While you can’t call quitting a mutiny, what would you call it when you throw yourself overboard?
Microsoft has certainly been burning up the headlines over the last several weeks, but frankly, I’m not sure I’d want this kind of press. Sure, there’s no such thing as “bad press,” but most would agree that favorable ink is always better. Microsoft has had trouble securing a leading position among the minds of gamers since November, effectively taking a #2 seat behind its competitor Sony in both console and game sales. Microsoft should excel at one logical thing, which would be bringing an unholy beat down in the hardware department. Yet this rug continuously keeps getting jerked out from under them at every turn, as their competitor still seems to be able to out “rope-a-dope” them.
The latest bit of troubling news comes not from an outside source, but from within the company itself.
Blair Westlake, who joined Microsoft back in 2004 as corporate VP of Media and Entertainment, suddenly resigned from his position. He released a statement that gives the usual kudos to those in the company that he enjoyed working with and yada yada yada. The real meat of the story, however, comes in one particular line that stands out. “It has become clear to me that the organization is moving in a direction that does not fit either my expertise or my skill sets.” He said.
Now, when he says, "It has become clear,” I have to ask, what has?
Westlake isn’t exactly some kind of experimental hire that didn’t’ work out. He’s put a decade into the company and was considered one of the driving forces behind the Xbox’s move into becoming more of a media-hub, rather than just a game focused console (read more about this in "These Ain't Your Daddy's Consoles Anymore"). There must be something about the new direction Microsoft is taking the console in that just doesn’t jive with Westlake, and perhaps others within the company. The latest generation of consoles has proven that if you choose to purchase an Xbox One or PS4 as an all-purpose media device first (and game system second), this company is OK with that. In-fact, they will cater to you.
It will be interesting to see if there are more spontaneous resignations over the course of the next few weeks and months. If so, it will definitely signal that all is not right with the house of Microsoft and that the new direction has caused a rift, forcing some faithful emplyees to choose whether they still want to stay aboard this ship or not. In the meantime, Microsoft might want to get out in front some of these “perceptions,” as it’s never too early to start putting out PR fires (as the months following E3 should have taught them). I know I’m certainly not willing to write off the Xbox One as second best of this generation just yet. You could actually argue that, in many ways, it’s superior to its PS4 counterpart. However, as we’ve illustrated on many occasions, perception is reality. Separating what people actually know from what they just “think” they know, is much easier said than done.
Good luck with that one Microsoft. You have an uphill battle.