Microsoft has decided to pull the trigger and promote the boss of Minecraft to take charge as the chief executive for strategizing Microsoft’s line-up of games across the company’s platforms, which includes the Xbox One and the Xbox One X for the foreseeable future.
The way it’s going to work now is that Matt Booty will answer directly to the head of the Xbox games department, Phil Spencer. Booty will be in charge of elevating Microsoft’s publishing arm and getting more games into the pipeline and out to customers.
Booty’s previous role will be occupied by Helen Chiang, who will now oversee the development of Mojang’s Minecraft brand under the Microsoft banner. Booty was originally appointed the role back when Microsoft bought up Mojang’s studio and the Minecraft intellectual property back in 2014 for $2.5 billion.
But, now it’s not just a single studio that Booty will have to oversee. There will be multiple studios with multiple projects that the executive will have a say-so over, ranging from 343 Industries and the Halo franchise to Killer Instinct, to Sea of Thieves at Rare, to the Forza Motorsport franchise headed up by Turn 10 Studios and Playground Games, to The Coalition and the Gears of War franchise.
Maintaining what’s there is one task, but the real challenge for Booty is building what isn’t there: new intellectual properties.
Microsoft had an opportunity with Scalebound to create something large and dynamic for the Xbox brand from the highly lauded Platinum Games, but the company forfeited those endeavors by canceling Scalebound. It was a move that sent shock waves through the gaming community, who had grown attached to the concept of the game.
Original titles like Scalebound could really help Microsoft out of its funk, especially given that Nintendo is fast catching up to the install base of the Xbox One with the Nintendo Switch. The Switch’s library of original, high-quality exclusives have set it apart from everything else on the market, and so it’s a do or die situation for Microsoft.
In fact, the above is literally Booty’s philosophy: that they live and die by the great games they make. So, having a content guy in the role will be key for the success of future software publishing on the Xbox brand, and it sounds like the company may have the right man for the right position.
Now, let’s see how well Booty can take advantage of this promotion while aiming to bring new and compelling software to the Xbox platforms. The real test will be what Microsoft demonstrates at this year’s and next year’s E3, as we’ll have a gauge on if the company will allow Booty to leverage his executive powers to refocus the Xbox One and Xbox One X on worthwhile exclusives.