Spencer, the leader of Microsoft’s Xbox business since 2014, has joined the company’s group of senior leaders, a sign of the importance of the video gaming franchise to the software maker.
Xbox has gained a seat at Microsoft’s most important table.
Phil Spencer, leader of Microsoft’s video gaming unit since 2014, has joined the software maker’s senior leadership team, the cluster of senior executives who advise Chief Executive Satya Nadella.
Longtime Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley, who spotted Spencer’s move earlier Tuesday, reported that the Xbox unit will remain part of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, which is led by Terry Myerson.
The move comes as Nadella emphasizes the role of the gaming unit at the company, including his invitation of Spencer onstage at the company’s annual meeting for Wall Street analysts in May.
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Gaming, Nadella said at the time, was much more than console sales for Microsoft, mentioning the company’s initiatives in livestreaming, social media and subscription services, among other things.
That’s a change from the mood around the business a few years ago, when some Wall Street analysts called for Microsoft to package and sell the Xbox unit, contending there were few links between video gaming and Microsoft’s core of business software.
Spencer, at Microsoft since an internship in 1988, was charged with bringing new direction to the gaming unit following the troubled rollout of the Xbox One console in 2013.
Hardcore gamers faulted Microsoft for marketing missteps and an emphasis on broad entertainment rather than video games, and the company’s living room console badly lagged Sony’s PlayStation 4 in sales.
Spencer brought the focus back to that important constituency, including by giving the green light to final development of the Xbox One X, a more-powerful console targeting gamers obsessed with graphical quality. The device is set for release in November.