A shake up of leadership also made things uncertain.
This week will mark a new era in Microsoft’s history in the video game business with the launch of the Xbox Series X and Series S. It’s been quite a ride. The company had been making games for years, but entered the console business with the original Xbox, and then stood their own with the Xbox 360 against Sony’s PS3. Then the Xbox One happened. Most people probably know that the launch of the system did not go too hot in 2013, and largely allowed Sony to retake most of the major markets for the current generation that’s coming to an end. Apparently, it was enough to put the whole brand’s future into question.
In a very lengthy interview with Shacknews, Phil Spencer recalls the period after the Xbox One’s launch when Don Mattrick left. He said the Xbox team was splintered into several sections, and Microsoft leadership itself was in flux. When Satya Nadella took over as CEO, apparently a lot of tough questions were asked, with one being whether or not they would even continue with the Xbox brand. It’s not clear if it was meant to drop out of the console business all together or pivot to new branding, but either way, it seemed as if there was at least some question about the future of Xbox.
“So Satya becomes the CEO in February. Then the question is, do we go forward with Xbox? Because we’re getting really outsold by PlayStation in the market at this point. Do we stay invested in it? Or do we make a different decision?
“He and I had a discussion, and I made a pitch. I said, “You know, gaming can be a real important consumer category for the company.” He didn’t quite understand it yet, not from an intelligence standpoint, but he just hadn’t been close to it. But he was willing to make a bet on us as a team. And I said, “The thing I need, if I’m going to step into the role to head this group, is I need to bring it back together. I can’t have my hardware team over there and the platform team over there, and first-party over there. I need to bring it back as a cohesive team.” And he agreed to that. So I ended up working in the Windows division, but we brought all those pieces back together.
“I think the reason I ended up in the job, frankly, was the other leaders were gone. I tease myself that I was the last person left at the table. and there’s some truth in that. I want to make sure I keep my ego in check. It wasn’t a clear, “You take the person who ran first-party and make them head of the platform.” But frankly of the leaders that were there, I was the one that was left.”
Microsoft has long since stopped reporting numbers for their Xbox sales, but it seems as if the Xbox One performed well below expectations by the sound of it. The brand has seemingly been brought back on track, though, thanks in large part to things like Game Pass and expanding out to PC.