The VP of Microsoft Games Studios Phil Spencer appeared as a guest on IGN’s Podcast Unlocked and talked through everything from Gears of War Judgement’s poorer sales and critical reception to how Rare ended up making Kinect games and not a lot else. Choice quotes after the break.
Speaking to the lack of Gears on the Xbox One, Spencer immediately identified that one of the primary barriers to a new game is that Epic is pretty busy right now, presumably making Fortnight and trying to license the Unreal Engine 4. While he thinks that Epic would be “the right team” to work on a new Gears game, he does think “finding another team to do it” would be possible, but Microsoft would have to be “very careful” in making sure the team fit Gears.
Of course, he also said that Gears would probably have to change a bit, because “it ran its course on 360” and “doesn’t quite have the story arc of something like Halo”. While he was careful to avoid saying the franchise needed a reboot, he does think it’s time to “step back” and think about how to “expand the universe” of gears. “Maybe make it more gritty.”
Pointing to relationships like the one Microsoft had with Epic, Spencer criticised the “fixation with which studios you own”, arguing that Gears of War wouldn’t have been a better game simply if Microsoft had owned Epic.
“Certain people will look at how many Microsoft-badged employees do you have versus Sony-badged employees, and when they start to weigh the different first parties and I know there are some people that want to own their own studio, be independent, drive their business, and go completely their own way, keep their own culture and I respect that – if people want to work that way, we’ll continue to work with them.”
Of course, one studio Microsoft does wholly own is Rare, whose library from the last few years is composed entirely of Kinect Sports titles, alongside the soon to be released Killer Instinct. However, Phil Spencer died there was any mandate from on high for Rare to only make Kinect titles.
“I don’t force Rare to do anything. Like, forcing a studio to do something is a very short-term ambition as the head of studios because, in the end, people will vote with their feet, and they’ll just go work somewhere else. And Rare has enjoyed the creative, and, frankly, the hit success of [the] Kinect Sports series; it’s been an incredibly successful series for them, and it’s been great for the studio.”
Indeed, he said that last time he spoke to Craig Duncan, Rare’s current head, the two discussed non-Kinect Sports titles the studio might work on, which Spencer said he is “completely supportive of”.
Thanks to IGN’s Podcast Unlocked for such a wide ranging interview.