Spencer: New Xbox Game Studios Affected Our Culture, It’s Awesome How They’re Sharing

Feb 25, 2020
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Phil Spencer appeared in the latest episode of the Game Maker's Notebook, a podcast hosted by Ted Price, CEO of Insomniac Games. It was a very long chat about a wide range of topics.

We already reported on Spencer's expectations with regard to the cloud and Microsoft's commitment to making Xbox consoles. However, Spencer also discussed how the new Xbox Game Studios are presently affecting Microsoft itself (and vice versa).

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Definitely has. I mean, in fact, we've been talking with Matt Booty about this. I think if it doesn't affect our culture, we're failing at it.

At an organization like Microsoft, you quickly understand you are a culture of cultures and nowhere is that more true than in studios. Why? Because of the geodiversity of the studios, they don't all live under one roof. And it feels different to live in Montreal than it does in Leamington Spa than it does in Santa Monica, and the teams will have different lived experiences. And you actually want those differences to impact the strategy of the organization. It's really interesting for me to talk to somebody like Fergus (Urquhart, CEO of Obsidian), who's run Obsidian for so long, about what is he feeling as he's coming into this organization, and what about Obsidian is going to imprint on who we are. And then almost by necessity, the flow will go into both directions.

What Matt and I talk about is how do we foster a culture of cultures where we have kind of baseline expectations of each other and we understand how we're going to interact, but at the same time I don't want everybody to feel like they work in the same studio, I want those cultures to maintain.

I think we're on that journey. I don't think we have it necessarily right but we're always learning and listening. The most important thing is those leaders and those teams that have come in feel like they have a voice and a platform to stand on to let the organization know how it's going and how they're feeling.

The head of gaming at Microsoft then highlighted how awesome it is for the Xbox Game Studios to come together and share knowledge and expertise.

Matt's very good about getting the teams together and having real open public conversations. The cool thing now, and I'm sure at Sony it's similar. When the studio organization gets to a certain scale, you can almost have like your little mini DICE summit with your own teams. And that's something that I really see now, the amount of sharing that's going on between the different teams inside Xbox Game Studios is just awesome. I was down at The Initiative a couple of weeks ago and playing a game and they were talking about what they had talked to Ninja Theory about and what they had talked to The Coalition about and what code they were actually using, in the stuff that we were playing from those different teams and control, going to control all that stuff. So I think just building the forum and the platform for those things, but listening is the most important thing because teams either overtly or covertly will tell you when things aren't going quite well. And we just have to be an organization of leaders that listens.

This is believed to be one of the main edges that Sony had during the last couple of generations with its Worldwide Studios structure. Cooperation between its first-party studios led to many acclaimed games and clearly Microsoft is hoping the same will be true for the Xbox Game Studios, which now counts fifteen development teams.

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