Phil Spencer trends on Twitter amid calls for him to resign

Phil Spencer trends on Twitter amid calls for him to resign
David Coulson Updated on by

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The video game industry has at times felt like the NFL draft, with Sony and Microsoft snapping up multiple studios to keep titles exclusive to their platforms as well as both parties throwing bags of cash at developers to secure exclusive rights to games. These moves have kept titles such as Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Rebirth from Xbox as Sony secured console exclusivity and Starfield from PlayStation after Microsoft purchased Bethesda to keep it and future entries from The Elder Scrolls and Fallout from its main competitor. Unfortunately, these deals have also led to the cancellation of games and the closures of studios, leading to mass job losses and a lot of uncertainty in the industry.

It was announced yesterday that Microsoft has shut down four Bethesda-owned studios. These include Arkane Austin, the studio behind Redfall, which flopped due to mediocre graphics and outdated gameplay. Many cited a rushed development cycle to meet Phil Spencer’s enthusiastic release schedule following the $7.5 billion acquisition of Bethesda and its parent company ZeniMax. Following the purchase, Spencer announced that Hi-Fi Rush, Redfall, and Starfield would all be released within a 12-month period.

Colorful illustration of diverse animated characters engaged in dynamic action scenes from the game "Hi-fi Rush," set against a futuristic backdrop.
Image via Tango Gameworks

Speaking of Hi-Fi Rush, Tango Gameworks, the studio behind the rhythm-based action game, is also facing the chopping block. This came as a surprise to fans as the game recently saw a PS5 release in March 2024. Tango Gameworks was founded in 2010 by legendary Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami, who departed from the studio in 2023. Alpha Dog Studios, who are best known for the mobile game Mighty DOOM is also set to close, while Roundhouse Games will be merged with ZeniMax Online Studios to work on The Elder Scrolls Online.

Following the announcement, fans of Bethesda took to social media to criticize the decision and call for Phil Spencer’s resignation, citing the decline in the Xbox brand dating back to the launch of the Xbox One. While Microsoft and the Xbox brand have seen their share of successes and innovation, with Xbox Game Pass being a notable success for the brand, Xbox had failed to match up to the PlayStation despite Microsoft acquiring major studios such as Bethesda and Activision Blizzard.

@PeterOve5 called for Peter Moore to be brought back to the company saying “He will execute any vision better than Phil Spencer, even a multiplatform one. The problem is that Phil Spencer and crew are incompetent, they will mess up even a multiplatform strategy.”

Popular content creator @DreamcastGuy called for Spencer’s resignation saying “Fire Phil Spencer. I said this for years and I will always stand by this statement. No more apologies, no more lies.”

One interesting note discovered by @trsrpc is that Phil Spencer barely played Hi-Fi Rush, only securing 4 of the 71 achievements in the game. Perhaps if he had put more time into it he would have kept Tango Gameworks around as he would have seen the quality and passion that the team has.

But, not everyone has been critical of Phil Spencer, with former Blizzard President Mike Ybarra taking to Twitter/X to defend his decisions saying “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+.”

Ybarra was also very optimistic about the future of Xbox saying “Xbox could have a very bright future. I hope they are able to realize it and all of the teams have an incredible experience together. It’s certainly a tough time that needs great clarity into what the plan ahead is and how gamers everywhere can be excited for it.”

Activision Blizzard King joins Xbox.
Image via Xbox

This latest closures wouldn’t be the first time that Phil Spencer’s decisions would lead to mass layoffs, as thousands of employees were let go from the company following the $75 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Despite spending more than the GDP of Uruguay on acquiring the two companies, and even more on other studios the green brand has purchased over the years including Rare, Microsoft has very little to show for it.

Iconic franchises such as Fable saw unceremonious deaths at the hands of Microsoft, and top IPs such as Halo and Gears of War have fallen from grace in recent years. After years of overpromising and under-delivering, gaming’s internet darling is losing favor among his fans. There are still new titles such as Hellblade 2 and Indiana Jones to look forward to, but if neither delivers on their promises then it is hard to see a future for Microsoft with Phil Spencer in it.