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How The Xbox Head Really Feels About The Console War

It seems like the winner of the console war shifts every five minutes. First, Sony seemed the clear winner because more gamers had wanted to preorder the PlayStation 5 than the Xbox Series X. Then the Series X received a huge boost because it released first, and to critical acclaim. And just before Sony could snatch the victory away again, Bud Light provided a last-minute entry that features what could be the envy of all other consoles: a built-in projector. With all these consoles vying for attention, you might wonder what the bigwigs behind these platforms think of the ensuing loyalty war. Turns out, Phil Spencer is less than enthused to see that Xbox fans are fighting with PS5 devotees.

Recently, Spencer sat down with The Verge's Editor-in-Chief Nilay Patel for an episode of the Decoder Podcast. The discussion eventually turned to the celebration that comes with every new console generation/release. Patel wanted to know what Spencer thought about the cultural importance that comes with lining up for a console, unboxing it for all the internet to see, and occasionally going all caveman on it with a hammer because someone prefers the rival. Spencer had some choice words for that kind of behavior, which he unflatteringly labeled as "tribalism."

Spencer prefaced his statements by explaining that he loves the video game industry, and his wife believes "it's the only job [he's] qualified for." But, if one factor could make him just give up and quit his position, it's that kind of toxic loyalty. To him, there's enough room in town for more than one console.

Spencer's dislike of console war "tribalism" is firmly rooted in his belief that the bravest thing any team can do is expose its work to the masses. To him, it takes guts to put your effort out there for others to judge, because there will always be harsh critics. Maybe he's a big softie, but Spencer claimed he never bets against another team, even if they are rivals and have to compete for an audience. In Spencer's worldview, a game developer or console manufacturer's worst enemy isn't someone who can potentially take away customers but instead "apathy over the products and services [and] games that we build."

If you stop to think about it, many of Microsoft's past actions reflect Spencer's perspective. The company championed cross-play, released Microsoft-owned games like Halo and Gears 5 on the rival platform Steam, and let Nintendo add characters like Minecraft's Steve to the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate character roster. Many of the moves he makes wouldn't fly if he viewed rival consoles as, well, rivals — but he doesn't. And now you know why.