‘Banjo fans, I hear you’: Xbox CEO gives fans hope for future return to classic franchises

Detailed words for what could come next.

Banjo and Kazooie celebrating in Smash.
Image via Nintendo

Following its successful acquisition of Activision-Blizzard, discussion over how Microsoft would best utilize the former’s backlog for its coveted Game Pass picked up again. Xbox chief executive Phil Spencer is now assuring fans the company is listening, but it might take some time before classic franchises reappear.

Spencer talked about the future of Acti-Blizzard’s games and teasers that had been made between Microsoft announcing and closing the acquisition in an interview with Windows Central on Dec. 1, to which he confirmed there are decisions already being made internally around those properties. Specifically, he noted Game Pass is a key part of those plans as the service “makes money” and Xbox puts over a billion dollars per year into supporting the games that exist within it. This means evaluating where it is important to focus on a smaller experience or making something a huge release.

An image displaying the selection of top titles, like Overwatch, Diablo, Call of Duty, and more that Microsoft has acquired with the Activision-Blizzard acquisition.
The potential seems endless for Xbox moving forward. Screenshot via Microsoft

“I think a lot of the publishers are naturally drawn to making games that are big hit games, as big as possible,” Spencer said. “But because we have a platform, and we have a subscription service, having people play more and stay engaged on the platform, frankly, regardless of the types of games they’re playing, is a very viable part of our strategy.”

When talking about scaling content, Spencer referenced recent releases like Pentiment, Hi-Fi Rush, and Grounded—all somewhat smaller games from some of its studios viewed as investments in diversity within the model of game development and have shown “real success” for Xbox’s subscription platform. The team plans to carry that mindset over into the back catalog of IP and existing games it acquired with both Activision and Blizzard, where the team is “really excited about the things we can do.” But, it’s not something likely to happen right away.

Spencer noted most teams within Xbox and its studios are already working on projects and the goal is to find the right team with a “passion for what they want to go work on” when putting something new into the oven. That means splitting up future projects into a more diverse business model to ensure different games can be supported by different teams and “not every game we build has to be the kind of game that takes up all of your time.”

When it comes to legacy franchises or classics that haven’t been touched in ages, Spencer isn’t against forgoing the use of the original team if it makes sense and whoever is put on the project wants to work on it. However, he also says that Xbox has learned through previous work that it is important to include teams who know and are passionate about the IP or idea in the development process.

Spencer references the Age of Empire series and Killer Instinct’s recent 10th Anniversary update that pushed the game back into relevance as examples of this process and even gives hope that another classic is on the Xbox team’s mind. “You’ve seen from our history that we haven’t touched every franchise that people would love us to touch—Banjo[-Kazooie] fans, I hear you,” Spencer said. “But it is true that, when we find the right team, and the right opportunity, I love going back to revisit stories and characters that we’ve seen previously.”

As for the Blizzard approach, Xbox’s plan seems to be about keeping communication open with the company’s leadership team to decide what comes next. If the passion for revisiting an IP or reviving an old franchise exists, Spencer says it is possible that something happens.

He stresses that there are plenty of people on both sides excited about what can come from this deal, but that he doesn’t want to tease fans too much or lead people on. “I’m not one to try and lead people on. It might not happen on the timeline that people would love, but usually when I tease, there’s something there,” Spencer said.


Cale Michael
Lead Staff Writer for Dota 2, the FGC, Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and more who has been writing for Dot Esports since 2018. Graduated with a degree in Journalism from Oklahoma Christian University and also previously covered the NBA. You can usually find him writing, reading, or watching an FGC tournament.