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Phil Spencer on the Origins of Xbox Series X

Microsoft's boss of Xbox reveals details behind the origin of the company's next-gen--now current-gen--video game console.


Today, Microsoft launches its fourth video game console, the Xbox Series X. Its kid brother, the still-capable Xbox Series S, hits shelves today as well. I've spent the past nine months interviewing developers from Microsoft and other studios about the history of Xbox, a process that culminated in a conversation with Phil Spencer.

Over the course of our discussion, Spencer revealed details behind the origin of Xbox Series X, the first Xbox console he's overseen from glimmer of an idea through launch as the chief of Microsoft's Xbox division. The process began with discussions on topics such as how to design a machine that satisfied "hardcore" gamers while also appealing to as many mainstream, or casual consumers as possible.

"The two key things that we wanted to do were reach as many players as possible," Spencer told me. "We think price point is important. That's why you see things like Series S"--which, though not as beefy as Series X, costs $100 less--"and Xbox All-Access: So we can reduce the barrier [and get] more people coming in."

Spencer and the team knew how to cater to more passionate players as well. "Our core Xbox fans want Xbox to mean power. For our core Xbox customers, we wanted to give them a console that absolutely was the most powerful console that anybody's created. We made some compromises in terms of our timeline. We waited longer than the competition to lock our silicon and our plan because we wanted" the hardware to be as powerful as possible.

Earlier in our interview, Spencer admitted that the future of Xbox was uncertain after the departure of former Xbox chief Don Mattrick. Spencer stepped up because, as he told me, he was "the last one at the table." That led Spencer and the Xbox team on a journey to course-correct Xbox One following lukewarm reception to its reveal and first E3 showing, which led to initiatives like Game Pass and Play Anywhere, the ability for Windows 10 players to play Xbox titles on their PCs.

Shacknews is ringing in the release of Xbox Series X|S all week with exclusive features, videos, and more. Fix a snack, pour a drink, and watch Green Machine, our 20-minute documentary on the tumultuous circumstances surrounding the launch of the original Xbox in November 2001. Phil Spencer goes into more detail on the launch of Xbox Series X in our exclusive interview, and Shacknews tech editor Chris Jarrard wrote a comprehensive review of the console last week.

Finally, join us this Friday, November 13, for Bet on Black: How Microsoft and Xbox Changed Pop Culture - Part 1, which explores the company's history in PC games through the creation and launch of Xbox.

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at and @davidlcraddock.

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