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Phil Spencer Catches Plenty of Flack Following Studio Closures

Source: picture alliance / Getty / Phil Spencer

The video game world is still reeling after word hit the e-streets that Xbox closed Arkane Austin, Tango Gameworks, and Alpha Dog game studios under the Bethesda Games umbrella. Now, gamers are focusing on Xbox chief Phil Spencer and his leadership, or lack thereof.
Should Phil Spencer be fired? Is it time for him to go? That’s what many are calling for to happen after this recent round of studio closures and the absorption of one into ZeniMax Online Studios.

While many blame the practice of companies like Xbox and PlayStation acquiring game studios, some also feel that Spencer’s feet should be held to the fire.

Kotaku’s Zack Zwiezen proclaimed in an article that “It’s time to stop giving Phil Spencer a pass,” pointing out the many “bad decisions Spencer has made during his time as CEO and contradictory statements.

Per Kotaku:

In October 2020, shortly after Xbox announced its plans to consume Bethesda, Spencer told Kotaku: “This deal was not done to take games away from another player base” and added that Xbox wants “more people to be able to play games, not fewer people to be able to go play games.” Yet, in March 2023 Redfall director Harvey Smith said that Microsoft stepped in after buying Bethesda and canceled a PS5 port of the vampire hunting co-op game. Starfield shipped only on Xbox and PC. And despite a few Xbox games—like Grounded and Sea of Thieves—jumping ship to PlayStation and Switch, future big titles like Indiana Jones won’t be multiplatform.

Xbox’s boss has also talked a big game about giving developers the freedom to make what they want to make, explaining in a May 2023 interview with Kinda Funny: “When a team like Rare wants to do Sea of Thieves, when a team like Obsidian wants to do Grounded, and Tango wants to go do Hi-Fi [Rush] when everyone probably thought they were doing The Evil Within 3. I want to give the teams the creative platform to go an push their ability, push their aspirations.”

The article states that Spencer says the right things, but even when those studios get to make the games they want, and if they are critical successes, there is still a chance they will suffer the same fate as these latest studios.

Social Media Reactions

Social media hasn’t been kind to Spencer either, and that’s totally understandable because we are all tired of hearing about these layoffs while people in offices continue to line their pockets with cash while game developers have to figure out how to make ends meet.

Former PS I Love You XOXO co-host and head of Pen To Pixels Janet Garcia also called out Spencer for his comments that have now “aged like milk,” pointing out his penchant for trying to be transparent, something people appreciate about Spencer, leaves him open to these contradictory moments.

“Yeah so many of Xbox’s comments are aging like milk rn. This is the danger of selling the “good guy” narrative. It only works when you do “good” things. That said this is also why PlayStation and Nintendo don’t talk to anyone anymore. They’re like nah I’m not gonna play myself,” Garcia said on X, formerly Twitter.

Former Blizzard President Mike Ybarra Comes To Phil Spencer’s Defense

Former president of Blizzard Entertainment Mike Ybarra tried to empathize with Spencer, writing on X, “I know this hurts him [Spencer] as much as anyone else.”

Ybarra continued, “I’m not trying to defend the decisions. I think we all get ourselves into situations that are tough and unexpected (certainly I have). It’s part of the job, as is the accountability for the outcomes. But he’s a good human and he cares deeply for the creative process and developers. That’s my first hand experience in working closely with him for 8+ years and knowing him for 24+.”

Unfortunately, folks were not trying to hear it and didn’t hesitate to tell Ybarra he was wrong.

What a sad state of affairs.

Hopefully, we will hear from Spencer in his own words about this latest decision.

Until then, you can see more reactions in the gallery below.

1. Oh wow.

2. Damn

3. Hmmmmm