Hours after hosting a "women in gaming" luncheon at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Microsoft threw a party with scantily clad dancers in school girl outfits. It wasn't a good look, and the company has since apologised. The photos surfaced after a series of tweets by Tin Man Games editor Kamina Vincent brought the incident to light.
"I like dancing, I like talking to devs," wrote Vincent. "But not at this #GDC16 party. Thanks for pushing me out of this party, Microsoft. [...] Making a formal complaint tomorrow. I will not stand for this. I'm trying to encourage women into the industry then this happens."
As the photos made their way around Twitter, the backlash was swift, and it didn't take long for Microsoft executives to take notice.
First, there was head of Xbox marketing Aaron Greenberg.
— Aaron Greenberg (@aarongreenberg) March 18, 2016
Soon after, head of Xbox Phil Spencer released a statement to The Verge:
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.
Update 12:19pm: Phil Spencer has released a longer response:
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.
Apologies are the easy part, though. It's on Microsoft to stop this from happening again, and ensure their outreach to women seems genuine.