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News video games 26 September 2023, 14:09

author: Maciej Gaffke

Phil Spencer Bluntly on AAA Game Publishers: 'They are Milking Their Top Franchises From the Past'

From the emails of the head of Xbox you can learn a lot about big game publishers. According to Phil Spencer, they prefer to bet primarily on well-known and proven brands.

Source: Xbox On / YouTube

Great leak of Microsoft's data and emails has brought us further interesting insights from Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox. This time we learned his opinion about the policy of big game publishers, who are very reluctant to decide to invent new IPs.

Too much risk for publishers

After the advent of digital distribution platforms (e.g., Steam), publishers - primarily the smaller ones - decided to release their titles only in digital form. Only the biggest players in the market could afford to release physical copies - such as Take-Two and Activision, as mentioned in the email from three years ago, written by Xbox executive.

"Very few companies can afford to spend the $200M an Activision or Take 2 spend to put a title like Call of Duty or Red Dead Redemption on the shelf. These AAA publishers have, mostly, used this production scale to keep their top franchises in the top selling games each year."

As Spencer points out, there is a pitfall in this approach by the big publishers. The spending they do on physical copies prevents them from developing entirely new brands. In the end, they are afraid to take that risk and prefer to bet on proven titles.

Publishers are "milking their brands"

That Spencer's words are true, is confirmed by recent announcements and launches of major publishers - enough to cite, for example, Marvel's Spider-Man 2, Star Wars from EA or Avatar from Ubisoft (or exploited beyond measure Assassin's Creed), which are also cited by the Xbox chief himself.

New IPs that have emerged in recent years, overwhelmingly came not from the largest publishers, but from smaller studios - thanks to them such hits as Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft or Candy Crush.

According to Spencer, this is the best evidence that big publishers have fallen behind and decided to base their output only on proven brands, only occasionally expanding their offerings.

"AAA publishers are milking their top franchises but struggling to refill their portfolio of hit franchises, most AAA publishers are riding the success of franchises created 10+ years ago."

The Game Pass should come to the aid of the giants. As Spencer writes:

"Our goal is to find a way to both grow our subscription (which is our new platform) and help the AAA publishers build towards a successful future."

The Xbox chief probably had in mind attracting subscribers to high-profile titles that will be included in the service - so the brand can continue to enjoy interest, which should satisfy its owner, one of the big publishers.

Maciej Gaffke

Maciej Gaffke

At, deals with writing news. Graduated in Polish philology and sightseeing and historical tourism at the University of Gdansk, which is related to his other "non-game" interests - history, books, and travel. As for video games themselves - once a fan of FPS, now converted to action-adventure games. Also interested in fighting games (especially Mortal Kombat), RPGs, and all titles focused on single-player. From time to time, likes to play tennis, volleyball, or football. Proud resident of Pomerania and Puck.


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