Phil Spencer promoted to head of Xbox, promises to focus on games


(Photo courtesy of Microsoft) (Photo courtesy of Microsoft)

Phil Spencer has been named head of Microsoft's Xbox division. Xbox gamers can rest easy as Microsoft has completely turned over its leadership, putting to rest the regime that was completely out of touch with its fans. This past year has been a growth experience both for me and for the entire Xbox team,” Spencer said in a blog post on Xbox Wire. He’s clearly referring to the roller coaster ride Microsoft went through in between the Xbox One reveal last May, through E3 a fewweeks later and then into the November launch. Microsoft wanted to push new technology and changes like digital-only games and a constant Internet connection for the Xbox One. The problem wasn’t what they wanted to do. It was how they were talking about doing it. The robotic former Xbox president, Don Mattrick, alienated and infuriated Xbox gamers, and probably Microsoft public relations representatives too, every time he opened his mouth.



The bottom line was Microsoft, with Mattrick in charge, wanted to push their agenda. They wanted to tell gamers what they wanted or needed instead of easing gamers into new ideas and technologies. That plan backfired so badly that after E3, Microsoft completely reversed their plans for digital-only games and always-on connectivity. Spencer told Larry Hyrb, director of programming for Xbox Live also known as Major Nelson) that he wants the company to focus on "games, games, games,” as they head into E3. Last year, Microsoft spent too much time having to answer for their hardware decisions and not enough talking about games. They were outmaneuvered and outshone by Sony. Sony has hit a rough patch recently, providing Spencer and Microsoft an opportunity on which to capitalize. They could do so by announcing some exclusive AAA titles. Spencer needs to get people excited for the Xbox One. Microsoft realizes that independent games are a big deal. They will continue to push indie games with their ID@Xbox self-publishing program. Indie games have become very coveted by Microsoft and Sony, because they're able to fill the gaps between bigger production games at a fraction of the cost. Titanfall” and livestreaming and sharing apps have proven to be very popular among gamers. The Xbox One has much stronger capabilities in those areas than the PS4 and it looks like it will get stronger with better YouTube functionality. More games that take advantage of those capabilities will push the Xbox One in an area that Sony woefully underestimated. Phil Spencer is a breath of fresh air and he wants to learn from Microsoft’s mistakes to change the philosophy of the Xbox division. He’s a gamer and has worked with gaming studios for years. He wants the Xbox division to focus on gaming first. He’s instantly more likable due to his sociable demeanor and his willingness to engage fans on discussion boards and social media.

“I am actively listening, and I am motivated to do what’s right for fans who’ve invested their time, hearts and money in the products we build,” Spencer said in the same blog. Gamers should welcome Spencer to the head of the Xbox table with open arms because he will provide a solid connection between gamers and Xbox as the rest of Microsoft’s front office settles into place. He’s saying all the right things at this point. Now, he just has to back it up.

Reach the reporter at or follow him @NefariousMike

Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.