Update: Beyond the statement he already issued, Xbox head Phil Spencer sent an email to staff members within the Xbox organization addressing the controversy surrounding its GDC party. Microsoft has reprinted the email, but you can also read it in its entirety below:

How we show up as an organization is incredibly important to me. We want to build and reflect the culture of TEAM XBOX – internally and externally – a culture that each one of us can represent with pride. An inclusive culture has a direct impact on the products and services we deliver and the perception consumers have of the Xbox brand and our company, as a whole.

It has come to my attention that at Xbox-hosted events at GDC this past week, we represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was absolutely not consistent or aligned to our values. That was unequivocally wrong and will not be tolerated. 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.

Original Story (3/18/16, 3:48pm CST)

The Game Developers Conference in San Francisco gave members of the gaming industry a chance to rub elbows this week, but one of the gatherings hosted by Microsoft is generating criticism because of the company’s decision to hire female dancers.

Originally reported by Crave, the Microsoft GDC party featured the scantily clad dancing women on raised platforms in the midst of the crowd. Several attendees took to social media to register their complaints, saying that hiring dancing women as sex objects reinforces the idea of the gaming industry as a “boys club.”

Microsoft heard the complaints. In statement sent to Game Informer, head of Xbox Phil Spencer said:

At Xbox-hosted events at GDC this past week, we represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was not consistent or aligned to our values. It was unequivocally wrong and will not be tolerated. I know we disappointed many people and I’m personally committed to holding ourselves to higher standards. We must ensure that diversity and inclusion are central to our everyday business and core values. We will do better in the future.

It’s good that Microsoft acknowledged and apologized for the behavior, but that doesn’t make the original move look any less offensive. Years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see dancers or “booth babes” at industry events, but the practice has been largely discontinued in the interest of making gaming a welcoming hobby for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

[Source: Crave Online]

 

Our Take
For a major industry player like Microsoft, this is a surprising misstep. The apology from Spencer is a nice gesture, but I still can’t believe that the event was staged like this in the first place. With a growing spotlight on equality in the gaming space over the last few years, it’s hard to believe that someone didn’t put a stop to this somewhere in the process.