In a recent interview with GamerTagRadio, a former XBOX employee named Christa Charter claims in her new book that the majority of people working for marketing at XBOX are completely unfamiliar with gaming. This has sparked a negative flow off opinion from large gaming sites, claiming that Microsoft has no love for their games and only cares about profit—but that kind of view disregards the entire point of a publishing company and ignores what different things publishing companies have to deal with that passionate developers and gamers don’t see from their perspective. It doesn’t matter whether XBOX or Microsoft employees are familiar with the games they publish—what matters is that they know how to put those games on the shelves and make money off of them.
It’s easy to think of Microsoft as a gaming company, and it certainly is—but there’s a vast distinction between a development company and a publishing company. Developing games does have to pay close attention to trends in gaming, games that might compete with their own, games within their own genre that they can draw inspiration from, and the techniques other developers use to make their games fun—but publishers need to know much less than that. Focusing on genre, target audience, and marketability, all of these traits can be transferred to any other form of the entertainment industry. Only a small percentage of a publishing company (specifically, the ones who sift through the games and decide to give them a chance) actually need games expertise. The vast bulk of the company deals with sales, company management, market analysis, and so on—things that, while related to games, do not require an intimate knowledge of games.
Gaming experience is definitely a plus—but when you’re dealing with sales, it’s not really necessary. You know what genre the games are, you know what sells and what doesn’t. The success of the Microsoft and quite a few of their policies show that putting money before love sells. They are probably the polar opposite of Nintendo, who will take risks in order to put games out there. While Microsoft does have an active XBLA service that puts out many games a month, accepting games to the program is less about knowing whether a game is good and more about knowing whether the game will sell and whether its quality is up to snuff.
There’s much more to a publishing company than simply being the middle man to large retailers and small development studios: you also have to worry about risks. Even a passionate gamer would have difficulty in a company like XBOX unless they had a huge amount of experience with marketing as well. The CEO might know nothing about games and make up for it by knowing everything about management. The best market analysists may not have time for games in the first place, so when you pressure them to start gaming in their free time, it may hinder their ability to think and do their job. Having game experience would likely improve the quality of the company, but having a game company full of non-gamers is not detrimental.