A bit of a sea change has landed at Microsoft, and it's big news indeed. With Microsoft's
new CEO in line as Satya Nadella readies to step in, a new report—subsequently confirmed by Microsoft—is that Xbox's former showrunner Julie Larson-Green, and in her place is a person who has the game world a bit nervous: Stephen Elop
, formerly of Nokia.
Larson-Green, meanwhile, is being shuffled over into “My Life & Work,” where she will be “chief experience officer” doing...apparently something...related to the “My Life & Work” field. Larson-Green's tenure was admittedly rather short, taking over for Don Mattrick after he left for Zynga's top slot, giving her basically seven months in the midst of some of Xbox's worst times: the period immediately following E3, which could perhaps uncharitably be described as “a disaster.”
But Elop, meanwhile, will be stepping into the Devices & Studios division, which not only includes Xbox but also games, the Surface, and entertainment along with the mobile devices that Microsoft landed in its deal with Nokia.
The gaming community seems less than enthusiastic about this move, and not without reason. Some point out that Elop's body of relatable experience is, at best, slim. Others note that Elop's tenure might be a bit passionless, especially since he reportedly called for Microsoft to sell off its Xbox business when he was in the running for the CEO slot. Then there's the issue of how Elop handled business at Nokia, particularly in regard to the Symbian operating system. All of these don't exactly add up to a real promotional bellringer, to quote “Down Periscope,” and yet, here he is.
Of course, this isn't necessarily a problem. Elop might well take more of a hands-off approach and let those with expertise handle the Xbox brand and accompanying games. That'd be a smart move that's all too seldom done any more, and if Elop was sufficiently disinterested in the brand as we know it to stand down and let the experts take over, we could be in for a much better time than a interested but wrongheaded chief might have been.
Only time, naturally, will tell how Elop's tenure as Xbox's chief goes, and there's certainly plenty working against him on this run. But there's still quite a bit in Xbox One
's favor so far—good exclusives, a decent install base, and a great past reputation—to trade on, and it may be that the best is simply yet to come. There's cause for concern, of course, and being sensitive to this will be worthwhile, but it still could be a great day to come for Microsoft and its gamers.