Phil Spencer Reflects On "Painful" Sexist Xbox Party

Back in 2016, well into the Xbox One's tenure, Xbox held a controversial party to celebrate GDC. That controversy centered around several hired dancers that wore short skirts and crop tops and how they gave the whole event a distressing vibe that seemed to have nothing to do with video games or the industry. Several developers left the event and posted pictures online to prove their point.

Since then, Xbox has not hired dancers for its events. It was a hard-learned lesson, according to Xbox head Phil Spencer, and one that some companies could still do with learning.

Spencer's comments come courtesy of the NYT Sway Podcast where he discussed a wide range of topics, from console supply shortages (Spencer blames overwhelming demand rather than restricted supply) to the ongoing Activision Blizzard scandal. While he noted Xbox has changed the way it does business with the publisher he stopped short of "virtue shaming other companies," noting that "Xbox's history is not spotless."

This naturally led to the 2016 GDC event that made global headlines. "That was a painful moment in our history of Xbox," Spencer recalled, but added it was an important facet of Xbox’s growth.

"Some of the things that make me proud of that is how we came out of it, the work that we did as a team. I believe we are stronger now because of that event, not that I would choose to repeat that event if I had that choice.

“The representation on our teams, who the voices are that are making decisions that are leading, is critical not only to our long term team dynamic but the long term business dynamic and those two things are tightly linked. If you're talking about video games telling stories and sharing empathy between different groups, [then] the voices that are telling these stories that are making decisions about what content shows up–about what content is right–has to be diverse in the broadest sense of that word in order for us to achieve the goals that we have in gaming."

So far, embracing diversity seems to be working for Xbox. Spencer said that they’ve sold more Xbox Series X and S consoles than any previous Xbox generation. Xbox is also now one of Steam’s biggest publishers while Game Pass has climbed to over 21 million subscribers as of October of last year.

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