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Phil Spencer on Activision Blizzard King + Xbox

by Ohio Digital News

NARRATOR: Games in this podcast range from E to M.



– Hello, and welcome to the official Xbox podcast, the only podcast coming to you from literally inside Xbox. And we are, indeed, back inside Xbox, as we return to the studio where it’s great to see my fellow co-hosts– Malik, and Tina, and oh, hi, Phil.

– Not a co-host

– Phil’s here.

– It feels like we’re inside of an Xbox.

– We are.

– I thought that. Yes.

– We talked about that, yeah.

– Yeah.

– How cool would that be–

MALIK PRINCE: This is what it is.

– –if we were in a console.

– We’ll work on it.

JEFF RUBENSTEIN: You can build that, right?

– We’ll build a set, yeah.

– Yeah, you control the sets.

– Do you notice how he sits up a little bit when he starts? I love that.

– He’s excited.

– Posture.

– Yeah.

– You know?

– We got a special guest here.

– I’ll slouch the rest of the day on my laptop so.

– Right

– You may notice we’re posting a little bit earlier this week. You may also notice that the CEO of Gaming at Microsoft, Phil Spencer, is sitting right here next to us, because this is no ordinary week. So whether you’re watching us on youtube.com/xbox, listening to us on Apple or Google podcast– or you can actually do both on Spotify– thank you for joining the official Xbox podcast at what is a very special time for gamers, and to be honest for us, as well.

In case you missed it, late last week, Activision, Blizzard, and all of their teams formally joined team Xbox. It is a huge deal. What is it going to mean for all of you players out there? That’s why we’ve got Phil here. We’re going straight to the source. I’m pleased to welcome you here to the show. But also, as team Xbox, we are really pleased to welcome all the folks from Activision, Blizzard, and King to team Xbox.

– Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s been– how should we say? It’s been a long journey. I loved, in our video– our announce video– there was the line about, it’s about time. It has been a long journey. But to those teams, because they’ve had to sit in an uncertain state, watching a lot of the news, like lot of our own teams– it’s just awesome to have the creative capability and energy of Activision, Blizzard, King part of our Xbox team, what we’re trying to go do.

The reason I’m flying I’m flying to Stockholm today, to go see the King teams. I’m excited about that. Next week, I’ll be down in Southern California to see the Activision teams and the Blizzard teams. I want to go in. I want to listen. I want to learn. I want to hear what they’re passionate about, their feedback, their energy.

It’s a big moment. It’s a big moment for us. A lot of opportunity, and I’m incredibly excited by it all. So, welcome. Welcome to the team. Congrats on the refresh on the podcast. It’s awesome to see.

– Thank you.

– I don’t think refresh is probably the official word you use, but I love the relaunch. I think the energy you’re bringing to the show– this is episode five.


– I came in thinking it was four, but you corrected me.

– You were close.

– I was close. But it’s awesome. You h ave have done a great job.

– Thanks so much.

– Very kind.

– A little extra special, now that we’ve got you here.

– Yeah.

– So thank you for the vote of confidence in multiple ways.

– And this is what we want. We want this fourth chair here to be taken up by folks who work here, or other devs that come into town.

– Now this chair has a name by you. What do you call this?

– This is the– This is the first time, actually–

– We’re not talking about that in public.

– The cheese couch.

– The cheese couch?

– We’re breaking the–

– He hates the couch. I love the couch.

– I feel like it’s more mustard.

– I think it’s comfortable.

– I think it’s comfortable.

– It’s more mustard, you know?

PHIL SPENCER: And I like mustard.

JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I like mustard, but that is– you put that on a cheese steak. You wipe it on the–

TINA AMINI: Cheese is good. Mustard is good. I don’t know what the problem is.

JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I don’t have a problem with it. I just don’t want to sit on it.

PHIL SPENCER: This is team cheese, over here.

TINA AMINI: Well, that’s why we changed seats.

JEFF RUBENSTEIN: OK. All right, all right. Well, I’ll tell you what. From now on, you sit here.

TINA AMINI: Perfect.

JEFF RUBENSTEIN: And I’m here in my neutral–

TINA AMINI: Done deal.


TINA AMINI: I will give the couch love.

JEFF RUBENSTEIN: [INAUDIBLE] So noticing the hoodie here. Were you at the Halo World Championships this year?

– Yeah, I went– I went last night. I was in Seattle, so I went over. I didn’t get to stay till the end, but congrats to FaZe. FaZe beat Optic. We almost had a repeat champion, but we didn’t.

It was a reset. So then, if people don’t know, you come up from the loser’s bracket, if you win. Then, there’s another match between the final two teams. So it went in– that’s the reset– went again. And it was awesome. It was sold out.

Seeing the community there– I try to go every year, when they do it in Seattle at the Washington Convention Center. But the fans were there, all the vendors. And there were some great charitable causes in the back. It was a fun, fun event.

JEFF RUBENSTEIN: There’s a lot more than just the esports stuff, too. We had Brian Girard on last week, who told us all about season five, and I know–

PHIL SPENCER: Firefight.

– –revealed more. Yeah, firefight king of the hill.

– Come on. Yes, but I want the date. They keep giving me– it’s like, soon. And I’m going over to Pierre. I was like, what is soon? I want to play firefight sooner, like now. But it’s not now.

JEFF RUBENSTEIN: That feels a command.

– No, no. You know me. I don’t have any commands.

– When it’s ready, when it’s ready.

– No, season five looked awesome. They had a bunch of stations in the back where people got to play the season five content during the HCS. So it was good. I’m always proud of Elizabeth, and Pierre, and the whole team that puts all– there’s a ton of people who put all that on.

And it’s just– it’s great. It’s great to have it here. And our studio team gets to go. And there’s always such an energy, I think, when the people who are working on the game get to go see an event. I’m lucky enough to get to go to a ton of events, and feel that energy. You’ve all been. But when a team who’s spent so many years working on a game, does the work, gets to go and feel it in the arena, I think that’s special.

And season five, I think, we’ve been through a journey with Infinite. But I think season five, it feels like the energy is as positive as it’s been in a long time with Infinite, and That’s awesome.

MALIK PRINCE: And the comments last week, when we had Brian on the show, everyone in the comments was like, they’re talking about Halo again. People are in 100%. So it’s so exciting to see that, on top of World Championships just bringing everyone together, and to get everyone excited again.


JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yeah I think the Forge AI that’s going to bring a ton more content to the game. And as someone who’s not going to use it, but is going to consume what is made from it, I’m very excited to see what people–

PHIL SPENCER: Yeah, was talking to the team about the Forge tools, and they were — the community always takes our creative tools, whether it’s a Minecraft– which I think we’ll talk about in a second– in Halo, even things like Flight Sim and the creator tools that are there, the mod tools in our Bethesda games. But I know the team, with the Forge AI stuff, they think there’s going to be completely new genres that are built on top of Halo, inside of the Forge tools.

I can’t wait. I used to love going in and playing Duck Hunt, if you ever did that in the old Forge tools. People had actually built a Duck Hunt.

PHIL SPENCER: Actual, like the old school?

– Yeah, you would play– there was a guy across with a snipe, and then you had this S that you had to go up. So you’d start off– I’m going to guess like 15 of us as Spartan Ns. You’re like, OK, does he see us? And then you all run, and you get taken down, and the goal was to get to the end. It was a lot of fun.

But it’s just, the stuff that the community does– gaming is about the community. So when we put creative tools in their hands and see what they create, I just think it makes the games more than just ours. It becomes the community’s games.

– What was really awesome– and we’ll move on, but is– I asked, hey, is there a pathway from creating content in Forge to working here? And the person that I was talking with– yeah, that that’s me, actually. I started off making content in Forge.

– That’s right. And one of the maps that I saw– it’s more than one, but one of the maps I specifically remembered last night was actually created by us, but in Forge. And that was in the championship. So when our own teams are using our community tools to create content, you know you’re using the same things that the professionals are using. So then it’s just creating content that people love.

And then through some of our places, we’ve actually been able to create a marketplace where creators can actually build a business creating that content and selling to the community, which is fantastic, as well.

– So Halo World Championship’s this weekend. Also this weekend, Minecraft Live. Tina, you were really close to that.

TINA AMINI: Yes. Yeah, the Xbox Broadcast team produced that show in partnership with Mojang. Another super creator-forward game, so it’s been a really good weekend for Xbox overall.

And it was a really cool spin on how we normally record that show. We actually did it in full extended reality here at the Xbox Studio, where we’re filming your podcast.

– Yeah, it was right downstairs.

– Right downstairs, yes. Studio one. And it was really fun because we got to take the actual worlds of Minecraft and put the developers and our hosts, Lydia and Vu, into those worlds.


TINA AMINI: And kind of interact. We had a really cool Minecart journey, kind of going through with a bunch of goofs. And it just really came together in a fun way of telling the news in a yearly basis, because it’s our biggest beat of the year–


TINA AMINI: –for Minecraft and for Xbox in a lot of ways, I might argue. But it was a really nice opportunity to talk about some fun updates to vanilla. I think people are really excited about autocrafting.

– Uh huh.

– And of course, we revealed the latest mob that will be created for Minecraft. And that’s the– well, I don’t know. Should I spoil it? I think everyone knows.

JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Everyone knows at this point.

– How about I mouth it?

– Quick spoiler.

– I’m sorry.

– It’s the armadillo.

PHIL SPENCER: Armadillos won.

MALIK PRINCE: Yes, there it is.

TINA AMINI: Yeah, so it’s always a fun, new tradition for the team to be able to invite the community in to help decide what’s going into the game in a lot of ways, including the mob.

– Well, you can go back in time. You can watch that on– actually, all of that is going to be archived on YouTube, both the World Championships and Minecraft Live. But the reason– as much as we’d love to continue talking about that with you, Phil– also, the big deal has closed on Friday. And I’m seeing a lot of headlines, a lot of YouTubers saying things like, it’s done. It’s done. And we were talking earlier– this isn’t the end. This is really the beginning with Xbox and Activision Blizzard.

– Yeah, I think the regulatory process– let’s just say that it took so long that it almost felt like the game, or the goal itself, was to get through the regulatory process. That’s just the beginning. In fact, this evening I’m flying to Stockholm to see the King team. It’s a team I don’t know that well. So I’m really excited to go see them.

I think we’re in Stockholm, and then London. They have a couple other locations. I don’t know that we’re going to make it to all the locations, but I’m really excited about seeing the teams. The following week, I’m going down the Southern California. I’ll go to Blizzard. I’ll go see Activision.

And to me, when I think about where we’re trying to go, it always starts with the teams. The teams have to feel motivated. They have to feel inspired. They have to feel safe. They have to feel heard. Because their passion, their commitment to the things that they build, the way they run their games, that comes from the culture of who they are.

I’ve said it many times. I think teams ship their culture and everything they do, whether it’s implicit or explicit. You can kind of feel the dynamic on a team and the creative output, whether it’s a band, whether it’s a writer, or whatever. So spending time with the teams and getting to hear from them, where they’re going– I have some of my own opinions, of course. But they’re just opinions. This is getting time with the teams, thinking about where we’re trying to go. Then looking at the games, and where we are, and where the roadmap– that’s really where the work is. And I’m very, very excited about that.

– And as part of that journey, obviously, there’s the big burning question that everybody would like to know. And you mentioned it in your Xbox Wire post.

– When’s Hexen coming back?


– That’s what people want to know.

– I think that’s what you want to know.

– It might be one of my questions. Might be.

– Yes. But that is part of it. But it’s also– and you wrote in your Xbox Wire post last week, as well, that the work has started on bringing Activision Blizzard King games to Game Pass and other platforms. And I think speculation and wish lists have been running wild ever since last week.

– Yeah.

– So I’m sure you’ve seen all of that. But what does that mean exactly, especially when we think about– our last acquisition in 2021 with Bethesda, there was a fairly immediate drop of back catalog games.

– There was.

– So I think people are looking to that and wondering, is that kind of how the format is going to go now, or what does that actually look like?

– And I think rightfully so, right? When we launched– when we finished Bethesda, there was this great moment. We were able to put a bunch of the back catalog games and celebrate their history. The truth of the matter is, with Activision Blizzard King, that the regulatory process took so long.

And frankly, there was a lot of uncertainty in that process up until really a week before we closed, or the week of, when the CMA finally came down to their decision, that we weren’t able to get in and work with the– mostly Activision and Blizzard, in this case– on that back catalog work. So now that the deal is closed, we’re starting that work. But there is work. And I think the Activision Twitter handle, or X handle– whatever we’re calling it–

– You don’t have to call it that.

– –did put out a statement– I can’t call it that. But Twitter handle did put out something that talked about 2024. I think that’s accurate. There’s no se– I would love it if there was some kind of secret celebration drop that’s coming in the next couple of weeks. There’s not. Definitely when we think about the new games that are there, I would be straight with people. If we were going to put them in the subscription this year, I would tell people.

And I know there’ll be some disappointment about that. This acquisition is definitely long-term. So the fact that we’re not hitting day one with a bunch of games dropping in to Game Pass is a little bit of a downer, but I’m very excited about the future. And I just want to be straight with people that that’s where we are.

– There you go, addressing the rumors. Now let’s talk about Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 coming out next month. Very excited. I played the beta over the weekend.

– The open beta? What did you think?

– It’s very interesting getting humbled by your reaction time going down every single year.

– OK, young man.

– It’s very clear that–

– I count my reaction time in tens of seconds now.

– Well, people are getting really good at the game. But to that point, people are really excited about it. And I think for players who may not be playing on Xbox, they want to know, what does this mean for them on their platform? Like, is Xbox going to see exclusive DLC, early release, things like that. So what can you tell players who are looking to play Call of Duty on other platforms?

– When we say other platforms, I think we’re talking about PlayStation?

MALIK PRINCE: Yeah, I think that’s the one.

– That other one? Yeah.


– Because I think the PC players– PC players, their PC is unique. And I want it to feel like it’s part of the overall gaming platform that Xbox focuses on. We’ve been on that journey for a while with our first-party and our Xbox app on PC. There’s a lot of work for us to continue to do there.

For Call of Duty players on PlayStation, and in the future, on Nintendo, I want you to feel 100% part of the community. I don’t want you to feel like there’s content you’re missing out, there’s skins you’re missing out, there’s timing that you’re missing out on. That’s not the goal. The goal is 100% parity across all platforms as much as we can for launch and content.

I say as much as we can on parity because clearly some platforms have resolution and frame rate differences just based on perf. But there’s nothing else. We have no goal of somehow trying to use Call of Duty to get you to buy an Xbox console. So I want the Call of Duty nation to feel supported across all platforms.

We’ve been on the other side of some of those skins and times– even this beta wasn’t on Xbox the first week. I just– I don’t think that helps the community. I don’t think that helps the game. And so it’s the focus– if you’re a PlayStation player, you’re Nintendo player, or PC player, or an Xbox console player, I want you to feel like 100% part of the Call of Duty nation.

MALIK PRINCE: I love that.

– Yeah. So let’s talk about– we were talking about the rumors of when things might appear on Game Pass. The other sort of set of rumors is– or speculation out there.

– Never-ending rumors.

– There’s only the two, right?

– There are only two?

– Are you bringing back Guitar Hero or Tony Hawk, or would you have–

– Ooh.

– –Infinity Ward work on this Xbox IP or franchise, or something like that. And that stuff’s been– there was 20 months to think about those types of things.

– Yeah.

– But now that– officially, the team has joined as of Friday. So you have nine studios. There’s a wealth of IP from Activision. How are you thinking about these new teams, these new franchises– or new to us franchises? Like, how do you even take all of that in?

– Yeah, the first thing, as I kind of mentioned before, is to go spend time with the teams. Because I just don’t think that a team working on something that isn’t their passion leads to the best result. So I might have my list of things from my memories in history that I want to see made again. Everybody will. When I just think about– not just about Activision Blizzard King. You add in Bethesda.

You add in Xbox’s history, rare– like, the amount of franchises that we now have in our portfolio is kind of inspiring. It’s daunting. I feel that we have to be a great custodian for the content that we touch. These are memories from people on different platforms, different decades. And I want to make sure that when we’re going back and visiting something, that we do it with our complete ability– a motivated team that wants to go work on something and make a difference, not just create something for financial gain, or create something for a PR announcement and not deliver on the product.

So I’m going to start with the teams, and what are they passionate about. That’s why I’m excited to go on these visits. And then we’ll look at it. I think we’ve done an OK job as Xbox. I don’t think we’ve done an A+ job on looking at our franchises and revisiting them. It’s always a trade-off between what do you do that’s new, and going back and doing something.

I do think with Game Pass, we have the ability to maybe pick a couple franchises every year and almost do a revisited– I just made up that term, so it’s not a brand.

– It’s not on a box.

– It’s not on a box. But you know, I tease about things like Hexen just because I remember playing it as a kid. I have no plan for that. But I do think when you look across all of the franchises that are part of our teams, there’s an opportunity for us to go back, even if it’s just to recognize the moment and what those things meant in gaming’s history, and do something right with it. Make it available to people through Game Pass.

I think there’s an opportunity. There’s not a plan for that, but there’s an opportunity. If people want to– if teams want to go back and revisit some of the things that we have and do a full focus on it, I’m going to be all in on that. Because I think there’s just an amazing trove of things that we can go and touch again. It doesn’t have to just be about Activision and Blizzard. Like I said, when you look across all the portfolio.

I think about things like the Quake II remaster. It just came out from id. I thought that was awesome. They did a real good job revisiting a game, making it current, but also not leaving the history behind. So I’d love to see more things like that.

– So you mentioned the trove of content, the treasure trove.

– Not sure it’s the right use of the word.

– And you’ve mentioned Hexen.


– Yes.

– I think so. It fits. But are there– Hexen’s maybe a deep cut for some because it’s a shooter from the ’90s, and we obviously have a very wide-ranging community. Are there any other games or franchises– just for you, personally– deep in the vault that we can now potentially explore that you’re just personally excited for people to discover for the first time, or maybe rediscover?

– I hadn’t really thought about that question. Specific on Activision and Blizzard, there’s some moments in Activision’s history– you mentioned Tony Hawk. You mentioned Guitar Hero. Even things like Skylanders– that were moments where the teams kind of innovated outside of expectation. What do you mean I’m going to carry a plastic guitar and plug it into my console and play? Like, that’s never going to work until it worked. And then everybody said, well, of course that was going to work. You know, Skylanders, kind of the same way.

For me personally, though, when I think about the franchises, I kind of go back to things like some of the old Infocom things that were– like, you just asked for me personally– part of my youth. The text adventure, Zork. Those kind of things. I think about King’s Quest. I thought they did a really nice job. But those– the Sierra catalog, the Infocom catalog– just because of my age, those things speak to me. Because they were moments in my gaming career, my gaming experience, that really meant something. And I love those.

– When you think about Blizzard and all these things that they’ve done– like, amazing, amazing franchise, StarCraft. It was in the video that the teams did, which I know there’s been some discussion about should we have done a video for an acquisition or not. But there’s just some amazing franchises in there.

Most important is that we treat them with the respect that they deserve, and we don’t turn it into some way for us just to– like I said, a PR moment or something else.

– 100%. By the way, I almost cried at that video. That was a cool video that we put out on Friday. So come on, everybody.


I like the video. I liked the video. I saw some people–

– I thought it was awesome.

– But we’ve been talking about– obviously, we’ve been doing this show for a few weeks now. We’ve been talking about Diablo, Overwatch, all these awesome games that Activision and Blizzard both work on. But we talked about ABK. The K stands for king.

– Yeah.

MALIK PRINCE: And that’s definitely mobile gaming focused. And so how are you thinking about mobile gaming as it pertains to Xbox?

– My goal, as head of Xbox, is– I’ve been here over 20 years. I want Xbox to be a great brand, a great community for people over the next decades to come. So when I’ve thought about that, of what do we need to have in our portfolio and our capability as a team to ensure 30 years from now, Xbox is bigger and stronger than it is today?

We’ve got to be relevant on mobile. There’s just no way to really plot the future without being on the platform that most of the planet plays on. The games are different. The business models are different. The whole dynamic of how you distribute, how you find games is different.

So when I was looking at that, I needed to find a team that’s had amazing success for us to learn from. So literally we just– Amy Hood, who’s the CFO of Microsoft, and I went through a list of who are the most accomplished publishers in the mobile space. And most people wouldn’t have expected, I think– I didn’t– that Activision would have been as high, with the King work, as well as the Call of Duty mobile work, Warzone stuff, that they’ve been doing. Diablo Immortal.

And so I want to go learn from those teams because I think it’s critical for us to deliver on the full promise of over 2 billion people playing, the opportunity to reach more of 3 billion people playing video games, to reach more and more people, that people who only play on their phone find Xbox to be something that’s interesting for them.

It doesn’t mean I want to turn all of our franchises into mobile franchises. It doesn’t mean everything’s going to go free-to-play. I think the distribution and business model diversity that we have is a strength of the platform. People who want to buy games, I love that. People want to subscribe to their games, it’s great. Free-to-play games are great, as well.

But I’m really looking forward to learning on mobile because it’s– the truth of the matter is, if you’re going to continue to be relevant in gaming at a global scale, you’re going to have to find a way to be relevant on the largest platform, which is mobile. So looking forward to flying and seeing King, and talking to them, and learning.

– Yeah. Like you mentioned, you’re heading out to Stockholm here–

– Yeah.

– –later today. Xbox is already a big team, and now it is much bigger with, like we mentioned, nine new studios.

PHIL SPENCER: We doubled.

– We doubled.

PHIL SPENCER: It’s kind of daunting.

– I don’t know where you find the time in the day. But how hands-on do you expect you will be with our new teammates?

– Yeah, I’m– and some people here know that I’m a big consumer of what we do. I play a lot of games. I have opinions. They’re not always right. They’re definitely not always right. But I’ve already started asking questions and giving my point of view. I’m not one that says, thou must. Like, we have to go do this.

But asking questions, both to learn and to see what we’re thinking about and where the ambition is– but I rely on the teams. I get the title. I get to come on cool podcasts and talk too much. But the work that happens here is really down to the individuals on the team, from people who are on camera five times in the last five weeks as opposed to one time in the last five weeks, the people you can’t see that are behind the scenes that make sure these shows happen, the people who are the community managers for the games at places like Minecraft, places like the Forza team.

The most important thing I can do is empower the teams. An empowered and motivated team that feels like they have agency and ability to drive their own vision with a perspective that maybe I can help, that is– if there’s anything I can do in my role, it’s empower the teams and make them feel safe, make them feel like failure’s OK, let’s go learn. And then I get out of the way. Because decisions that come from this head are not going to be the future of this business. It’s really going to be about the now tens of thousands of people that work on Xbox and what they see.

And listening to our customers. It’s why I like moments like Minecraft Live, 8CS. I got to speak with so many people at Halo last night. I’m going to events, listening online, playing online, playing on Xbox Live P3 and listening to the feedback that people have. Because I want everybody who is part of Xbox, whether you’re a customer or you’re part of the team, to feel like you have an ability to craft where we’re going as much as I do, frankly.

TINA AMINI: Yeah, well said. And I can personally attest to that, as well, at least in the ways of which my job intersects with your world, your overarching world, where we do get that opportunity, and see that you give us the range and the space to make decisions in a cumulative way. So thank you for that. I have appreciated that in my last year that I’ve been here.

– Even you and I– before you came here, we would sit down when we would cross paths at events. And I always loved that you had a perspective on things that we were doing well, things that we could do better. It’s why I thought you being a part of the team would be awesome.

– Thank you.

– But it is listening to smart people who care about this industry, who care about growing this industry in a safe way and an inclusive way, and see there’s so much opportunity with gaming. Interactive entertainment as a form of community, as a form of education, as a form of joy and just fun– there’s so much opportunity in this space.

But it’s not about three or four people making all the decisions for the industry. It’s about the industry feeling like they have hands on the steering wheel, as well. So people who I interact with and have a real, constructive perspective, come be part of Team Xbox.

– And on that note, too, I think for me, personally, I love what Activision has been doing with Call of Duty Next. They just had one recently, too– a broadcast where they show off just tons of news and gameplay and bringing their community into the fold. It’s a pretty new broadcast for them. And I love that it is a presentation format. Like, there is news going into it. But at the same time, they invite over 200 creators and streamers.

JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I wonder how they do that.


– It’s wild. Everything is rigged with the ring lights and their own connection to be able to stream directly into the presentation itself. So they’re really welcoming the community into the broadcast, into the news. And to me, it tells me that they have a finger on the pulse in terms of their community, as well as modern ways of approaching broadcast.

So obviously, since I’m responsible for what we call premiere broadcast here at Xbox, that’s something I’m personally really interested in and have been observing from afar. And now I get this opportunity–

– We can learn.

– –where we are teams together, and we can learn. So now that Activision Blizzard leadership is reporting to you, what does that mean, and how do we come together to learn from each other?

– Yeah, we’re a big team, especially when you think about greater Microsoft, right? For teams coming in, I think sometimes it can be overwhelming. I think maybe in the case of Bethesda, I think about that journey and some areas where I wanted us to go faster, and maybe some areas where I wanted us to go slower. Bethesda was a little different just from our own history because it closed during a pandemic, which had its own set of issues in terms of us getting the teams together.

My first goal is to identify the teams at ABK where we can create connection. One of the cool things about going to King is, I think you mentioned, we have the Mojang studio there. There’s already a lot of shared history between those two teams. Now they’re all part of the same company. So I don’t think we’re going to be in the way of those teams making connections.

When I think about the broadcasts that they do– I mean, BlizzCon is another thing that’s coming up. How do we–

– We’re going, right? We got to go to BlizzCon.

– I’ve never been to a BlizzCon, so that would be fun. Maybe Mike will invite me. We’ll see. But for me, it’s identifying the teams, making sure they’re settled, because you got to think about– these are teams that have been under a certain kind of ownership structure for 40 years, and now all of a sudden, they’re part of Microsoft. They’re part of Xbox. So showing up, being there in person. When I’m going to Stockholm, it’s not just me. Our leadership team is going. I want to be listening more than talking.

And then finding those opportunities. I’ll say my inbox is already full from a lot of people at Activision, Blizzard, and King who want to make those connections, who want to both have a voice in what we do, but also listen from how we do things. So I think the opportunities are going to be there. It’s going to be making the connections between our leaders, and making sure we all go in with a learning mentality. Not that we know what’s right, but let’s listen and learn because they do a ton of things very, very well.

– It’s all about that dialogue. Now, I want to a look back to take a look forward.

– Yeah.

– So almost a decade ago, you got the job. I remember the video of you in studio D with Larry. I don’t know if you–

PHIL SPENCER: I know. Yeah, yeah.

MALIK PRINCE: I go back and watch it from time to time because it’s really interesting to see how Xbox’s vision and journey has changed. And now we’re going into this new phase with Activision, Blizzard, King, Bethesda. What is getting you as excited as you were back then about where Xbox is going?

– It’s funny, I think there were a lot of cartoons written from when Larry and I did that of me saying, games, games, games. Dropping some mic, I don’t actually think I said that. But the sentiment was nice. I’ve always thought that having a strong creative organization was going to be critical to our path forward. I don’t see how we build a platform without the voices of our creative leaders right there, and here’s what they want out of a platform.

And when I think about now the breadth of just players that we have, creators from Candy Crush to Hearthstone to Starfield to Minecraft to State of Decay 3, right? You have a breadth of creations that want to come out on our platform and other platforms, and what can we do to enable that. I am more excited about being here than I’ve ever been with the opportunity ahead.

I mean, it’s interesting. One of the members of our community who’s awesome– his name’s is Klobrille, and he’s very good at building graphics. He built the 2017 to now. I kind of looked at it, and I was almost daunted by the change. And people want to go on Twitter and find him, he’s an awesome member of the Xbox community, and creates great graphics.

But the growth in our creative capability was something that I thought was important from the beginning. Certain people would get upset that it wasn’t going fast enough. Our first acquisition was Minecraft. And then we went through with Double Fine, and Undead, and the list of a bunch of– Playground, Ninja. I’m going to miss some, but we added a bunch of teams, and then– and then Bethesda, and now Activision Blizzard King.

I’m just incredibly excited. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say a little intimidated. I see a lot of people who claim I’ve been trained for this job. I think you all know that there’s no training I go through. I’m always learning every day, both on the PR side and from the leadership side. So maybe when I thought about starting my career, I never thought this is where I would be.

But when I talk to the teams, and I hear from the individuals who want to be part of this and the opportunity that we have ahead of us, that’s the part that just gets me up every morning. 5 o’clock this morning, ready. Ready to do this. Ready to go to Stockholm today. Ready to sit with teams.

I love playing games. I love creating games, and what an amazing opportunity for us.

– Phil, thank you so much for taking time during what is probably the busiest time of your career, or life, to–

– At least I don’t have a tie and I’m not in court, right? That’s–

– But it was a good suit.

– You liked it?

– Yeah, everybody liked it.

– I saw it at Spirit Halloween, and you can be someone walking behind with the coffee. We’re going to reenact that later on. So you got a 12-hour flight ahead of you, give or take, tonight. What are you going to be playing on the way?

– So I have my ROG. I’m going to be playing some Starfield, of course. I’m really enjoying that. Speaking of Starfield, I know just–

– We have more big news.

– Yeah, just this morning. It’s good news. It’s for a friend of mine who I’ve known for a long time. Pete Hines at Bethesda has decided he’s going to start the next journey of his life. He’s got a lot of things that he wants to go do. He’s been such an incredible leader for us at Bethesda for so long, but also has earned this, right? He went through the acquisition. He went through building Bethesda through the acquisition, helped us get through an amazing launch of Starfield.

And I’m happy for him. I’m kind of proud of him that he’s taking the opportunity to think about what’s next. But he’s announced his retirement’s coming in November, I think is what he said. But it’s nothing but great things to say about Pete and his contribution, more than anything, to this industry, to obviously Bethesda, to the Xbox in the time that we’ve worked together, and to me in just the feedback he’s given me over the years even before he was here, about things that he sees and opportunities. So nothing but great things to say about Pete. Congrats, my friend.

MALIK PRINCE: Cool. And so you’ll be playing Starfield on the way.

– Oh yeah, sorry.


Starfield. Sea of Stars–


PHIL SPENCER: –is a game I really like. Yeah.

JEFF RUBENSTEIN: That may end up on some game of the year lists.

PHIL SPENCER: It should. Sea of Stars is fantastic. I’ve been playing Motorsport. Forza Motorsport. I’m probably, truth be told, more of a Motorsport player than a Horizon player, if you go back over the history of it. I’m still working on Brotato. For people who have not played the Brotato on– it’s a great Steam game. People should go try it. It’s awesome on my ROG. But you’re right, I’ve got 12 hours.

In Starfield, we’ve done a few playthroughs before we launched. In this playthrough, I’m at the NASA facility on Earth. So I’m feeling good. So we’ll see. We’ll see how much I get pulled back and forth. Another one– Lies of P.


PHIL SPENCER: Niowiz– the team did an amazing job when you think about, hey, we’re going to go in a genre that has such a high bar in terms of what people expect from combat, from feedback. I love the setting of a gritty Pinocchio setting.


PHIL SPENCER: Great addition to Game Pass. But I’m not here to be an ad for Game Pass. But I am here to be an ad for Lies of P because it’s an amazing team that did a great job on a game. So go play that. It’s loaded on my ROG. I look forward to playing it.

– This is a Lies of P stan account-slash-support group.

– Oh is it? OK.

– We’ve talked much about that game on this podcast.

– It’s just on the support because yeah, I definitely need it.

PHIL SPENCER: I’m dealing with this very angry, scary clown robot right now.


PHIL SPENCER: And If you’ve passed that, we’ll have to exchange some tips, because right now– I was up way too late last night.

– And he’s not even one of the big bosses.

– No.

– Oooh.

– Well–

– He’s mid-tier.

– He’s got the long energy bar, so I count that as a big boss.

– That’s fair.

– There you go.

– Yes.

– So you’re past this point.

– No, I’m actually– I haven’t gotten there because I’ve been struggling more than Jeff has. But that was my understanding because people had called that one out in particular, that fight.

– Yeah, I’ve never been so– like, both revolted and charmed by a game at the same time.

– It’s a beautiful game.

– I’ve spent a long time.

– There are some amazing games out right now.

– Yes.

– So many.

– A lot.

– And it’s like, we’re right on the cusp of Spider-Man 2 coming out, which will be another amazing game. When I just think about the amount of– this year has been a special year in gaming from the beginning. I think there was a lot of pent-up production and creative energy from stay at home, from COVID. And it’s awesome.

Now, what I hope is that people keep in their head, I don’t have to play– I can play a game that didn’t launch in the last two weeks. So if you miss a game right now, you can– I don’t know, January, February. Whenever you can go back and revisit, because these games deserve to be played.

And there’s just an amazing amount of great games out right now. Baldur’s Gate III, another fantastic game that’s out. So anyway, it’s a fun time to be playing right now.

– Backlog is stacked.

– It is a very great time right now.

– Oh my goodness.

– I think– any final things you want to land, because we would be quite remiss if we made you late for your flight.


– Yeah, these last– I guess for me, it’s been two years. I guess publicly, it’s been– what’d you say, 20 months or something like that?


– I know it’s been a journey for the teams internally. Definitely externally. I’ve seen it. But to the teams internally, I’ll talk to them a little bit. I know that’s not what the forum is for, but I have some members of the team here. The support, the conviction, the asking questions at the right time– I can see people biting their tongues sometimes when they want to ask a question but not sure it’s right. Same thing with the community outside.

I just appreciate all of the words, and all the kind of support, and go get them. It’s been a long process, a learning process, for me. It felt awesome to get through it on Friday. I spent the weekend just kind of reflecting on this, and then get up this morning and say, let’s go get it. But I know for you, and people who are out there supporting Xbox, people who have a job to go do that the level of uncertainty and noise was different than maybe what we were used to, or what we’re supposed to be focused on– I’m glad that’s behind us. And now what an amazing opportunity ahead. So let’s go make it all real. Make it matter.

– Yes.

– Go team! Go team!

– Go team, go!

– We’ll do the cheer at the end. Yeah, 3, 2, 1. All right. Well, that is all the time that we have for today. Make sure you tune in next week. We’ll, of course, be back here in the studio. And probably on a Thursday, our regular day. And we really, as Phil was saying, care what you think. So let us in the comments, whether that’s on YouTube, whether that’s answering the questions that we usually put up there on Spotify, and even in the tweets out there. We do read them. We do greatly appreciate them. We’re even formulating the show on the fly. So yes, you can find us on youtube.com/Xbox. If you were listening today, or if you were watching, you can always take us with you in the car, on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, or Spotify. Wherever finer podcasts are found.

– That’s right.

– Yeah. All right. Well, we’re going to go. We’re going to get you on your way. And we’re going to go back to playing some games.

– That’s right. So we will see you next time.


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