At this year’s Game Developers Conference, Microsoft hosted a party for attendees that immediately drew criticism. Though this was not noted on any of the related flyers, the party featured women in revealing schoolgirl costumes dancing on elevated platforms.
Some developers at the party were uncomfortable with this display, feeling that the dancers had no place at a developer-focused event. Many noted that the hiring the dancers contradicts the message of Microsoft’s yearly Women in Gaming luncheon at GDC.
In response to the criticism, Phil Spencer sent an email to all Xbox staff and shared it publicly on the Xbox Wire news site. In the letter, he accepts criticism of the event that “did not reflect the core values and beliefs of Xbox.”
This matter is being handled internally, but let me be very clear – how we represent ourselves as individuals, who we hire and partner with and how we engage with others is a direct reflection of our brand and what we stand for. When we do the opposite, and create an environment that alienates or offends any group, we justly deserve the criticism.
It’s unfortunate that such events could take place in a week where we worked so hard to engage the many different gaming communities in the exact opposite way. I am personally committed to ensuring that diversity and inclusion is central to our everyday business and our core values as a team – inside and outside the company. We need to hold ourselves to higher standards and we will do better in the future.
Microsoft’s Head of Xbox Games Marketing, Aaron Greenberg, was also critical of the party and has responded to the negative feedback on Twitter.