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Former Blizzard boss Mike Ybarra defends Xbox’s Phil Spencer following Arkane, Tango Gameworks closures

Former Blizzard president Mike Ybarra has rallied around Xbox boss Phil Spencer following Microsoft’s shock decision to close four of its game studios – including Arkane Austin and Tango Gameworks – saying, “I know this hurts him as much as anyone else.”

Ybarra made the comments on Twitter/X amid widespread condemnation of Microsoft’s move and as anger over the closures continued to grow. “I see a lot of shots at Phil over today’s Xbox announcements,” he wrote on social media. “I get it. But knowing him as a human, I know this hurts him as much as anyone else. I can’t speak for all of the leadership there, but I do know him and I do know what he is likely going through.”


“I’m not trying to defend the decisions,” Ybarra continued. “I think we all get ourselves into situations that are tough and unexpected (certainly I have). 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+.”

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“I 100 percent understand the anger and confusion,” he added, “and I feel deeply sorry for those teams impacted today and over the last few months. I didn’t agree with every decision he made at Xbox, and I think that was pretty clear, but I do believe in his product leadership and I know how hard these decisions can be.

“Xbox could have a very bright future,” Ybarra concluded in his post. “I hope they are able to realise 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.”

Under Phil Spencer’s watch, Microsoft has already laid off more than 1,900 people across its Xbox, ZeniMax, and Activision Blizzard – layoffs that coincided with Ybarra’s departure from his role as Blizzard president.

Today’s closures impacted Redfall and Prey developer Arkane Austin, Hi-Fi Rush and The Evil Within studio Tango Gameworks, and Mighty Doom developer Alpha Dog Games. Additionally, Roundhouse Studios will be merged with Elder Scrolls Online developer ZeniMax Online Studios, and other jobs will go across Bethesda’s publishing and corporate teams.

In an email to staff announcing today’s shock studio closures, Microsoft’s Matt Booty described the move as a “reprioritisation of titles and resources”. Xbox boss Phil Spencer has yet to publicly comment on the news.


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