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Microsoft has no Plan B for Series X launch

With both the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 supposedly launching this holiday season, fans are understandably anxious to hear any updates on the consoles. One of the biggest questions continues to be when we'll see an actual release date reveal for either system. Compounding these questions is the recent coronavirus outbreak which has caused several setbacks within the gaming industry. With major events like E3 being canceled, it's reasonable to wonder how COVID-19 might alter release plans for the next console generation. We may now have a bit of an answer to that with regard to the Xbox Series X.

During an interview with IGN's Podcast Unlocked, Xbox head honcho Phil Spencer fielded a question about how COVID-19 might impact the release schedule for the Xbox Series X. Spencer made it clear that Microsoft is taking precautions to safeguard its employees, but he also added, "We haven't really started on any kind of Plan B."

As Spencer explained, "We have nothing right now that says we're not going to make the dates that we've been planning. But this is real time stuff, and i'm going to put the safety and security of the teams at the top, along with a quality product. I don't want to rush a product out if it's not ready."

If you're wondering where exactly that leaves the teams working on the new system, don't worry. Spencer added, "The thing that i'm going to put front and center is safety and security of the team. There's no decision I will make, or frankly, anybody at Microsoft would even ask me to make that would compromise the safety and security of the teams for a near-term either financial or product gain. The teams are the most important thing."

In other words, Microsoft isn't going to be reckless when it comes to producing the new system, but it's also not about to put the lives of its employees at risk for the sake of meeting a deadline. This is wonderful to hear, considering how some companies in the gaming industry, like GameStop, have come under fire for seemingly unsafe business practices in the face of COVID-19.

However, having spent years in the gaming industry, Spencer also acknowledged the issues with putting a hold on a highly-anticipated console release. Despite the extenuating circumstances related to COVID-19, there's still a fear this could negatively impact Xbox's brand. 

"I will say, having lived through the Xbox One launch, I know that significant delays in region launches hurt us," said Spencer. "It hurt us with the sentiment of the fans. Every time I go to Japan, I'm reminded that we were nine months late in launching there with Xbox One."

Spencer has a very good point. When the Xbox One finally released in Japan, it was seemingly too little, too late. According to Polygon, the Xbox One's Japanese launch saw less units sold than the Wii U or the PlayStation 4. As of 2019, the system was still selling significantly below other consoles on the market, which really must sting. Clearly, Spencer is reflecting on this failure when worrying about the release of the next Microsoft console. It makes sense that he'd be concerned about a repeat of this.

The Series X is attempting to set a new standard for Microsoft consoles. Earlier this year, Phil Spencer explained what was being prioritized on the new console: making the games look and feel as amazing as possible. As Spencer explained at the time, "I think we've reached a point with Xbox One X in the generation where games look amazing, and there's always work we can do to look more amazing. But I want games to feel as amazing as they look." The company has therefore prioritized higher frame rates to make upcoming titles feel more immersive than ever before.

It's good to know that Microsoft has no plans to push development on the Xbox Series X if it means endangering its employees. However, it is concerning that the company doesn't have a backup plan for the console launch. With things being as uncertain as they are at the moment, it may be a good idea for Microsoft to consider one. 

Then again, this could still be part of the "wait and see" model we've started to see develop between Microsoft and Sony. For a while, it's looked as though the two companies were keeping an eye on one another before announcing official release dates or price points. It may take one console budging before Microsoft even considers a so-called "Plan B."