We’re just a few days from the launch of Halo 5: Guardians, but one of the people responsible for ensuring that blockbuster will have a robust network for online multiplayer has left Microsoft.
Eric Neustadter, also known as “e” on Xbox Live and the director of that network’s architecture, revealed on Twitter that today was his last day with the company. While with Microsoft, Neustadter helped guide the creation and development of Xbox Live as a premiere online gaming service, and he helped grow it to more than 39 million monthly active gamers. Under his leadership, he helped make the first true successful subscription-based online system for a video game console. And now, Xbox Live is widely considered the industry standard for multiplayer and social services in the game space, and Sony has since cloned many of its features for the modern incarnation of PlayStation Network.
After 14.5 years working at Xbox (18.5 at MS) today is my last day. It's been an amazing ride. So Long, and Thanks for All the Gamerscore!
— Eric Neustadter (e) (@thevowel) October 23, 2015
We’ve reached out to him and to Microsoft for a statement, and we’ll add that context to this post once we get it.
Neustadter’s exit might put some fear into the hearts of some savvy Halo fans. Xbox Live made the early games in that franchise (from Halo 2 onward), some of the most popular online shooters ever released for a console. But the series is rebounding from the disappointing release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which suffered from numerous connection issues. Developer 343 Industries took responsibility for the bulk of those problems — and has since fixed most of them.
This loss is potentially bigger than just Xbox Live. Neustadter is one of the most public faces of the Microsoft gaming brand behind Xbox boss Phil Spencer and Xbox evangelist Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb. Neustadter claims that his “e” was the first gamertag ever created for the platform, and he was a regular co-host on the Major Nelson Radio podcast. And he has spent every day since 2002 working on Xbox. If you check the responses to his announcement tweet, you can see dozens of people from in and outside of the industry expressing their disbelief — and that only happens when your persona is inextricably linked to something you created.