Before the official induction of the Xbox Series S and Series X this Tuesday, we spoke with Ina Gelbert, director of Xbox France. Between the strength of the new generation and a shift in perception, for her, the Xbox message is starting to take hold.
The new Xbox Series S and Series X officially arrive this Tuesday. The entry into a new era for Microsoft’s gaming branch after seven complicated years with the previous generation.
Arrived at the head of the French division just a year ago, Ina Gelbert returns for Frandroid on this launch which is a bit particular in times of confinement. The words of the director of Xbox France also symbolize a new confidence in Microsoft where we feel a change coming.
A rather special launch
How is this rather special launch going?
INA GELBERT: Compared to containment, the impact is not huge on us. All preparation for the launch, for both products and services, was done upstream. The consoles have already left our warehouses to those of the distributors. And then there is the event part. It’s a little more complicated to launch today. We would have liked to have a physical event with the fans and the media, but it’s impossible. We switched to digital events to speak. There is also one this Monday evening for France. And, on Tuesday, there will be a global celebration driven by Xbox World to see what has been done in different countries to celebrate the arrival of the new generation.
Have you ever considered postponing the launch with containment?
No, there are solutions that are possible today. We made sure to ensure the maximum volumes available at the time of launch, to meet the deadlines that we had announced for production, etc. The idea is to be able to ensure that our consoles are there for the end of the year, for all the gamers who are waiting for them.
Is it the new generation of consoles that seduces and makes the message better understood?
I would say it’s since Phil Spencer has been in charge, with the support of Satya (Nadella, the boss of Microsoft, editor’s note) who has put gaming back into the essential pillars of the company. This translates into investments such as the takeover of Zenimax, one of Microsoft’s biggest acquisitions, and not just Xbox, the addition of numerous studios, content and technology. It shows that gaming really has a role to play for Microsoft and to show its power. The Xbox story is beautiful, and today it is much better perceived.
Lessons learned from Xbox One misfires
Compared to the launch of the Xbox One in 2013, we felt Microsoft was much more offensive for the Xbox Series X, more sure of its message and more determined to assume it …
With this new generation, we put the gamer at the center and we spoke to him directly, before explaining everything he could do in addition with his console. The console announcement was made during a gaming event. We were the first to speak, to unveil our console. We took the initiative, because we wanted to show that we were still there for this generation and that it was not weakening. We have a very strong brand and great ambitions.
We focused on the player, his expectations and how to meet them.
Have you learned from the failures of the Xbox One launch?
Maybe, on the previous generation, we got a little lost, especially trying to show what the console could do in addition. There, we put the emphasis back on the technical specificities of the console, the studios we embark with us, the strong licenses that are coming, backward compatibility. What we want now is to ensure that a person can have enormous advantages in our ecosystem, with the games and accessories that they already have or thanks to new ways of playing such as cloud gaming, cross play or even Play Anywhere. We focused on the player, his expectations and how to meet them.
There is also a much more fun tone that we did not know at Microsoft, as the story of the fridge illustrates …
The Xbox fridge is a good example. It’s also a way of playing on these memes. Taking back the full-size fridge is so Xbox. We know that it takes on social networks too and our audience, that’s where it is. She spends very little time in front of her TV so we have relied heavily on digital communication to get our messages across rather than on an advertising campaign around notoriety. We have a real pleasure, in the France team in any case, to have an offbeat tone and to communicate with our fans.
A year like no other
It’s been a year since you took the reins of Xbox France, does the launch of the new consoles correspond to what you had imagined?
I have always understood that we had a lot of ambition on Xbox. The way we announced the console was quite remarkable, as were the additional announcements we made. Everything has really accelerated since September with those around Game Pass, the arrival of cloud gaming or Zenimax studios. The more time goes by, the more we show our desire to be present in the world of gaming with everything we do to enrich the Xbox ecosystem. And I really like the current battle strategy on Xbox. In France, we also fought to have cloud gaming and All access. Few countries have them. They are our pride.
The community is a good surprise. Fans are proud to be a part of the Xbox ecosystem and claim it
And personally, what is your greatest satisfaction this year?
When I arrived, there were questions about my profile, about being a woman in such a position. But overall I was well received. There are a lot of interactions that take place on social networks on a daily basis and we receive a lot of support from the community, constructive comments, congratulations on our actions, suggestions. I find these exchanges very enriching. They bring us even closer to the community and I didn’t think it would be at that level. This is the good surprise. Fans are happy to see that the brand they love continues to reinvent itself. They are proud to be a part of the Xbox ecosystem and claim it.
They also said they were disappointed with the new generation catalog, with no big exclusives …
In an ideal world, we would have had Halo Infinite at launch. It was ambition. But that was not possible, because the studio needed more time. We preferred to take the time necessary to offer the community a game that lived up to their expectations. But we are still offering the strength of the backward compatibility of all generations. A person who takes an Xbox Series S or Series X doesn’t start from scratch. She already has several thousand games potentially. More beautiful and playable games from launch on the new console. And around thirty recent optimized games. It’s still thousands of hours of play available.
The future of video games is now emerging
Will exclusives no longer be the sinews of war for consoles?
Today, our ambition is to ensure that the gamer can enter the Xbox universe. I think the future is here: on one side, the console and the PC part, then all the people who will use a smartphone or a tablet, who will play in cloud gaming, so that they can all join together a moment in the ecosystem.
It is also the message of the Game Pass that you constantly enrich. It will eventually become more important than the release of a game …
It’s a question of choice. One does not prevent the other. There are people who want to own their game, who want to buy it and spend a lot of time on it. We offer them that option. There is also another section of the population who wants to discover games, which includes the notion of subscription at a low price for more than a hundred games on Xbox and PC with cloud gaming for 12.99 euros per month. . The Game Pass is our major asset, we will add the EA Play catalog to it from this week. The offer is currently very dense with more and more publishers offering titles. It’s a sign.
One of the notable additions of Game Pass Ultimate is cloud gaming. Is this the future for you? Phil Spencer even mentioned the idea of bringing it to TV via an HDMI key …
We must study all these formats to ensure that as many players as possible can access the Xbox offer. We are talking about three billion potential players, but not three billion who will equip themselves with a console. There are other uses that are now in demand, other needs. Cloud gaming on smartphones may be more natural in Asia or Africa where we consume a lot on the phone.
Ultimately, there will therefore no longer be a console?
The console remains the best possible experience to this day. There is no debate on it and no reason for it to stop. The console is still essential in the offer that we have on the market today, in particular because the internet connection is not optimal for everyone. But we know that a life cycle is between 6 and 7 years. We still have a good time with the new consoles to cover.
Xbox seems extremely confident with this new generation. What is the trap to avoid so as not to experience the same disappointment as with the Xbox One?
The situation is different, it is true. When I see what we are doing, the only risk is that we take a little more time, between the development of the studios or before really having the catalog that we dream of somewhere. This is what can slow us down in what we want to do. But today, we have the will, we give ourselves the means to do so. We have everything we need. It’s just a matter of time.
Personally, do you prefer the Xbox Series S or Series X?
For me, it will be the S Series on my desk so I can play when I want a break. But at home, it will be the Series X for another family use.