Xbox head Phil Spencer recently shared an update on the future of Microsoft’s gaming endeavors, from enhanced support for the Xbox console and its first-party titles to crafting innovative new service models and presenting more opportunities to small game developers. But one comment from Spencer stood out amongst the rest. Regarding story-driven games such as Horizon: Zero Dawn and those in The Legend of Zelda franchise, Spencer believes they’re losing their impact.
The subject of narrative-heavy titles was preceded by a discussion on a possible Netflix for video games, or a similar subscription service that offers more long-term game support, something Spencer and Shannon Loftis, Xbox’s first-party publishing GM, have been considering for quite some time.
“I’ve looked at things like Netflix and HBO, where great content has been created because there’s this subscription model,” Spencer stated. “Shannon Loftis and I are thinking a lot about, well, could we put story-based games into the Xbox Game Pass business model because you have a subscription going? It would mean you wouldn’t have to deliver the whole game in one month; you could develop and deliver the game as it goes.”
However, if Microsoft pursues such a model, players shouldn’t expect to see story-based single-player titles like Zelda or Horizon: Zero Dawn pop up. According to Spencer, those types of games aren’t exactly suitable for a subscription service because they aren’t as dependable and homogenous in comparison to their competition, a factor that could lead to the genre’s decline in popularity.
“The audience for those big story-driven games… I won’t say it isn’t as large, but they’re not as consistent,” Spencer began. “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.”
Spencer singled out Sony’s first-party studios as a big producer of these games. And while he admitted that “they’re good at them,” he noted that the titles have “become more rare.” Ultimately, Spencer stated he feels “it’s a difficult business decision” for those making such games because they’re “fighting into more headwind.”
However, it isn’t as though Spencer isn’t a fan of games with immersive stories. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Spencer expressed his love for Inside and Thimbleweed Park, stated he hopes narrative-heavy titles can thrive moving forward. “As an industry, I want to make sure both narrative-driven single-player games and service-based games have the opportunity to succeed. I think that’s critical for us,” Spencer said.
Though the Xbox executive has insider expertise on the gaming industry, it definitely appears that both the Zelda series, particularly its most recent release with Breath of the Wild, and Horizon: Zero Dawn have done extremely well for themselves. Guerrilla Games’ open-world adventure game was Sony’s best-selling new IP for the PlayStation 4, and Breath of the Wild launched to an adoring audience, selling 2.76 million copies as of April 27, 2017.
Regardless where Xbox and Microsoft head in the future, it’s likely that most gaming fans will hope to see story-driven titles stick along for the ride.
Source: The Guardian