The coronavirus pandemic may have a greater impact on software production instead of hardware, and could lead to some first-party Xbox Series X games being delayed.
Will the Xbox Series X be delayed? The games are more likely to get pushed back instead of the console. In an interview with CNBC, Xbox head Phil Spencer reiterated previous comments on the next-gen system's launch. Spencer says hardware is on track, but he's less confident in games production. Dev teams are working remotely in an industry built on a tight flow and synergy of office-based mutualism, and key things like motion capture and sound recording have been particularly disrupted.
"The teams are doing a really good job on keeping our hardware on track. I'd say the bigger unknown is is probably the game production. Game production is a large-scale entertainment activity now. You have hundreds of people coming together, building assets," Spencer told CNBC.
Spencer doesn't outright say the Xbox Series X will still maintain its 2020 release date, but the lead has confidence in the original launch. But the system could launch without heavy-hitting titles like Halo: Infinite if the games simply aren't ready yet.
"On the hardware side, we feel good about our plans. Obviously there's some impact to schedules. But overall I think we're in line with where we thought we'd be.
"On the game production side, we're learning everyday. I still feel good about it but I also need to make sure the security and safety of the teams is the most important thing and not unduly push when things just aren't ready."
These statements echo those made to IGN in early April. Spencer was careful to say then that the company is reacting to things in real-time and specific planning has been disrupted. Microsoft has been able to nimbly work around the COVID-19 imposed limitations, though.
"I'd say things right now aren't easy, I think things are stretched, I can feel it in the teams that they're stretched. But we have nothing right now that says we're not going to make the dates we've been planning," Phil Spencer said in a recent interview with IGN.
"Two big issues we're kind of monitoring right now are building a video game from home, a large distributed team of hundreds of people is not easy. Video games as we know right now are big endeavors, like huge massive asset bases that each one of these games have."
The Xbox head also confirms next-gen console testing has been moved to homes. Teams are now remotely testing the system for bugs versus in specific offices and social areas. But even with the possible setbacks, Microsoft feels good about a 2020 launch for the Xbox Series X.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has expressed some concerns about console demand, though. The concern is whether or not consumers will be willing to spend roughly $500 on a new enthusiast-grade console.
"But we feel good about where we are, especially when you look at how we're able to meet the demands of our work-from-home kits. Therefore I think on the supply side we're getting back on the rails. The question now will be more getting the products done and then launched. Obviously we're going to focus mostly again on quality as well as the demand situation. And more importantly, safety for the people," Nadella told CNBC in late March.
Microsoft is currently planning a big showcase for third-party games running on Xbox Series X next week. The company says a first-party game reveal event is coming next month in June.