Xbox Head Phil Spencer caused a stir last week with comments that some outlets interpreted as the Xbox One being upgradeable in the future. The man in charge of games at Microsoft clarified those comments during a Friday podcast and it’s a little more aspiration and not as revolutionary as some were making it out to be.
Spencer was asked about his comments during the Windows Showcase during the latest Major Nelson podcast. Xbox LIVE Director of Programming Larry Hyrb asked his own boss about what he meant
“Am I going to break open my console and start upgrading individual pieces of my console? That’s not our plan,” Spencer explained. “There is something special about what happens with a console. You buy an appliance-like device, you plug it into your TV, it works when you plug it in. It’s not like I’m going to ship a screwdriver set with every console that comes out.”
“What I’m saying is, as hardware innovations happen, we want to be able to embrace those in the console space,” he continued. “Make those available and maybe not have to wait seven or eight years for things to happen.
In short, don’t expect a modular Xbox One or future console that you can add a CPU or GPU to, or replace similar parts. Instead, Spencer’s comments suggest the usual 5 to 7-year long console lifecycle will be shortened by with incremental updates versus huge leaps.
The Xbox One is currently in the third year of its lifecycle, so will Microsoft be announcing anything soon?
“Right now, we’re not announcing hardware,” Spencer said. “I’m happy with the console we have and the platform we built on top of that console, and the constant innovation and the games that are there.”
Of course, E3 is right around the corner in June so there’s a possibility of something being announced between then and E3 2017. The Xbox One is definitely due for at least a version refresh. Ultimately though, Spencer’s comments were more about the vision of where he sees the platform heading down the line.
“So I wanted to explain that what we’re doing today, I think, makes the console ecosystem better, in a way. Because I, both personally, as well as watching what happens in the industry, I’ve said the ‘end of a generation’ and this step-function that happens is not something I embrace,” Spencer explained. “I think it’s something we can do better at. I see it in music, I see it in books, I see it in movies. When I buy digital content, that digital content stays with me and I’m able to use it when I go out and get new devices.”
Spencer effectively wants to push the Xbox towards more of the model used by the cellphone and tablet industries. Those industries release new products every year that are an incremental improvement from what came before. Older models can still run the majority of the games and apps that are released, though there are always a few that only work on the latest hardware.
Will this work with consoles though? It seems unlikely Microsoft could release a new Xbox every year due to the nature of the manufacturing process. The same goes for other console manufacturers such as Sony and Nintendo. Instead, new consoles would more likely be every two or three years as a best case scenario.
Still, Spencer has the correct, consumer-friendly vision as the console game industry continues to push toward digital releases. Gamers want to play games from previous generations on their current consoles as witnessed by the popularity of the Xbox One backwards compatibility program.
The Head of Xbox obviously realizes that and wants to push the platform towards supporting gameplay across multiple versions of the Xbox console. What do you think of the direction? Sound off in the comments below.
[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]