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Spencer: People buy consoles for games, but everything else differentiates the Xbox One

For more than a year, hardcore fans of the Xbox One have been clamoring for more games and less everything else for their console.

This week, Microsoft showed it was listening; turning its massive, annual E3 press conference into essentially an hour-and-a-half long video montage of games hitting both this year and in the future.

The presentation kicked off with a succinct introduction by head of Xbox Phil Spencer and then launched straight into the games; back-to-back announcements, trailers, new features, new promises.

After the event, Spencer told Polygon they had discussed even the possibility of not having any introduction.

"We talked about it," he said. "Yeah, it was one of the things, we said, maybe it'll just be videos. And we kinda looked at it that way, and then I do think you want to put some commentary."

So Spencer kicked off the show and dropped in after an hour of gameplay to segue the show from the games of 2014 to the games of the future.

"We think we have a great 2014, and we think a lot of people are going to make console decisions this year," Spencer said. "We're in a competitive battle, so I wanted to be able to stand up and say, ‘Everything you're getting ready to see is coming in 2014,' and come back in an hour and say, ‘Everything you just saw is coming in 2014. These are things you'll get to play on Xbox One this year.'"

The decision to spend essentially the entire press conference showing video games is the clearest sign yet that Spencer, who took over as the head of Xbox less than three months ago, is a different sort of leader, one, at the minimum, who is more focused on gaming than his predecessors.

It's the latest about face in a stream of adjustments, changes and outright reversals Microsoft has made about the Xbox One since the console was revealed a bit more than a year ago.

When it was first announced the Xbox One wasn't just about games, it was meant to be an entertainment hub. That first unveiling was replete with entertainment options, only one of which involved video games.

While acknowledging the changing attitude toward the importance of games on the Xbox One, Spencer said it's not as much about shifting beliefs as it is about changing focus.

"We've gotta have a forward vision and we do," he said. "I'm going to center on who I know I have to win every year, which is the person who wants to play games on their television on a gaming console, and that's got to be customer number one."

And that's not just public messaging, he said, it's the focus of the entire team internally.

"That's the customer we want to go win, we have to go win, we've got to have the right content for," he said. "Over the life of this console, I truly believe the HDMI port in the back of the box, Kinect as part of what Xbox is about, that's gonna be critical to our long term success. Those will be differentiators for us, but we have to win the gamer first and then we can differentiate.

"You can't differentiate without winning the core gamer in this space, you can't win in the gaming console business doing it that way. So for me it's about sequence of focus."

The first step, he said, is winning over the gamers with what they want: games.

Next will be a shift to focus on the Xbox's online service: Live.

"I do believe that the future of gaming is what people are going to be able to do online," he said. "The Crackdown demo is using dedicated CPUs in the cloud to do amazing destruction."

It's the same tech used by Forza, Twitch, Skype and "all of the things we've been doing online."

Then comes the final step, a return to the thing that was used to launch the Xbox One.

"Then entertainment and the other stuff like Kinect," he said. "We've had over a billion voice commands issued on Xbox through Kinect. People are using voice, people are watching TV on their console. We see the hours logged, people are really using these features, but you've got to win as a core gaming box first, and then you can get to what else the box is capable of."

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