Microsoft has appointed one of its own to become the new head of Xbox, but that doesn’t mean you should be expecting more of the same.
In a letter to employees this morning, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that Phil Spencer will be leading the games division within the company as part of a handful of other changes to the organization.
Spencer is filling the hole left by Marc Whitten, the longtime Xbox leader who recently joined Sonos, which makes entertainment equipment for the living room.
Todd has the details on Nadella’s other appointments, including Scott Guthrie, who will be head of the company’s Cloud and Enterprise Group, and Stephen Elop, who will join Microsoft as EVP, Microsoft Devices Group, once the Nokia acquisition is final.
As part of the announcement this morning, Spencer wrote a blog post, titled “A new day at Xbox,” in which he pledged to turn over a new leaf and do what’s best for its biggest fans.
“Whether it is meeting thousands of fans at the launch of Xbox One, talking at industry events or hearing from gamers on Twitter and Xbox Live, 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. You have been the most important part of the success Xbox has had to-date and you are a critical voice as we continue the journey. Let’s keep the conversation going.”
The communication piece is essential after a botched Xbox One launch at E3 a year ago. On multiple occasions, Spencer has said the executive team has learned from the mistake and wants to have a more open dialogue in the future.
“That wasn’t a high-point for me,” Spencer admitted at SXSW, referring to the company’s launch of the Xbox One at E3. “I thought our messaging about what we believed in was confused, mainly by us…I learned a ton last summer as leader for our groups about being a true leader, and not being confusing. Frankly, when you are going to say something to a consumer that might put them off, it’s better to be direct and honest, rather than sugarcoat something that might be controversial.”
Nadella said Spencer is the right man for the job.
In the new role, Spencer will be leading Xbox, combining both the Xbox and Xbox Live development teams with the Microsoft Studios team. He will in charge of Xbox, Xbox Live, Xbox Music and Xbox Video teams and Microsoft Studios. He reports to Terry Myerson, so that the console’s activities will remain close to the group developing operating systems. There are now more than 80 million Xbox owners and 48 million Xbox Live members.
One concern when Whitten departed was that Microsoft’s ranks of showmen — people who were regularly trotted out to explain new features or do press interview for Xbox — had dwindled. A year ago, Don Mattrick, the former president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, left the company to become CEO of Zynga.
Spencer immediately replaced Whitten at a panel discussion at the Games Developer Conference. Nadella also said Spencer will work closely with Yusuf Mehdi, who leads business strategy and marketing for Xbox, George Peckham, who heads up third-party partnerships and Mike Angiulo, who will continue leading Xbox hardware.