Microsoft executive vice president of gaming Phil Spencer recently played Nintendo 64 classic Banjo-Kazooie, according to his Xbox Live account. But where most might simply see a public figure enjoying a bit of nostalgia, a specific brand of diehard took it as a personal wink and a nod from the Xbox head of things to come.
Spencer first booted up Banjo-Kazooie for Xbox 360 on June 1. As noted by activity-tracking websites, he played for around 37 minutes and earned exactly one achievement (“Get Jiggy”) for gathering two of the platformer’s puzzle piece collectibles. No progress has been made since then — Spencer instead spent time with Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, Ninja Gaiden Sigma, and Elden Ring over the last few days — but that hasn’t stopped folks from speculating.
Xbox fans, many of whom watch Spencer’s online activity like hawks, immediately took this as a sign of impending Banjo-Kazooie news. Hopes ranged from a Banjo-Redooie remake (great name, by the way) to a Banjo-Threeie sequel. Some even theorised that Spencer unlocking a single achievement meant that he was planning to meet one of Xbox Live’s dozen Banjo-Kazooie milestones every day leading up to the major Xbox presentation on Sunday, June 12. He hasn’t.
“Phil knows what he’s doing,” explained one very confident ResetEra user. “Getting that pre-hype Banjo hype for the big reveal.”
“It is almost cruel to play this without meaning to hint about something,” Dae Jim, founder and editor-in-chief of Xbox fan site Life is Xbox, wrote on Twitter.
“There has been no greater friend and ally to the cause of reviving Banjo-Kazooie than Phil Spencer,” said YouTube creator Drew the Nostalgia Maniac in response to Dae Jim’s tweet. “Here’s to hoping their time has finally come!”
As loath as I am to give this tenuous conspiracy theory the benefit of the doubt (it very much feels like the woman who thought Russian president Vladimir Putin was speaking to her through his ties), there is precedent for these kinds of shenanigans.
Spencer notably wore a Battletoads shirt, for example, during a Windows 10 event as a tease for the Rare Replay compilation announced at E3 2015 five months later. Then, in 2020, Spencer snuck an Xbox Series S into the background of his Gamelab Conference keynote address three months before its official reveal, which both further endeared him to the Xbox faithful and worked as brilliant marketing for the console’s smaller profile compared to the Xbox Series X. He’s proven he can be a sneaky guy on occasion.
Over the last several years, Xbox has managed to develop a cult of personality around Spencer through careful management of his image as a man of the people rather than a stuffy corporate executive. And while Spencer himself previously spoke out about the ongoing “tribalism” in gaming, it seems more and more as if Xbox is a-ok with cultivating the kind of devotees who see secret messages in their dear leader’s online activity, especially as first-party offerings peter out and Game Pass faces criticism.
Will Xbox revive the Banjo-Kazooie series this weekend? We’ll have to wait and see, but at least these rumours give certain elements of the fandom something juicy to focus on besides, I don’t know, harassing Xbox personalities and developers.