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Xbox Series X is “on track” to launch as planned at the end of the year, Microsoft gaming boss Phil Spencer has said, but game production is a “bigger unknown” due to complications caused by remote working due to the coronavirus.
Like employees in many industries, in recent months game developers have faced logistical challenges that have arisen from a switch to working from home.
The closure of ratings boards and shops has further complicated the process of creating and releasing games during the pandemic, and several key titles such as The Last of Us Part II and Wasteland 3 have already seen their releases delayed as a result.
However, when asked specifically about the company’s launch plans Spencer indicated that Xbox is currently less confident about first-party software.
The exec said he “feels good” about the current state of game production but added that the safety of his employees and customers is paramount.
“We’re learning every day,” he said. “I say over and over, the safety and security of our teams is the most important thing. Obviously creating safety for our customers online with our services is critically important.”
Spencer added: “Teams are doing a really good job of keeping our hardware on track. I would say the bigger unknown is probably the game production, just being honest. Game production is a large-scale entertainment activity now: you have hundreds of people coming together, building assets [and] working through creative.
“On the hardware side we feel good about our plans and there’s obviously some impact to schedules, but overall, I think we’re in line with where we thought we would be.
“On the game production side, we’re learning every day. I still feel good about it, but I also need to make sure that the security and safety of the teams is the most important thing, and not unduly push when things just aren’t ready.”
A recent New York Times report suggested that some third-party game developers have decided to cut the scope of their games planned for later this year, rather than delay them.
On Thursday Xbox announced a May 7 Inside Xbox presentation which will debut the first Xbox Series X gameplay from the platform’s third-party partners. The platform’s marketing boss later suggested significant first-party game reveals would be held back until the summer.
In March Xbox Game Studios boss Matt Booty, who oversees all first-party games output for the platform holder, issued a statement regarding the impact the coronavirus pandemic was having on production.
According to Booty, each of the company’s in-house development teams faced its own individual challenges.
“We know that gaming connects people during times of social distancing, and we are committed to delivering the highest quality Xbox Game Studios games for our global community of players,” he said in a statement issued to Gamespot.
“At the same time, the health and safety of our XGS development teams is our top priority. Each studio is facing unique challenges and constraints depending on its particular location, and many of our external development partners around the world are similarly affected.
“We are supporting our studio leaders to make the right decisions for their teams and their individual games during this challenging time.”
343 Industries said in March that while Halo Infinite development is “tracking well”, it needs “to be mindful of our current limitations and understand that the coronavirus situation may get worse before it gets better”.