within the next few] months and not anything more than that. It’s in the real near term. This is something that we’re working on now… because we want to be clear on it.”

Spencer said more on the company’s plans will be revealed this summer as “more talks and different technology” are shown.

He also touched up on the exodus of developer from Games for Windows Live after Microsoft posted, then pulled, a support notice stating the service would shutter in July 2014.

“You will get a clear answer from us very soon,” Spencer told Polygon regarding GFWL. “We have a longer term plan for multiplayer gaming and marketplace on Windows. We understand what we have today in market … isn’t great.

“We do understand there’s some continuity of getting from where we are to where we want to be [and] that shutting the lights off [on the service] isn’t exactly the right thing to do.

“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got a thoughtful plan that supports the people that currently have games on Games for Windows Live. It’s a conversation we’re having.”

Thanks: GI International, Eurogamer, Destructiod, Polygon (links are above).