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Xbox head Phil Spencer says Covid-19 will cause delays in 2021

Xbox head Phil Spencer has been talking about the impact of Covid-19 on the games industry, and his message is basically: ‘don’t worry, everything will mostly be fine’. He says he feels “pretty good” about games that are due to come out this summer and autumn, while those that are further away will see “some impact, but they’ll be able to react”. It makes sense that some games will be delayed.

He’s also got thoughts on which games are more likely to be affected. They’re all sports games, which seems cruel. Now the virtual recreations of the things you can’t do are further off, too.

As Spencer told Business Insider, sports games like Madden and Fifa might see difficulties. “It’s really in those [types of] games that were trying to finally get all their asset base together in terms of art production that they might have the biggest impact”, he said.

The most affected areas aren’t surprising, but it’s still interesting to see Spencer pick them out. Areas like motion capture, “which is just something that’s basically stopped”. A lot depends on what point studios have reached in production:

“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.”

Spencer also mentioned the new Xbox, and how he still feels good about their progress. He apparently plays on his fancy unreleased console “most nights”. Remember, the launch affects us too: nowadays all of Mirosoft’s Xbox games are also PC games, and most games are multiplatform anyway.

He does acknowledge that due to “the kind of pomp and circumstance around launches, you might find a time where there’s some impact”. So it sounds like the new Xbox will come out roughly around “Holiday 2020” (meaning November onwards), as planned, but with less pomp. That’s cool. The world could do with less pomp.

More broadly, he’s “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. I’m bullish on what this means in the long run for games, even if there’s a certain impact to a certain launch window for certain titles that we might see.”

The certain impact to certain launch windows for certain titles all remains uncertain, of course. Such are the times.

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Matt Cox


Matt is the founding member of RPS's youth contingent. He's played more games of Dota than you've had hot dinners.

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