Phil Spencer Pushed for Xbox Game Pass Against the Wishes of His Own Staff

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Image: Microsoft

Xbox Game Pass has proven to be a great success since its launch nearly five years ago on June 1, 2017, having enticed over 20 million gamers with its great library of high-quality games for a relatively cheap monthly price, but the service probably wouldn’t have ever materialized without Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, who was apparently very bullish on the idea and did more for it than anyone might have imagined. As revealed in a recent profile shared by The Wall Street Journal, Spencer actually had to go so far as to convince his own staff that Game Pass, a wildly ambitious idea at the time, had real potential and wouldn’t end up being a costly flop for Microsoft. Spencer “wouldn’t take no for an answer” and ultimately made it happen despite a slew of arguments that suggested Game Pass wouldn’t work, according to at least one former team member.

Microsoft’s Videogame Boss and the Long Battle to Reinvent the Company (The Wall Street Journal)

  • In meetings, Mr. Spencer’s staff would present arguments for why Game Pass wouldn’t work—publishers wouldn’t participate, or it would eat into profits—recalled Mr. Irving, the former Xbox staffer. But Mr. Spencer wouldn’t relent.
  • “He wouldn’t take no for an answer,” said Mr. Irving, who was present at those early meetings. “He was always trying to find a way to make it work.”
  • “I wouldn’t be surprised if Phil has literally played every game that launched in the past year and has an opinion on it,” said Richard Irving, who spent 12 years working on the Xbox team before leaving Microsoft in 2016. “Phil at his core is a gamer.”

The Xbox executive’s achievements in the games industry have not gone unnoticed by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS), which announced last week that Spencer would be awarded the AIAS Lifetime Achievement Award at the 25th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards ceremony on February 24. It will be presented by Todd Howard, Bethesda Game Studios’ game director and executive producer.

Phil Spencer to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award at 25th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards (GamesPress)

  • Since joining Microsoft in 1988 as an intern, Spencer has held numerous roles at the company, including Executive Vice President, Gaming; Head of Xbox; Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Studios; and General Manager, Microsoft Game Studios EMEA.
  • In his roles at Microsoft, Spencer has led the Xbox organization through multiple console launches, including Xbox One S, Xbox One X, Xbox One S All Digital Edition, and Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X; multiple acquisitions, including Mojang (parent company of Minecraft), Undead Labs, Ninja Theory, Playground Games, Compulsion Games, Obsidian Entertainment, inXile Entertainment and ZeniMax Media (parent company of Bethesda Softworks); and influenced global entertainment franchises including Halo, Gears of War and Forza, as well as Xbox Game Studios Publishing.
  • He has also led the expansion of cross-platform gaming with the Xbox Network, investments in subscription business models with Xbox Game Pass, and Microsoft’s introduction of Xbox Cloud Gaming. With his team and colleagues, Spencer continues to push the boundaries of creativity, technical innovation, and fun across genres, audiences, and devices.
Tsing Mui
News poster at The FPS Review.

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