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Xbox Boss Warns Of Impact On 2021 Games

The coronavirus outbreak has had quite an impact on the gaming industry as a whole. With production slowing down on the Nintendo Switch and plans to release the PlayStation 5 in limited quantities, it's hard not to wonder what is in store for the next generation of gaming.

In a chat with Business Insider, Xbox head honcho Phil Spencer spoke at length about this very subject. Specifically, he was asked if we would start seeing more game delays as the situation continues.

"Through the summer, early fall? I feel pretty good about those games," Spencer answered. "Games that were targeting a year from now or beyond? There'll be some impact, but they'll be able to react." 

Basically, Spencer is expecting games that have already had the majority of their production schedules completed to release as planned. However, Spencer believes that we should probably expect delays when it comes to titles that are still in the earlier stages of production. Specifically, he heavily implies that any game that hasn't completed motion capture work is in danger of being delayed. 

"Mocap is just something that's basically stopped. We're not going into mocap studios," Spencer told Business Insider. "If you had all your animation captured and you're doing touch up in more individual art production and in areas like textures and other things, you're in a better position. If you're waiting for a lot of either large audio work — when it's with symphonies and other things — or mocap, you're held up right now and you're making progress in areas that you are."

In other words, Spencer is seeing developers with games that haven't completed motion capture having to reorganize schedules to try to make up for lost time. Motion capture generally requires multiple people to be in the same space for extended periods of time. If it's a production that requires more stunt work, then that requires even more setups and possibly a larger crew. This has basically become unfeasible for any companies that are trying to keep employees safe from exposure to COVID-19. With all kinds of social distancing regulations in place, it has become basically impossible for any work in this vein to continue for the time being

The same goes for certain other areas of production. As Spencer briefly touched upon, it would be impossible to gather a symphony into one place to record the score for a game. Recording from a distance is probably possible, but mostly impractical. A composer or conductor runs the risk of the audio quality being wildly inconsistent if all of the involved musicians are recording from home or one at a time. Traditionally, a live symphony has to feed off of one another, and that's simply not doable at this time.

As Spencer explained, this leaves developers in a tricky spot where it's probably more feasible to work on other areas of the game until it's once again safe to do motion capture and the like. As he said, developers will be able to react to these changes and hopefully stay on the ball. Release windows may be altered, but these games should still come out, even if there's a wait.

We have already seen a few game releases delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, The Last of Us Part 2 was pushed back to June. However, that's an example of a game that had already wrapped production, which meant that the delay was more of a public safety precaution than anything else. 

At the time, the official PlayStation Twitter account wrote, "SIE has made the difficult decision to delay the launch of The Last of Us Part II and Marvel's Iron Man VR until further notice. Logistically, the global crisis is preventing us from providing the launch experience our players deserve." It was certainly a disappointment for fans, but the precaution is certainly understandable.

It's worth noting that Phil Spencer remains optimistic during this time. Even with the various setbacks and uncertainties, Spencer has told fans that there is currently "no Plan B" when it comes to keeping the planned Holiday 2020 release window for the Xbox Series X. It appears as though Xbox will continue to proceed as planned, although the company will continue to practice proper health and safety protocols.

As Spencer told Business Insider, "I'm pretty confident in the industry's ability to continue a steady flow of games coming out. There's just a lot of games in production across the industry right now, and I think we're going to be — as an industry — we're going to be fine."