There are many kinds of changes that can happen to video game developers. Staff can leave, key people can be hired or promoted, a team can be shut down or separated, etc. But one of the most impactful things that can happen is the head of the studio being replaced. When this happens to one of the top publishers in the world, it means things are changing. So, when Phil Spencer became the head of Xbox a few years back, there were changes coming.
At DICE 2018, Phil Spencer spoke during a keynote a noted that the beginning of his tenure was anything but smooth:
“I’d been in my role for a month when I had the opportunity to speak to our Xbox team at an all-hands meeting,” Spencer said. “The team was in a world of pain. We hadn’t done our best work with the announce of Xbox One, the product we built wasn’t meeting the expectation of our customers, market share was taking a nosedive, and it was painful to read all the headlines.”
In the eyes of the Xbox team, the management at Microsoft wasn’t listening to the consumers, and thus were making very questionable decisions. So it was up to Spencer to fix this both externally, and internally. To do that, Spencer shared information that would change things for the better, he didn’t have to do it, but he knew it had to be done.
“It was a huge lesson about trust,” Spencer added. “But more than that it was a lesson about empathy. It was about look up above the noise of the headlines and the weight of the emails and meeting my team at their heart.”
Microsoft and Xbox did bounce back from what happened with the Xbox One, and they made sure to not make the same mistakes with the Xbox One X. Just goes to show that just because you get the job, doesn’t mean it’s easy to keep, you have to earn that right.