Xbox head Phil Spencer told Microsoft to go 'all-in' on gaming when brand was threatened

Phil Spencer
Phil Spencer (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • A recent interview between Xbox head Phil Spencer and GameSpot revealed new information.
  • Spencer had to convince Microsoft boss Satya Nadella that Xbox was worth saving.
  • The Xbox One reveal debacle left many in the company demoralized in a way.
  • Spencer told Nadella to go "all-in" on gaming and the rest is history.

Yesterday, GameSpot released an interview with Xbox head Phil Spencer in which he discussed the early days of him becoming the Head of Xbox at Microsoft. Not only did he have to answer for the Xbox One reveal debacle, but he also had to make sure that the future was secure for the brand.

There was a time that Nadella was questioning what the future of the Xbox brand would be after the Xbox One reveal. Spencer told Nadella that the company needed to go "all-in" on gaming and the rest is history. What followed was the acquisition of Minecraft, the Xbox One X, and countless studio acquisitions. You can read the passage that outlines what Spencer had to do below.

A few months later, Spencer took over as head of Xbox. Whatever jubilation he felt was short-lived; a few weeks into the job, he got a call from Satya Nadella... 'I don't actually know a whole lot about why we're in gaming,' Nadella told him... Many developers who had worked on the Xbox One felt let down by Microsoft's big vision; it was, as some told Spencer, not in line with 'the soul' of what Xbox was. 'Satya was transparent that there could be a future where gaming isn't a business that Microsoft should be in,' Spencer told me... He looked at where Xbox had failed, and how the brand could be saved — if at all. When he finally called Nadella back, it was to say this: 'If we're going to stay in the gaming space, then let's make sure we're all-in. The last thing I wanted to do was run the gaming organization here as kind of an afterthought of the company and kind of half-in, half-out. Let's go fix who we are.'

Another somewhat surprising tidbit from the interview was how Sony called Spencer to make sure Minecraft wouldn't be pulled from PlayStation. You can read that story below.

He pushed Nadella to acquire... Minecraft, for $2.5 billion — a move that gave Microsoft exclusive control over the most popular game in the world... Microsoft announced the game would continue to be available on all platforms, including those of its direct competitors. It was an unprecedented move for a publisher of Microsoft's size. 'One of the first calls we got after the Minecraft acquisition was from Sony saying, 'Are you going to pull it off PlayStation?',' Spencer said. 'And I'm like, 'Why would I do that? People like playing it on PlayStation.'

This is a great interview that you should read in full. It also discusses Spencer's background and how he started working for Microsoft. It's always interesting to get a glimpse behind the scenes because we always learn more about the gaming brand.

Huge shoutout to Klobrille for the tip.



Asher Madan

Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.