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It's games first for Xbox One under new management

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Phil Spencer, the newly appointed Head of Xbox at Microsoft, says he'll lead the Xbox team — which includes Xbox Live, Xbox Music, Xbox Video and Microsoft Studios — with a "gaming first" philosophy, focusing on video games as the most important component of the four-month-old Xbox One.

"Xbox is a gaming brand and [Microsoft] took the person who was at the head of the gaming franchises to lead the Xbox team," Spencer said in an interview with Polygon today. The appointment, he said, "really shows a commitment" to games on the platform that was first introduced to the world with a focus on entertainment.

"With me you're going to get a focus on gaming first and a best platform to play games on," Spencer, formerly the head of Microsoft Studios, said. "It's not a focus we ever lost but it's one I'll be accentuating at Microsoft. It's really going to be a gaming-led focus with Xbox and my new role allows us to execute on that."

Spencer said that in discussions with Microsoft executives, like new CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft Devices Group executive vice president Stephen Elop and Terry Myerson, operating systems head and Spencer's boss, defining his new role as Head of Xbox was about "ensuring that from a company level everybody understand the importance of Xbox as a brand and the strength of our platform."

A unified organization, Spencer said, with the key Xbox businesses aligned under him, will help create "a tight feedback loop" between the people who play games on Xbox, the Xbox team at Microsoft and the game developers who create content for the platform.

And according to Spencer, Xbox customers are more interested in more gaming content on Xbox One over anything else.

"The biggest request is to bring back Shenmue."

"I see the conversation focusing more on the games: what new IP we are investing in, what's going on in Japan, what are we doing with Halo," Spencer said. "It's my job to make sure the best content shows up there... maybe a mix of things we're bringing back from the past, like Killer Instinct, which was very successful, as well as new IPs, like Quantum Break, Sunset Overdrive and other things we haven't announced yet.

"As the conversation with the customers today centers around the content that we have, that's the majority of my focus. And we're talking to developers about the next thing they want to be doing on Xbox."

Spencer said the biggest request he hears from Xbox owners is that gamers want Microsoft to bring back Shenmue, Sega and Yu Suzuki's unfinished action adventure epic. "The big Shenmue contingency," he said with a laugh, has definitely managed to garner his attention.

While a new Shenmue may not be in the immediate future, Spencer said Xbox has "the best lineup of content in a long time" planned for this year's E3 and beyond. That, he believes, will help Xbox One sales catch up to those of Sony's PlayStation 4, which is outpacing Microsoft's platform in sales so far.

"We're early on in the console generation, and obviously Sony's having a great launch," he said. "Console gaming is doing incredibly well right now. Six months ago, everybody wondered if console gaming was dead... but this is a long, multi-year generation and my fundamental belief is that great games create the best platforms."