Clocked

Console Wars: Phil Spencer stockpiles exclusives, calls for no war

Phil Spencer’s calls for peace amidst the console wars would feel a lot more sincere if Microsoft weren’t stockpiling developers like it’s the cold war.

The console wars are still very much alive, despite what Xbox boss Phil Spencer would have you believe. What he is correct about, though, is that there’s probably never been a better time than now to be a gamer.

In his acceptance speech for a DICE Lifetime Achievement award, Spencer remarked that “I think it’s very often that creations can be kind of weaponised and used in battles between platforms and other things“.

console wars microsoft
Image: Halo Infinite / 343 Industries

And while it’s true that this is precisely how console exclusives work, his company is as guilty of the practice as Sony and Nintendo. It feels even more disingenuous when you consider that Microsoft is in the middle of the biggest binge of developer acquisitions ever recorded.

To draw an unfortunately ill-timed analogy: it’s like the USA lecturing anyone else on the self-defeating nature of stockpiling nuclear weapons. Sure, it would be nice if we could all get along, but you’re the one directly accumulating a bunch of developers in your arsenal.

And let’s be honest, buying Activision is like buying a nuke in the console wars. It literally tanked Sony’s stock.

To try and reframe themselves as the good guy because they put their exclusive games on Gamepass, which can be accessed on PC too, is dishonest because Microsoft also owns the world of PC gaming.

console wars
Image: Horizon Forbidden West / Guerrilla Games

Spencer continued his speech by addressing toxicity in the gaming industry, yet also pointed to a bright future:

I look at everybody who is brave enough to create something, put it out…have their peers, the industry, players, play and analyse and talk about what they do, and let’s just celebrate the fact that so many great games are coming out from so many creators, and realise that’s such a foundation for where this industry is going to go.

It’s difficult to argue with such a sentiment, especially in the direct aftermath of Elden Ring and Horizon Forbidden West. We are witnessing some of the best games ever made and an industry and market that can create ambitious gaming experiences like never before.

Spencer isn’t wrong that it would be nice if everyone could have access to these games. Unfortunately, his company is currently part of the problem regarding the console wars.