Tech

New Xbox on schedule but game production may be slowed by coronavirus, Microsoft exec says

Key Points
  • Microsoft executive vice president of gaming and head of Xbox Phil Spencer said coronavirus won't impact when Microsoft launches its next-gen game console.
  • Microsoft next game console is called the Xbox Series X.
  • The next installment of the infamous Halo series, Halo Infinite, is set for release in Q4 2020 to go with the upcoming Xbox Series X. So far, that isn't delayed.
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Xbox head Phil Spencer on the surge in demand for Xbox Live

Microsoft executive vice president of gaming and head of Xbox Phil Spencer said coronavirus won't impact when Microsoft launches its next-gen game console. Instead, the outbreak may affect the new games that are supposed to be released in the coming months.

"Overall, I think we're in line with where we thought we would be," he said while discussing the new Xbox Series X on Thursday during CNBC's "Squawk Alley." "I'd say the bigger unknown is probably the game production," he added ."Game production is a large scale entertainment activity now, you have hundreds of people coming together, building assets, working through creative."

Spencer said he's still confident about the current state of game development but that the security and safety of his teams are top priority. Microsoft won't "push when things just aren't ready," he said.

Microsoft's next game console is called the Xbox Series X. It will compete with Sony's PlayStation 5. There had been concerns in recent weeks that supply disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak could delay the releases of next-gen game consoles.

Much of those concerns have shifted towards companies' game pipelines as publishers have started to delay release dates on some of the most highly-anticipated games of the year. With developers at home, some game releases have already been pushed back.

Sony, for example, revealed earlier this month that it was delaying the release of "The Last of Us 2" to an undetermined date as the virus has put pressure on the production and distribution of games. It's one of the biggest titles set to launch in 2020.

The next installment of the infamous Halo series, Halo Infinite, is set for release in Q4 2020 to go with the upcoming Xbox Series X. So far, that isn't delayed.

Gaming is soaring right now

Microsoft's next-generation Xbox Series X console.
Microsoft

Gaming engagement has surged as consumers socially distance and stay at home, with Verizon reporting in March that U.S. video game usage had soared 75% since restrictions were imposed.

Xbox has been one of the direct benefactors of that surge. Microsoft said in its earnings on Tuesday that Xbox Live now has 90 million monthly users and Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft's subscription video game service, has surpassed 10 million subscribers.

While there may be some moderation that occurs as states begin to reopen and stay-at-home orders start to ease, Spencer pointed to the strength of the industry prior to the pandemic as a sign that consumers will continue to play games.

"It's really just becoming a strong social fabric in the home at a time of need," he said.