Challenge: Save Xbox

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24 Jun 2022
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I've probably said this in one form or another in the past but, basically if it comes to it, Microsoft needs to shift the Xbox model away from a console approach and towards a gaming-centric PC approach. Stop trying to compete with Sony & Nintendo, stop conjuring up these boogeyman gaming competitors in Google, Amazon etc., stop chasing after the pie in the sky that is subscription gaming, and focus on the actual competitor who took over the gaming space YOU once had as your own: Valve.

Steam, by all accounts, should have been something Microsoft created. Their gaming roots are in PC going as far back as Flight Simulator, Minesweeper and that sort of stuff. In the '90s MS-DOS and Windows had a virtual monopoly on PC gaming. They still kind of do now, but for the vast majority of gamers on PC that's something they see as being Valve's thing, due to Steam, even if the OS is still Windows. And, with some recent developments, Valve are shifting reliance on Windows to being a lower priority thanks to their work with WINE and Steam OS to dramatically shift up compatibility.

Valve's original goals to shift PC Gaming away from Windows and towards Linux never went away; considering PC Gaming is one of the few reasons a lot of people even have Windows or PCs anymore, you'd think Microsoft would want to secure that space and maybe try doing things in a way Valve couldn't. Microsoft said back when the original Xbox was coming out, that the reason they did it was to stop PlayStation from replacing PC & Windows. Well, PC & Windows are still here, but PC Gaming belongs to Valve these days, and with some more effort, they'll be able to make it so that PC games don't really need Windows anymore after all. When that happens, it is the death knell of Windows IMO, so Microsoft had better try doing something to change that.

Which is where Xbox comes in. Again, one of the other reasons the Xbox was even made was to get game developers using DirectX, so they could stay in the PC ecosystem, where Windows exists. Well, guess what? Most 3P games come to PC these days, including even a lot of Japanese ones, and it wasn't that way a few decades ago. So in a way, Microsoft already accomplished that task so...why are they still trying to push Xbox against PlayStation & Nintendo? It's clearly not working, it hasn't been working since the end days of the 360. They're bleeding cash left and right on the division, seeing double-digit declines when competitors are seeing double-digit growth, in a post-COVID lockdown environment no less...what's the real reason they continue to operate Xbox on the traditional console business model?

My guess is that they want to leverage Xbox to gain Azure clientele, kind of like they did with Sega, but...they can do that anyway without pushing Xbox as a "console" anymore. It's an "ecosystem", right? You want that ecosystem on other manufacturer devices, right? So why are you actively providing a conflict of interest? Why not just transform Xbox into a brand of custom OEM-style NUCs?

Take a page out of Valve's book, but do it better. Stop marketing Xbox as a console, start marketing it as a console-style PC box great for gaming & productivity. Make it run full-fat Windows with all the usual options. Sell the hardware at a healthy profit margin upfront instead of taking losses. Scale back the total volume of units accordingly. Integrate the Xbox Store into the Windows Store and rebrand the latter into something else. Let Xbox users use their systems the same way someone can use a Windows PC (including whatever launcher/storefront they prefer, such as Steam or EGS). Start being a true multiplatform publisher and bringing your content to as many devices as can realistically run them, Day 1. That means stuff like Forza Horizon 6 on Xbox, Windows, PS5 Day 1. Pentiment 2 on Xbox, Windows, Switch 2, iOS (Apple Arcade) Day 1.

Or, in select cases, maybe ports to other platforms come a bit later due to the nature of the game. Flight Simulator 20xx or whatever, for example, temporarily a Windows exclusive so by extension also on Xbox Day 1, but it takes some time to come to PlayStation to accommodate for some things. Same with an Age of Empires, and so on. And I think if MS does that, they have an easier means of getting Game Pass on other platforms in some curated way that's customized to the platform holder's requirements.

Of course, all of this also requires them to play by rules other 3P publishers have to play by, and I have had a growing feeling that part of MS's strategy so far, as I've seen other people put it so well, is that they want to buy so much content that they can then leverage to strong-arm other platform holders into playing by their terms and getting Game Pass on those platforms the way Microsoft wants. Meaning no percentage cuts, no licensing fees and the such. Basically, they want to do what EA did to SEGA back with the Genesis/MegaDrive, but dialed up to 11. That simply won't work. The fact is, those other platform holders have earned enough success with their stuff, and put in the money/time to do so, that they are allowed to determine a standard fee or licensing cost, or percentage cut, for other companies using their platform and selling their 3P content to the customer base of the platform holder. There's nothing controversial or wrong with this practice, it's been a thing since forever.

It seems like Microsoft (and to a lesser extent, Epic) want to change this and there're a lot of good reasons why that'll never happen. The fact it's one of the largest 3P publishers in gaming and one of the largest tech companies in the world suddenly pushing for it, should show it's less about liberating costs for smaller teams, and more about increasing their profit margins at the expense of platform holders hosting their content. Any form of costs liberation that trickles down is a side effect, and for some ecosystems a potentially destabilizing one. A company like Microsoft could turn right around and eliminate the 30% cut requirement on Xbox as it is today, and be completely fine, because Xbox revenue is less than 10% of the company's total general revenue and even less of their net profits. That type of move simply doesn't have anywhere near an impact on Microsoft as it would on, say, Sony.

So basically, the things I suggest for Microsoft would require them to be humble here, and if there's any intent in the pursuit of acquisitions to leverage that content against other companies to strongarm exceptions for their content and services on other platform ecosystems, then that has to go. Because it's the wolf in sheep's clothing that a lot of these companies are weary about, and feel they've seen enough of to openly challenge them on. If regulators ultimately come to that conclusion, too, then we already know how the results of this ABK deal are going to play out. But I think this ABK deal would have gone through a lot easier if Microsoft weren't in fact operating Xbox as a traditional console, and didn't try pushing back so hard against Apple in the Epic vs Apple case. Ironically those two things have made this acquisition very difficult, and the fact they went for ABK so soon after JUST closing Zenimax only adds onto it.

But ultimately, I feel if MS wants to make Xbox successful on its own merits, especially in the case the ABK deal is ultimately blocked, then they need to shift away from thinking "How do we beat Sony/Apple/Google etc. in gaming?" and more towards thinking "How do we make Xbox and gaming a self-sustaining, profitable business venture?", and I feel the answer to that is becoming increasingly obvious. Just go truly 3P, but at the same time, keep Xbox going as a dedicated gaming NUC/mini PC product line to push Windows gaming. Given their experience with consoles, Microsoft could bring innovations to the NUC/mini PC market and be more competitive there compared to other OEMs. They can still invest into gaming R&D with this approach similar to console; even though their total volumes will be lower, now they can sell them at an actual profit, and still be price-competitive or cheaper than other OEM NUCs with similar specifications.

They could even start with that shift sometime this generation, by just providing an upgrade fee for Series S & X owners to install full Windows OS on the platform. A lot of owners would jump on that opportunity ASAP. Of course, when they do it, they'd need to ensure other parts of the pie are in place, so it would be a few years away I feel, but that would help bridge the transition for what's to come. This could then enable Microsoft to actually deliver on the "Series" part of their initial Xbox marketing; if you shift the model towards something like a gaming-ready NUC/mini PC, you can update the product line with 2-year refreshes of higher-spec'd machines, or different form-factor configurations, so on and so forth. That gives more use for the All-Access program, too. And, unlike Series S & X, those refreshes (or at least some of them) can allow for modular upgradability with things like the RAM, CPU, GPU etc.

Also like I just said, console-like R&D budgets can still more or less be applied here, and there are two reasons why. The first is because they'd want the new Xbox devices to meet a certain performance minimum in lockstep with whatever specs Sony's systems provide. The second is because, if they're going to essentially move Xbox towards a NUC-like PC model, why not just merge the division into the Surface one? I don't know the specifics of how that'd work, but the Surface team was already partially involved with the Series S & X's design, and they've done a pretty good job. If there're a couple things the Surface devices are known for, it's premium build quality and unique form design innovations. And being rather pricey; they'd need to keep the prices on Xbox devices a bit lower, but they can still have that healthy profit margin on the hardware which is part of the point of the shift.

In fact, this could be beneficial to the personal computing devices side of Microsoft. Didn't they see a 19% drop in revenue the previous quarter? Maybe a merger of the two departments would be a good thing in light of such. So, if you merge the Xbox & Surface divisions/units, what to do with the game software & publisher parts? Well, those can still stay under Microsoft Gaming. Game Pass? I think maybe you fold the other Xbox services teams into them, and any other consumer entertainment services, just make one large Consumer Entertainment Services division out of the lot, and they comprise of the sub-teams that can communicate with other divisions like Microsoft Gaming (in the case of the Game Pass sub-unit). So you've got, in this scenario, Xbox hardware & Surface under the personal computing division, the XGS/Zenimax/(maybe, if they get them) ABK teams under Microsoft Gaming, and Game Pass & xCloud as a part of some Consumer Entertainment Services division.

Of course, if they're not operating Xbox under the traditional console business model anymore, they're going to lose some revenue they currently get. Folding XBL Gold into Game Pass and shifting the Game Pass unit to another division also means less for Microsoft Gaming division. But they make up for that by being a true multiplatform publisher; no more arbitrary exclusives (outside of games specifically for Windows that may need some time to get ported elsewhere, like the AoE-type stuff), and bringing as many games to as many platforms Day 1 as possible, natively. In turn that opens more windows for Game Pass (albeit curated per platform's needs) and thus subscription revenue. Integrating the Xbox Store into the Windows Store and Game Pass into that (since Microsoft owns Game Pass, they can specify whatever content support into it as they wish) can help with providing subscription perks for various 1P titles, and help entice Steam users to buy more from there & sub to Game Pass on Windows devices (which can include Xbox devices).
 
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Elder Legend

CEO of Gaming Instincts (Industry Veteran)
10 Jan 2023
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1. halt all PC development.
2. Announce the closure of gamepass.
3. Start to make real single player games for hardcore gamers.
4. Close 343 as a show of good faith to the abused and beleaguered halo community.
5. Announce that CliffyB will be heading a complete new gears reboot (no Kait diaz).
6. End all current forza production, vow to never make another racing game as long as they live.
7. announce price drop to $89 in japan and asia, entice developers to actually make games for xbox.
8. publically denounce, shame, and disassociate with PC gamers and the PC gaming community. Pull everything from Steam.

that'd be a start.
Care to give a detailed and logical explanation please to each of thee points? Genuinely curious.
 
24 Jun 2022
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Y'all are getting too cocky with these threads, I'm a Playstation fan, but this gen could still go either way at this point.

We're looking at a scenario where Xbox is probably barely at 18 million units, vs. 32 million PS5s. Almost 2:1, faster than when the PS4 achieved it last generation.

Look at the surrounding narratives for both platforms over the past two months; it's been almost an endless string of negatives for Xbox and positives for PlayStation. Look at the global mindshare difference between the two brands: it's night and day, again in favor of PlayStation, clearly. Sony have made gains on Xbox in its two strongest markets historically.

I don't care how much of an optimist you are when it comes to Xbox's future fortunes; if they continue with the exact same strategy going forward they have stuck with so far, they're going to fall further behind and there will be no "either way" this gen, it just won't be possible. They need some real shake-ups and I think what's been happening with 343i and to a lesser extent The Coalition are starts towards that.

But like others have said, it's some of the otherwise well-known upper management and marketing types who need to be let go, not studio employees otherwise doing as they're being told. However I strongly doubt those particular changes come...although with all these awards lately it seems like they're setting up Phil Spencer to retire respectfully (even if some of the awards feel like BS).

Ignoring the fact that Xbox is in a perfectly good spot and doesn’t need “saving”, if the deal fails (it won’t), here’s what I would do:

Fire Major Nelson

Allocate some of those ABK funds to secure some big third party games for GamePass, before Sony sinks their teeth in them and chops pieces out for exclusivity or gets the whole thing

Reboot more classic franchises like PGR, Crimson Skies, Links, Conker, etc. Let Rare have a shot at some of their old catalogue. I’m not familiar on what they own and what Nintendo kept. Does MS own Blast Corps? Jet Force Gemini? There are so many gems

Just some small things like that. My only beef with MS is the lack of software in 2022 but that’s not an issue anymore.

What's firing Major Nelson going to do? Is he even that relevant anymore for Xbox? I don't see him around that often, he just does a small podcast and that's it. Aaron Greenberg is a much more well-known marketing figurehead and IMO a much more toxic one. Major Nelson's kind of like Brad Sams; obviously zeroed-in on Xbox/MS and does positive spin as much as possible, but not really antagonizing competitors.

About the reboot stuff, I don't know why they would bring back PGR when they have Forza Horizon. If anything they should add PGR-style modes and features to the Horizon games to spice them up a bit. Flight Simulator should've gotten a Crimson Skies-themed expansion or campaign/mission mode when they ported it to Series X & S; missed opportunity IMO, it would've also helped the game seem more "gamey" and appeal to more people.

Rare obviously doesn't want to touch their old stuff but why not get the High on Life studio to do a new Conker? Jason's not a part of the studio anymore so the problematic aspect is out of the picture. Get the team Sega worked with on SoR4 to do a proper new Battletoads, not that CalArts-looking Flash animated thing they tried passing off as Battletoads in 2019. They could partner with Sega's fighting game team to do a Killer Instinct/Eternal Champions crossover game.

But all of these ideas require leaders who have a pulse on the brand's identity and what hardcore fans would want, and could work to appeal to casuals and new fans if done right. I don't think Xbox has anyone like that at the upper management, that's why they're seeing the results they've been having. Yes every once in a blue moon they get a HiFi Rush, but let's see what they actually do (or don't do) with that IP before saying they have a good idea on IP management for anything that isn't Minecraft or a GaaS.

why not just ban steam from running on windows? I'd like to see some money taken out of Gabe's fatass pockets as well.

I don't think MS can legally ban anyone from making Windows applications.
 

ksdixon

Dixon Cider Ltd.
22 Jun 2022
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1. Subsume "Microsoft Gaming", "PC/XB GamePass", "Xbox Cloud Gaming/XCloud", "Live/Gold" all under one new "XBOX Gaming" moniker. That app you access from phone/TV etc even if you haven't got an Xbox console? You can still partake in "Xbox Gaming" app.

2. Keep vestiges of Live and XCloud branding, if repurposed for something else. Why aren't there XB exclusive GAAS games marketed as "Live games" or "Live Service games", and it's almost an event in and of itself like the old Summer of XBLA things? "Alright guys, we've got an idea, we're gonna throw it Live for a few months. If it dies-off, like Crossfire X and MultiVerses, no biggie. But you can earn MS Rewards for being part of it, and if it does well, one of these Live games might become it's own property, or the gameplay reused for a new property etc." It's an old comparison point, but anyone else remember Cartoon Network's "What A Cartoon?" sweepstakes in 90s, which winners of the phone votes birthed the likes of Dexter's Lab, Cow & Chicken and Johnny Bravo? In our "Live Service games", player engagement or mtx spend dictates a game's success. And we might just see a few more Sunset Overdrive --> Spiderman, or Kill Switch --> GEARS evolution/refinements that are needed, instead of always with the empty promises.

3. XB's controllers have been all over the show from "S" revisions and different sizes for each gen etc. XB should have novelty controllers shaped like each gen for use on their latest console. Goddammit, they've never even sniffed the greatness of the 360 pad again (dpad issues withstanding).

That's all I got so far, I don't trust myself to type much longer and not drop my phone in the bath lmao.
 
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KiryuRealty

Cambridge Dictionary High Priest of Grammar
28 Nov 2022
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Where it’s at.
Why would a division that has lost tens of billions of dollars for tis parent company and is performing worse than ever be considered worthy of saving in the first place?

Xbox is blowing its fourth chance. Just walking away from the console business and calling it a day would be the smart business move. Go multiplatform to make money and hope the stink of failure on an unprecedented scale in gaming eventually washes off.
 
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Gamernyc78

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Y'all are getting too cocky with these threads, I'm a Playstation fan, but this gen could still go either way at this point.
There is no either way unless Sony sabotaged all its studios. Even if Microsoft and its acquisitions start releasing good games and gamepass revenue goes up that still doesn't cancel out Sony's constant yearly output of good gamess that sell. With Sony it's a steady, sure race to the finish line.
 

KiryuRealty

Cambridge Dictionary High Priest of Grammar
28 Nov 2022
6,646
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Where it’s at.
Y'all are getting too cocky with these threads, I'm a Playstation fan, but this gen could still go either way at this point.
This past holiday season got Sony to critical mass. There's no chance of an MS win, or even parity at this point. The Series S fire sale was a flop.

Learn about Network Effects and Critical Market Mass, and then we can talk. Momentum is a huge factor in market competition, and between having no big exclusives for a whole goddamned YEAR and Sony finally getting past their supply issues, MS has lost all momentum.

Also, saying "y'all" like some Reeee reject makes you look dumb as fuck, even before we get any further in that post.
 
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anonpuffs

anonpuffs

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This past holiday season got Sony to critical mass. There's no chance of an MS win, or even parity at this point. The Series S fire sale was a flop.

Learn about Network Effects and Critical Market Mass, and then we can talk. Momentum is a huge factor in market competition, and between having no big exclusives for a whole goddamned YEAR and Sony finally getting past their supply issues, MS has lost all momentum.

Also, saying "y'all" like some Reeee reject makes you look dumb as fuck, even before we get any further in that post.
bro don't knock the use of "yall" :D
 

Gamernyc78

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This past holiday season got Sony to critical mass. There's no chance of an MS win, or even parity at this point. The Series S fire sale was a flop.

Learn about Network Effects and Critical Market Mass, and then we can talk. Momentum is a huge factor in market competition, and between having no big exclusives for a whole goddamned YEAR and Sony finally getting past their supply issues, MS has lost all momentum.

Also, saying "y'all" like some Reeee reject makes you look dumb as fuck, even before we get any further in that post.
Lol 🤣🤣 you went mad hard in your last paragraph. You had me dying over here.
 
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AshHunter216

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This past holiday season got Sony to critical mass. There's no chance of an MS win, or even parity at this point. The Series S fire sale was a flop.

Learn about Network Effects and Critical Market Mass, and then we can talk. Momentum is a huge factor in market competition, and between having no big exclusives for a whole goddamned YEAR and Sony finally getting past their supply issues, MS has lost all momentum.

Also, saying "y'all" like some Reeee reject makes you look dumb as fuck, even before we get any further in that post.
Not realizing Y'all is common language (especially in the South where I'm at) and doesn't belong to any website is what's really dumb as fuck. Nothing I said is worth getting this pissy over, especially since you seem to think I was trying to defend Xbox, which I wasn't, lol. Maybe calm down before you get your blood pressure up old man. 😉
 
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Elder Legend

CEO of Gaming Instincts (Industry Veteran)
10 Jan 2023
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Not realizing Y'all is common language (especially in the South where I'm at) and doesn't belong to any website is what's really dumb as fuck. Nothing I said is worth getting this pissy over, especially since you seem to think I was trying to defend Xbox, which I wasn't, lol. Maybe calm down before you get your blood pressure up old man. 😉
You have to excuse him dude. He tends to get off his medication quite a bit here.
 

Vertigo

Did you show the Darkness what Light can do?
26 Jun 2022
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They actually need to position away from gamespass a bit.

Day one releases for smaller games like Hifi Rush and High on Life can work. However… tentpole releases? You’re losing money. Losing revenue. Making less than those games would’ve made at full retail price.

Tentpole release should be full priced and off gamepass. Feature them when you need a bump in the service maybe once a year but nah; you’re just not making money. I’m sorry. It’s the truth

Take out big day one releases like Starfield. Roll XBL gold into it. Only use smaller and niche games as a day one releaes on the service.

This has been toxic for third party releases too. They will all flop because they’re not on gamepass. This is very much like the N64 and how Nintendo lost third party support. Their own business alienated third party devs.
 

KnittedKnight

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Killer_Sakoman

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If I were put in charge of Xbox today, here's what I would do:

  • Fire arron greenburg
  • Fire Phil Spencer
  • Cancel the Activision purchase
  • Cease production of Series S
  • Hire Mark Cerny to make me a Handheld X-deck and to get work on the Xbox 5
  • Publicly apologise for the lack of games
  • Have an open and honest presentation about the roadmap of all games in the works and their release dates
  • Use Activision money to bring massive bangers to gamepass
  • Restructure gamepass to be a B/AA testing/proving ground for Xbox studios. Start making home grown talent.
  • Release a new tier of Gamepass that includes all single-player DLC for every game pass game and selected multiplayer games
  • Focus on making the Series X manufacturing as Lean as possible to drive maximum savings per unit.
  • Lower the price of the Series X

Some of those choices would be unpopular, but right now Microsoft needs that sudden, jarring, visible change in direction. Show the gaming community and xbox fans that a mistake has been made (Fluff it up with pr language of course) and move forward on the strongest foot forward.

Kaz Hirai took responsibility for the PS3 and apologised for how bad it was. He then went and built the PS4, on a shoe string budget and future proofed it with VR. that console sold upwards of 120 million units and changed the fortunes of Sony. Microsoft need to do the same.

Microsoft, if you are reading this, drop me a DM. I work as a consultant reversing the fortunes of companies and I am damn good at it. I would love to take a crack at doing the same in the gaming space, as it is a hobby I love.
It is not smart to introduce another problem by developing a handheld. They also don't need Cerny to develop any hardware. They are already good hardware wise. They only need to better manage resources and stop disappointing their fanbase.
 
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It is not smart to introduce another problem by developing a handheld. They also don't need Cerny to develop any hardware. They are already good hardware wise. They only need to better manage resources and stop disappointing their fanbase.
Xbox need to diversify as soon as possible. Either by creating a handheld and getting into that space - which would go hand in hand with xcloud, streaming and gamepass, or they need to make a VR headset and head in that direction.

While VR is shaping up to be a new industry, there's no telling if it will have staying power or not. On the other hand, mobile/handheld gaming is a huge and established market, especially in Asia where Microsoft struggle at market penetration.

Microsoft are not consistent with hardware. the Xbone was crap, the X1X and elite pad v1 were fantastic. The Series X is crap because it is a PC in a box. Cerny knows how to make cost effective, powerful hardware and gets the most power per $. The PS4 was an allround better machine than the X1. The PSPro, while not as powerful as the X1X (because it's a new console, not a revision) was a very cost-effective way of increasing the power output of the PS4. The PS5 is a masterpiece of technical engineering.

I agree with the resource management, but they will struggle to improve that because they see resources as limitless, rather than a commodity to be carefully considered. They can't disappoint a fanbase because they have none. Xbox need to go back to the drawing board and write a single sentence on a board to answer the following question:

"Who is our target audience?"
 
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Kereke12

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If I had the chance to save the Xbox brand, I would fire everyone on the team and start over and what I mean by that is fire all the leadership/people who have been there for 15 years like Major Nelson, and keep the ones who are young and hire people who have talent and have a true vision for Xbox and the succession of the brand. Making better games at this point won't save Xbox, I give Phil Spencer that, he is right about that. The management there seems incompetent to do their duty to enforce their studios and overlook them to the maximum. Without good leadership, there is no company.
 

Gods&Monsters

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This is Xbox audience! I think you don't need more than this :


I have to say the song is quite catchy with a nice beat. Microsoft might hire him next time instead of Sting.

bouncing without me GIF
 
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