How Master Chief Became Microsoft’s R&D Chief
The games business doesn’t make a lot of proft, but that’s not the point.
It’s 11:50 p.m., and Fifth Avenue is dark on a cold October Monday in Manhattan. The only signs of life come from a new addition to the neighborhood: Microsoft’s fagship retail outlet opened that morning, and now loud music and lights spill out from inside. Pedestrians peer through the glass at several hundred excited customers celebrating with a handful of actors in high-tech battle armor.
Midnight on Oct. 27 was the launch of Halo 5: Guardians, and people around the world lined up to buy the newest release in the blockbuster sci-f videogame franchise. Microsoft owns and publishes the Halo series for its Xbox game consoles, and when its CEO sees a product launch like that, he gets excited. “I want people to move from using to needing to loving Windows, and that is something that I think Xbox is built around,” said Satya Nadella in an interview at the E3 videogame convention in June—the frst time in eight years a Microsoft CEO has attended the industry’s biggest event. “The fans, the engagement … those are the things that I want to have translated to other parts of the company.”
A year and a half into his tenure as CEO, Nadella has turned out to be one of gaming’s biggest champions—right up there with Halo’s supersoldier protagonist, Master Chief. Nadella has made big investments in gaming, including $2.5 billion to acquire Mojang AB, the Swedish company behind Minecraft, the bestselling computer game of all time. He has pushed to integrate the Xbox division, once relegated to