Legendary Xbox CVP Kareem Choudhry is leaving Microsoft, and Xbox growth plans accelerate

Kareem Choudhry
(Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • "Legendary" Xbox CVP Kareem Choudhry is leaving Microsoft as of today. 
  • Choudhry worked on some of Microsoft's most cutting-edge gaming tech, from Xbox Cloud Gaming to its recent AI efforts. 
  • Choudhry's exit triggered a wider Xbox leadership re-org, with some team members promoted, and new staff incoming. 
  • The wider leadership shake-up is designed to streamline processes and help Microsoft accelerate plans for growth for Xbox Game Pass, Xbox hardware, and beyond. 
  • Windows Central understands that Kareem's exit was amicable and coincidental, and leaves a legacy as one of Xbox's most loved figures internally. 

Microsoft's gaming org has grown to be one of the biggest contributors to Microsoft's overall revenue pie, with Xbox now outstripping Windows itself as one of the biggest drivers of income. That's in no small part thanks to the acquisition of Activision-Blizzard, which counts Candy Crush Saga, World of Warcraft, and Call of Duty among various billion-dollar verticals for the gaming org. 

To that end, Microsoft has been rapidly evolving how it thinks of gaming today, and for Xbox's future. That also means some leadership changes. 

After 26 years of Microsoft tenure, our sources indicate that Kareem Choudhry is exiting the company. Choudhry might be known best to Xbox fans for the quote "it eats monsters for breakfast," in reference to the Xbox Series X, and "it's a monster" in reference to the Xbox One X. Indeed, Kareem was responsible for working on some of Microsoft's most cutting-edge projects, including developing the Xbox backwards compatibility layer, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and Microsoft's new gaming AI division, known internally as XEmTech or Xbox's Emerging Tech team. Today is Choudhry's last day at Microsoft, according to sources familiar with the matter. 

The XEmTech org will move into the general Xbox hardware org, which is led by Roanne Sones. Sones is famed for her tenure as an OEM expert on the Windows division, helping companies like Dell and HP get the most out of Windows for their PC manufacturing efforts. I spoke to Sones last year at Gamescom, where she made no secret of Microsoft's interest in gaming handhelds. Also while I'm here, Jason Ronald remains as a Tech Advisor within the Xbox hardware umbrella, since I've seen some reports in certain places that he was no longer involved in leading the charge for Xbox hardware — he is!

In an internal memo described to us, Microsoft noted that moving the AI team underneath the hardware ecosystem will accelerate innovation in that space. Microsoft is known to be working on machine learning tech for improving graphics with DirectSR, as well as an Xbox AI chatbot tool to help users solve support queries both externally and internally.

Ashley McKissick and Kevin Gammill are heading up a newly-created org named the Xbox Experiences and Platforms teams, which I understand will re-energize investment in polishing the overall Xbox experience across Windows and Xbox consoles. Catherine Gluckstein will now lead the Xbox Strategy and Regulatory team, owing to her expertise and success in helping Microsoft navigate the regulatory nightmare that was the Activision-Blizzard acquisition across the EU, UK CMA, and U.S. FTC. Additionally, Jennifer Creegan is moving across from Microsoft's wider Advertising org to lead analytics and business planning for the Microsoft Gaming team. 

Setting up Xbox for success

Kareem Choudhry contributed to some of Microsoft's most successful gaming initiatives, including Xbox Cloud Gaming and Xbox backward compatibility. 

Losing Kareem Choudhry is an incredible shame, given Choudhry's remarkable contributions to Xbox and innovations within gaming. Choudhry contributed to the Xbox backward compatibility program, which remains among the best gaming preservation programs in all of gaming this side of Windows itself. He was also instrumental in building Xbox Cloud Gaming, which has been a big growth vector for Microsoft in certain markets, and will help Microsoft stake a claim in the growing market. Kareem also helped shaped Microsoft's growing AI efforts, which have a big focus on accelerating game development, with am equally big focus on how to guarantee some ethical guardrails.

Choudhry reportedly always put customers and developers first, and is one of the company's most loved figures internally. Choudhry's passion for Xbox, tech, and gaming in general was always apparent when I had opportunities to speak with him. From what I understand, and while I don't know the exact reasons, Choudhry's departure was circumstantial, and not part of Microsoft's wider re-org that kickstarted late last year. 

RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Sarah Bond spins up a new team to boost Xbox backward compatibility

Microsoft is kickstarting various initiatives internally to improve upon some of the pain points I outlined in a recent article on Xbox's strategy linked above. These include innovating in hardware, exploring how to expand Xbox to new markets, as well as ramp up marketing and investment for Xbox Game Pass — rather than decrease it, per some reports. Microsoft is also working hard to further integrate Activision-Blizzard, which includes bringing some of Activision's popular back catalog of games to Xbox Game Pass, which started recently with Diablo IV

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!