Bell out, Kim up, Spencer in at Microsoft

360 marketing chief exits as Microsoft Game Studios head moves on to "strategic" biz dev; MGS UK GM taking over first-party pub's global operations; work on Forza and Peter Jackson's Halo proceeding; no major hires or cuts planned.

This morning, Microsoft sent a minor jolt through the Xbox 360 and PC gaming community by announcing a significant shake-up of its Interactive Entertainment Business executives. The biggest news was that Jeff Bell, corporate vice president of global marketing of the software giant's Interactive Entertainment Business, "has decided to pursue other opportunities outside Microsoft."

Jeff Bell

Speaking with GameSpot, Microsoft representatives said that the departure was purely a result of Bell's desire to "explore marketing outside the [game] sector." This sentiment was reiterated by Bell, who said in a statement, "The time is right for me to pursue my life's passion of consumer brand marketing and the creative and services that drive it. Coming from automotive, and now technology and entertainment, I am excited to expand to new industries and categories."

Bell joined Microsoft in June 2006 after working as vice president of product strategy for auto maker Chrysler. He is best known to most gamers for his appearance during Microsoft's presentation at the 2007 E3 Media & Business Summit, when he unveiled Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action for the Xbox 360.

Bell's exit wasn't the only change today. Shane Kim, head of Microsoft Game Studios since 2004, is also transitioning into a new role inside Microsoft. Though he will retain his title of corporate vice president, he will no longer run the first-party publisher, and will instead focus on "higher-lever strategic external partnerships" for the Interactive Entertainment division.

This morning, Kim told GameSpot that the kind of partnerships he could be working on might be deals with movie studios to put video content on Xbox Live Marketplace. He declined to comment on recent speculation that Microsoft is on the verge of announcing an agreement with Netflix to provide on-demand video content via the service, which boasts upward of 10 million users.

The new head of Microsoft Game Studios will be Phil Spencer, who until this week was the general manager of Microsoft Game Studios Europe. Based in the UK, he oversaw development of Fable 2 and Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts at Lionhead and Rare, respectively. He also helped establish a first-party publishing infrastructure in what is now the world's second-largest gaming market.

Phil Spencer (l.) and Shane Kim

At his new gig as general manager, Spencer will "oversee the creation of new, unannounced franchises." Though he would not reveal what said franchises were, he told GameSpot that he couldn't rule out the possible revival of classic PC Microsoft Game Studios real-time strategy franchises such as Age of Empires on the 360 if Halo Wars--the forthcoming sci-fi real-time strategy game from Microsoft-owned AOE creator Ensemble Studios--performs well. "We're in the process of evaluating the feasibility of such projects," he said.

As for other existing Microsoft Game Studios franchises, Kim told GameSpot that film director Peter Jackson's still-untitled Halo project is "definitely proceeding," Alan Wake is "coming along nicely," and development of the Forza series continues. He also emphasized the fact that, although Bizarre Creations was bought by Activision last year, Microsoft owns the Project Gotham Racing IP, and has no plans to let it lie fallow indefinitely. However, he wouldn't say when a fifth PGR game might be released.

Kim and Spencer also said that going forward, MGS' main mission will be to bring "exclusive hits" to the Xbox 360 and the Games for Windows PC label. However, the past year saw the first-party publisher lose one of its top 360 exclusives, Mass Effect, when its developer and IP holder BioWare was bought by Electronic Arts. The award-winning role-playing game has already been ported to the PC, and speculation is rife that EA may eventually bring the series to Sony's rival PlayStation 3 as well. Kim acknowledged as much, saying "platform support is up to third parties, so that's EA's decision."

When asked if Microsoft might move to acquire studios itself to ensure a steady stream of 360 exclusives, Spencer demurred. "We're always looking at opportunities," was all he would divulge. The executive also ruled out any major hiring or layoffs at MGS, musing, "I think we're pretty happy with the current size of operations."

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Discussion

97 comments
roblox84
roblox84

i think these people don't know how to make a game. this game has been coming out for over a year now. silly phucks.

Xeuton_Mojukai
Xeuton_Mojukai

I'm very surprised at how proudly incorrect, ignorant, and vitriolic so many of these short quips are. Microsoft is an evil company, which was born out of a stolen IP, plain and simple. EA is a company that, while it definitely is the cliche publisher that cares very much about the bottom line, they have the unique advantage of knowing that what makes games sell is quality, not quantity. Are they able to provide an environment to allow creative expansion on many of their own IP's? Absolutely not. EA has been referred to by many many game industry workers as "burn-out city", simply because they are so cutthroat in their attempts to stay on top of the game(s), so to speak. In the end, what really needs to happen is a change of this "fanboy" crapola to something like actually finding out who the DEVELOPERS of these games are, and giving them the immense kudos they deserve for putting years of their lives into something they know we'll probably only play for a max of 40-100 hours total, if they're relatively lucky. We should be hating Microsoft and EA for not properly marketing their games when they have the potential to be awesome, and instead focusing on making the same old commercials for the same old Halo or Madden spin-offs. Good for Bioware for getting into EA, but hopefully they won't die a horrible, slow death there due to lack of creative license from their publisher. ~ XM

marco0798
marco0798

mass effect tbh is no loss its a horrible rpg compared to others

saigod
saigod

Jesus Jshaw.... do you know english? Where are you from? Pakistan?

Jshaw71
Jshaw71

you know sony may have struggled against the 360, but now it seems like there staff is imploding, great joib guys leave it to only M$ to shoot themse.ves in the foot, nah j/k, but seriously, haven't there already been engugh changes?

Ice_man_1985
Ice_man_1985

i hope microsoft will reveal a new footage for alan wake.

darkride66
darkride66

@ Mindchamber. Hey, I'm just offering up what I've heard. Out of all the EA bashing that goes on on these forums, how many people have spoken to employees who work for developers that have merged with EA? There seems quite a lack of actual feedback from people working with EA. I don't know my Bioware guys very well, but at least their comments carry some weight over some poster who's thinks EA's just some monster sent to earth to stifle all creativity and innovation within the games industry. I'm not trying to name drop, I'm only sharing the impression I got from talking to a couple of people making the games we all love.

Mindchamber
Mindchamber

Lol @ darkride66, we get it, you know a few bioware guys. whoop-de****

darkride66
darkride66

@ thenephariouson. They do, and EA has publically vowed that they would continue to give their devs creative freedom. That was really important to the people I've spoken to with Bioware because EA has made some questionable calls in the past, but in the end they were satisfied with what EA brought to the table.

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

I Said "I know a lot of people flame EA for thier 'Buy-Out' bids, however am i right in thinking that EA still allows its aquired devs to still have total creative rights?" Why the thumbs down?? I only asked a simple question, Jesus!!

darkfightersoul
darkfightersoul

Darn, robot man had to go...oh well, maybe the next Microsoft E3 press conference will actually have some human emotion.

pourya_ahmadian
pourya_ahmadian

the great XBOX360 IS GOING;go my love;go and be the best forever;

PacoL250
PacoL250

Woah...Alan Wake is still in development?

flackstone
flackstone

MrGordons The Day Microsoft buys EA ,will Be the Day I smile... Yea you can say that again then they would start coming out with good games that dont suck.

Pete5506
Pete5506

Ea is going to kill gaming

darkride66
darkride66

PieCrusher commented "EA is becoming more and more generic and the quality of games has been going down for quite some time now." Really? Because metacritic seems to indicate that EA's games are still very well received, and certainly the public is voting with their wallets. What are you basing your opinion on?

denolitions
denolitions

with all these buy-outs by EA i'm just hoping that they are putting their name on the box for publishing purposes coz then the games will be alright instead of those . . . unfortunate titles that they decided to make themselves with the same content that was thought of 10 years ago. (sports titles in general) besides that i THINK some of their other stuff is ALRIGHT, not perfect but ALRIGHT

PieCrusher
PieCrusher

EA is becoming more and more generic and the quality of games has been going down for quite some time now.

darkride66
darkride66

@ tsiper. The guys I've talked to at Bioware don't think so. Maybe you should actually wait to pass judgment. @ andrew_ribbons. You said "Microsoft the Corp. > EA. Anyday." This type of attitude never ceases to amaze me. So you prefer Microsoft, one of the world's largest, most anti-competitive monopolies that has ever shambled across the face of the earth to EA, a company that has for 20 years now produced some of the best video games ever. Microsoft, a corporate monster that openly admits and willfully forces their competition under by any means at their disposal. Who's executives vowed to "choke the life" out of Netscape, who have been found guilty of anti-competitive practices over and over and over again all over the world and who still use their vast resources to fight any proposed changes in court while delaying actually changing these very same practices, because they don't want to, a company that strong arms and threatens computer makers about what would happen if they put competitors products on the computers they're building, so they can continue to force their buggy, security nightmare products. MS was busted not once, but twice, doctoring video of the anti-trust trials against them so that the public might not find out what they're all about. You prefer this beast over EA because why? EA, after decades of awesome games, after paving the way for the entire game industry, because EA bought up a couple of developers and you didn't like that? Because not every game was fantastic? Because they bought a football license? Because they stumbled a bit a few years ago with some of their management decisions?

tsiper
tsiper

EA is going to sucktify Bioware, its sad because bioware is an awesome company to bad they caught EAism, its hard to cure or get rid of symtoms are rushed games, no innovation, and yearly secretions of the same old %^&@$#! DONT THEY MAKE A PILL FOR THAT!

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

I know a lot of people flame EA for thier 'Buy-Out' bids, however am i right in thinking that EA still allows its aquired devs to still have total creative rights?

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

Im waitin patiently for Alan Wake, as its being made by 'Remedy' (Max Payne) hopefully means we might get an original and fresh experience.

MrGordons
MrGordons

The Day Microsoft buys EA ,will Be the Day I smile...

maverick_76
maverick_76

Man I thought Alan Wake was canceled, guess I was wrong.

andrew_ribbons
andrew_ribbons

""When asked if Microsoft might move to acquire studios itself to ensure a steady stream of 360 exclusives, Spencer demurred. "We're always looking at opportunities" Im just waitin for the day the GS headline says "MS in EA takeover bid" : ) its dog eat dog, theres always a bigger fish" Microsoft the Corp. > EA. Anyday. However Microsoft Game Studios also > than EA. Because MS GS produce well published games on the whole, whereas EA rush an awful lot of what they produce. Lionhead Studios moved from publishing with EA, to publishing with MS for that very reason.

darkride66
darkride66

I like the people who mourn the loss of Bioware. I live in Edmonton and know some of the Bioware guys. They're really excited about what EA brings to the table and I for one am really looking forward to see what they can do with EA's resources at their disposal. However, they get all tight lipped when I ask what's in the pipe for the PS3. Drives me nuts.

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

Well, you know the old saying: If you cant beat-em, buy em! : )

diablobasher
diablobasher

Terdog: It's a Bioware franchise, nothing to do with Microsoft whatsoever. EA bought Bioware, and thus inherited the franchise.

Valkarie3
Valkarie3

I think the most pertinant information in the whole article is that the Peter Jackson Halo project would be continueing. Thats the only real interesting part that made me read it.

Terdog
Terdog

No offense, and I may be wrong on this, but Didn't EA buy the Mass Effect franchise off Microsoft?

blackace
blackace

M$ needs to do more with the M$ Game Studios. Where is the Crimson Skies sequel and when are they going to bring back their sports studio? They bought Access Software and they just let the Links franchise die. I'm glad they are bringing a lot of RPG's to the system, but they're all from 3rd party companies. Where are the 1st party RPG's, Sports and Fighting games? There were a few of these for the XBox, but nothing much for the XBox 360. M$ should be churning out 1st party titles at least once every couple of months.

ldonyo
ldonyo

Microsoft usually shuffles execs when they're trying to look like they're fixing something. These moves don't mean a thing.

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

"When asked if Microsoft might move to acquire studios itself to ensure a steady stream of 360 exclusives, Spencer demurred. "We're always looking at opportunities" Im just waitin for the day the GS headline says "MS in EA takeover bid" : ) its dog eat dog, theres always a bigger fish!

pudgeman007
pudgeman007

Anyone playing metal gear solid 4.. cuzz u should.. it got a 10 from this site.. and ign.. and every other site.. ... Now if only i had a ps3..kicking around.. O theres one sweet.. !

thorsen-ink
thorsen-ink

XXMadManVII I gotta be honest. I don't see how any of this is pertenant to us as end-users. I don't really care who is doing what at MS or any other company for that matter. _______ So, you don't care who's making the decisions that shape the games you play? I hope you don't feel the same way about our government...

XboxGuyxx
XboxGuyxx

It pertains to us MadMan because these people run the people who make the games. As well their outlooks on the industry will effect us Spartan. I personally want to see budget games, more complex and larger than arcade titles, come through the pipeline of digital distribution. Now Phil Spencer may feel the same way (just an example, I don't know how he feels about this idea) and decide that digital distribution of budget titles is a good idea. I mean if we were all the kind of people who liked to sit back and just wait until we saw games on the store shelves to know what was happening in the industry we wouldn't be on this site reading this news post. So in the end I like to know who is guiding the course of this generation of games to see if I agree with their views.

TheoleDominion1
TheoleDominion1

good points Spartan1017, XXMadManVII- I believe people (especially on a forum) just want something to talk about for their own entertainment. When I first entered the forums (1999) it was about talking about GAMES..nowadays it's about fanboyism and system-bashing. Because of PC's accessibilty (more younger people are on forums now) you hear alot less people talking games and more on "sales" and the companies who make them. As a whole, the generation on gaming forums now has completely lost the message of what GAME forums are for. Hopefully they will grow-up soon, or having intelligent conversation about GAMES will almost completely disappear from forums. And the "my systems/games sells/better than yours" era will dominate. It seems each passing generation gets dumber,egotistical, and more selfish as time goes on.

nobdow
nobdow

OH YA GO XBOX!!!!!!!!!!

XXMadManVII
XXMadManVII

I gotta be honest. I don't see how any of this is pertenant to us as end-users. I don't really care who is doing what at MS or any other company for that matter. Why do we track the careers of these people? I feel the same way about Americas obsession with celebrities too. They don't care about us, so why should we care about them. As long as good games continue to be made, whats the difference. Am I the only one who feels this way??

Lord-Viru
Lord-Viru

Good news to see things are still on track, looking forward to Halo Wars and Fable 2, but didn't know they were thinking of bringing Mass Effect to PS3, oh well its a good RPG everyone should be able to have a go at.

X360MadMan
X360MadMan

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

dulun19
dulun19

what?? this guy will join Atari as well??... hahaha..... we getting used to this type of news by now..

EchoEcho
EchoEcho

grigjd3: "I just don't find it that surprising that the VP for product strategy for Chrysler came up with Scene It? So is it "product strategy" to keep building large gas-guzzling SUVs as gas prices sky rocket? I mean, is that what constitutes foresight?" That is so utterly irrelevant, I'm not even sure what to say to you. Except maybe GTFO.

luke89330
luke89330

HOLY CRAP! "BioWare was bought by EA." no more awarding-winning games from them anymore, sad.

rumtumtugger
rumtumtugger

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]