Gaming surging in coronavirus, but challenges to come with new games on hold: Xbox head

prompts ‘incredible growth’ for Xbox Live: Head of Xbox

Head of Xbox Gaming Phil Spencer argues ‘gaming is having a moment’ amid the coronavirus lockdowns.

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Gaming is amid the coronavirus pandemic as people stay home, but the industry could face challenges next year due to slowed production, Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft's Xbox, said Thursday.

U.S. video game spending reached $10.9 billion the first quarter of 2020, up 9 percent from the same period 2019, according to a May 15 report market research company NPD.

"People are at home, looking for ways to connect with their friends and family," Spencer said on "Morning with Maria." He added later that "in the last two months alone," Xbox has created "over 270 million new friendships … over 220 different countries and territories.

"It's just a great way to get connected, to use the technology to connect to new friends and family," he said.

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Xbox Live, a live multiplayer gaming service, has seen "incredible growth," Spencer said. The live function allows users to connect with each other in real-time and use headsets to talk to each other while gaming, creating more of a social atmosphere.

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"We've seen our publishing partners out there talk about their earnings. … Gaming is having a moment," Spencer said, mentioning Minecraft as one such partner that has seen growth amid the pandemic. The Microsoft-owned gaming company has sold more than 200 million units of Minecraft to date, he added.

The industry may face challenges from the pandemic next year, however, because the production of new games has been put on hold because of COVID-19.

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"Video game production is much like high-end movie production, high-end TV production now. Hundreds of people coming together to build these very elaborate, very expensive productions that are [AAA] video games today, and it is a collaborative process," Spencer said. "The teams have done incredible work to be able to work remotely and make the progress that we've had. … But [COVID-19] definitely will have an impact on production for some games."

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Spencer said he thinks the impact of the virus on the game industry will "play out over the next two years."

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