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Phil Spencer Spent Nearly 23 Work Weeks Playing Xbox This Year

The Xbox boss couldn’t stop playing Diablo IV and Starfield, but promises it wasn't during work hours

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Phil Spencer walks into the office off a distant planet.
Image: Justin Sullivan / Bethesda / Kotaku (Getty Images)

Running the gaming division at the second-most valuable company in the world sounds like a very demanding job. Tons of decisions to make, lots of details to stress over, and accountability to thousands of employees and millions of customers for every little misstep. Not much time to play video games, probably. Unless you’re Phil Spencer, that is. The Microsoft Gaming CEO somehow spent the equivalent of 23 work weeks playing Starfield, Diablo IV, and more in 2023.

The veteran gaming executive shared his Xbox year-in-review roundup yesterday, the equivalent of Spotify wrapped for Game Pass fanatics. Spencer played his Xbox a total of 917 hours, across 82 different games, earning 382 achievements in the process. That puts him in the top five percent of all Xbox users. Not too shabby for the guy in charge of overseeing the entire platform in a year filled with travel, showcases, big launches, and a historic Activision Blizzard acquisition fight.


“Every minute was worth it,” he tweeted. “So fun to see this year’s Xbox Year in Review and look back at all the games I played in 2023.”


The top-three most-played games underlined both Spencer’s ability to still lose himself for hundreds of hours in sprawling role-playing games and Xbox’s strategy of snatching up studios to dramatically expand its first-party library. The CEO spent 124 hours playing Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity: Hero Edition (acquired in 2018), 148 hours playing Bethesda’s Starfield (acquired in 2021), and 143 hours playing Blizzard’s Diablo IV (acquired in October). I worry about Spencer’s game-life balance if Microsoft goes on to acquire even more studios.

His prodigious appetite for games has made him possibly one of the most beloved executives among players, even when he’s announcing layoffs, price hikes, or apologizing for disappointing duds like Redfall. Even those who don’t own an Xbox are fans. Like sports teams engaged in a bitter rivalry, many PlayStation owners still have a grudging respect for Spencer, the gamer’s gaming boss, a stark contrast with outgoing PlayStation head Jim Ryan who would clearly prefer to watch Premier League over playing Ratchet and Clank.


Spencer has leaned into this image throughout the years, sharing anecdotes about sneaking PC games in between meetings and the random internet Destiny 2 mutuals he regularly meets up with online. Almost no interview with him wraps up at this point without at least a mention or two of what he’s been playing lately, from big Xbox exclusives to low-profile indie games like Ravenlock and Brotato. Brotato is an excellent Vampire Survivors-like that launched in 1.0 this year and no one has championed it harder than Spencer. And it’s not even on Xbox. Yet.

I’m obsessed with the daily schedules, personal lifehacks, and intimate quirks high-performing individuals use to try to min-max their existence. One of these days I would love to know how Spencer actually finds the time, between a demanding C-suite gig, family, friends, and household chores, to get a Diablo IV character to level 100. I’m picturing Spencer on a treadmill listening in on multiple conference calls while grinding nightmare dungeons on the Asus ROG. I hope he’s getting enough sleep.


Update 12/14/2023 12:27 p.m. ET: Spencer confirms he’s not grinding nightmare dungeons on the clock. “I’ve been lucky enough to be able to keep my work and my play mostly separate,” he tweeted. “When I’m playing, it’s my escape, my fun, almost 50 years of playing video games and I still love them. And yes, I also love my work.”