Ex-Microsoft dev disdains Xbox’s “artificially propped up tribe residing in that cloistered warren”

Tuesday, 9th April 2013 07:33 GMT By Brenna Hillier

In a biting retrospective of his years working as a designer at Microsoft, Spry Fox founder Daniel Cook has expressed his frustration with the exclusive culture he experienced developing for Xbox platforms.

In a guest editorial for Kotaku, Cook said he worked at Microsoft at a time when the platform holder was hoping to broaden the Xbox brand’s audience.

“Ultimately, the anemic outcome of this great leap forward was a handful of resource starved trivia games and gameshows. But the dream of bringing socially positive games to more people really appealed to me,” he said.

Unfortunately, Cook said he found the already-established culture quite hostile to this dream.

“The repeated mantra was ‘The things we do here will impact millions.’ The unsaid subtext was ‘gamers just like us,’” he said.

“Over two console generations, a highly cynical marketing team spent billions with no hope of immediate payback to shift the market. In an act of brilliant jujitsu, Nintendo was slandered as a kids platform, their historical strength turned against them. Xbox put machismo, ultra-violence and boys with backwards caps in the paid spotlight. Wedge, wedge, wedge. Gamers were handed a pre-packaged group identity via the propaganda machine of a mega corporation. For those raised post-Xbox, Microsoft was an unquestioned Mecca of modern gaming culture. Dude. They made Halo.”

Cook said it was “a challenge” working with a group “that knew intellectually they had to reach out to new people while at the same time knowing in their heart-of-hearts that just adding more barrels to a shotgun was the fastest path to gamer glory”.

“We made adorable hand-drawn prototypes and watched them climb through the ranks only to be shot dead by Elder Management that found cuteness instinctually revolting,” he said.

After leaving Microsoft, Cook started Spry Fox and makes whatever he damn well pleases, and feels he’s doing a much better job of reaching broader audiences than the template-like design processes he described as in use at Microsoft during his time there.

“Hardcore gamers, women, men, children, families, bros, feminists, and wonderful people that play no other games – they play these intimate, quirky games of ours,” he said.

“Of you count up the numbers, we impact tens of millions. Deep down, I’m not sure if any of them are people like me. My job as a game designer is to make beloved games, not fit some limited corporate definition of a gamer.

“So far, none of our games have been released on the Xbox. There’s been little economic or cultural fit with the artificially propped up tribe residing in that cloistered warren.”

Ouch. Harsh words indeed. Spry Fox’s mobile efforts inclue Triple Town, Steambirds: Survival and Leap Day.



  1. Gadzooks!

    So he’s bitter that his games weren’t good enough to get greenlit.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. PC_PlayBoy


    Nah, more like working for a big firm (MS) sucked and going independent was the best thing for his soul & career.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. zinc

    All of it perfectly true. Ironic that they labelled Ninty as the kiddie box, but now are firmly portraying themselves as the family box, fit for any living room.

    Still I’m sure the hardcore don’t mind that MS are slowing distancing themselves from the very people that propped them up.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Djoenz

    A gameconsole should be all about the games, but there is nothing wrong with catering to other audiences as well. As long as the primarily focus is towards hardcore gamers.

    So before making assumptions who knows what Microsoft has in store for Nextbox in tems of new IP’s.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. viralshag

    Never even heard of this guy or his games… Nice way to jump on the MS-bashing bandwagon that’s currently rumbling through town, though. There’s really no better way to freely promote yourself, your company or your games like talking about the awful time you had at a company you worked for.

    It’s amazing to me that the gaming industry seems to be the only industry that contains people who are somehow surprised that working for yourself is better than working for a corp or big company. How many people do any of us actually know that started to work for themselves, in any industry, that end up saying “gee I really miss working for someone else. Setting my own pay, hours and projects (if a creative job) is such a hassle and bore.”

    I just love the cliché hipster-mainstream-hating, it’s what fuels my desire to buy more FIFA and COD.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. woe

    I heard Sony is giving this guy free PS3s.

    #6 2 years ago

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