Xbox head Phil Spencer has issued a formal apology for the tone of Microsoft's GDC party, saying that the decision to feature podium dancers dressed in faux-school uniforms was "unequivocally wrong."
Complaints were raised by attendees of the party, which took place on St Patrick's day, and were echoed by senior members of Xbox staff, including head of marketing Aaron Greenberg, making for an embarrassing situation for Spencer. The decision was rendered all the more bewildering by the fact that Microsoft, which has championed many progressive programs on diversity and inclusion, had hosted its 16th annual Women in Games dinner earlier that day.
To his credit, Spencer's apology was largely unhindered by spin or attempts at amelioration, instead accepting criticism and promising that the matter was under direct internal scrutiny. Nonetheless, it's unclear whether the dancers were hired directly by Microsoft or a third-party events team.
"How we show up as an organization is incredibly important to me," wrote Spencer in an email which was sent to all Xbox staff and later published publicly on the official Xbox Wire news service. "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."
Sadly, it's not the first time a company has had to apologise for featuring scantily clad dancers at an industry event: in 2013 Brenda Romero resigned from the IGDA's SIG on women in the industry after an official after party co-hosted by Chinese published Yetizen featured podium girls, attracting criticism from a number of attendees.