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Xbox exec says leaked “old emails and documents” have “outdated” info

Microsoft's Phil Spencer speaks at the DICE conference in Las Vegas.
Enlarge / Microsoft’s Phil Spencer speaks at the DICE conference in Las Vegas.

Kyle Orland

Yesterday’s massive leaks from the Microsoft v. FTC case have a large swath of the gaming world expecting that a more powerful, disc-free Xbox Series X refresh could be coming as soon as next year. But Xbox boss Phil Spencer is warning that players shouldn’t put too much stock in what he called “old emails and documents.”

“It is hard to see our team’s work shared in this way because so much has changed and there’s so much to be excited about right now, and in the future,” Spencer wrote on social media late Tuesday. “We will share the real plans when we are ready.”

Spencer followed up that post with a memo sent to the Xbox team, apologizing for the unintentional disclosure of internal plans. “I know this is disappointing, even if many of the documents are well over a year old and our plans have evolved,” the memo reads, in part. “I also know we all take the confidentiality of our plans and our partners’ information very seriously. This leak obviously is not us living up to that expectation… That said, there’s so much more to be excited about, and when we’re ready, we’ll share the real plans with our players.”

While Spencer’s statements are vague about who was responsible for the “unintentional disclosure” of Microsoft’s plans, a representative for the Federal Trade Commission was quick to push the blame on the company itself. “The FTC was not responsible for uploading Microsoft’s plans for its games and consoles to the court website,” FTC Director of the Office of Public Affairs Douglas Farrar wrote early Tuesday. In a follow-up post, Farrar pointed to a court order resealing the leaked information (too late for it to prevent the spread of the information, of course), which notes that “Microsoft provided the link on September 14 and the Court uploaded the exhibits to [the] Internet page established for this case.”

What’s real and what’s “outdated”?

How much Microsoft’s “real plans” for a refreshed Xbox Series X have actually “evolved” since the leaked May 2022 slide deck remains an open question, of course; we’ll know more as Microsoft makes actual announcements in the coming months. But we already know that portions of the leaked document refer to now-outdated plans. The deck’s references to a “Cloud Device” in the Xbox line, for instance, seem irrelevant since Microsoft said over a year ago that it was “pivot[ing] away from the current iteration of the Keystone [streaming] device.”

Other supposed plans mentioned in other leaked documents seemed far-fetched even when they were originally discussed. Much has been made in some corners of Microsoft’s interest in acquiring Nintendo “if the opportunity arises,” as discussed in a leaked Spencer email. But there has been less focus on Spencer noting in that same email that Microsoft’s “big pile of cash” helped lead him to the determination that “I don’t see an angle to a near-term mutually agreeable merger of Nintendo and MS, and I don’t think a hostile action would be a good move…”

In any case, many gamers may be hoping in particular that Microsoft’s plans to remove the disc drive from the next Xbox are indeed “outdated.” Reports of Microsoft or other console makers considering a complete abandonment of physical game distribution date back nearly a decade at this point, but a shift to a download-only platform would still cross a Rubicon that some players aren’t ready to cross. Then again, downloadable games have been the bulk of the console market for a while now, so the time for a completely disc-free console market may be coming sooner rather than later.

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