Phil Spencer Discusses Project Scarlett and Competing in "The Right Way"

Pretty early on in the X019 rumour machine, we got confirmation from Xbox’s Aaron Greenberg that there would be no news about Project Scarlett during X019 or the Inside Xbox special that kicked it all off. However, Phil Spencer got a little chatty about it in a limited press event adjacent to the X019 festivities. Speaking to The Verge, Spencer was cautiously confident that the launch of Project Scarlett will learn big lessons from the notoriously disastrous reveal of the Xbox One.

“… a learning from the Xbox One generation is we will not be out of position on power or price,” Spencer said. Spencer wasn’t heading up the Xbox project at the beginning of this generation, stepping in only after Don Mattrick’s era of helmsmanship came to an abrupt halt. Apart from the totally garbled messaging about game sharing and the total lack of focus on actual games, the Xbox One launch also put the console at a huge premium compared to its competition – a fact that Spencer acknowledges. “We were a hundred dollars more expensive and yes, we were less powerful.” Spencer claims that Scarlett’s leadership team will make the difference, with a renewed focus on market success.

Spencer is keen to stress that market success is driven forward correctly, though, and seems to believe that the key is in player accessibility. “I want to compete in the right ways, which is why we’re focused on cross-play and backward compatibility”. One could argue that this accessibility focus extends to other Xbox projects – the game-streaming focused XCloud with DualShock 4 compatibility, the Adaptive Controller and the heavily PC-inclusive roster for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate in 2020.

So why the relative silence on what Project Scarlett is all about, and why doesn’t it have a name yet? For a while, rumours persisted that there were going to be two consoles launched as part of Scarlett, but Spencer refused to be drawn on it in the interview – recalling the other big mistake from the Xbox One launch: “We don’t want to confuse people.”

Spencer also expressed an interest in better player interactivity, when expounding on Verge reporter Tom Warren’s question about converging Xbox Live with Discord. “I think it’s more difficult because the voice codecs are different. It’s not as easy as a phone system,” Spencer said. “I think over time it’s a benefit to all of us… Cross-talk – if you want to use that as a term – is something I think we should be focused on”.

Despite being the one to take the Project Scarlett conversation off the X019 table, GM of Xbox Games Marketing Aaron Greenberg opened up a bit to press as well. As reported by VG 24/7, Greenberg confirmed that the same team behind the Xbox One X is working on Scarlett. “We want to continue to not only focus on power, but also add things like speed, enhanced frame rates with a more powerful CPU.”

Not a lot to go on, but Greenberg stressed that dev kits were already in the hands of key developers, and asserted that while X019 was not Scarlett focused, 2020 would be. “Next year is going to be all about Project Scarlett.”