Key Xbox creative leaves company after almost 20 years

Chris Novak, Xbox’s head of research and development, has left the company after serving in various positions for nearly 20 years.

As head of R&D, a role he’s held onto for five years, he was in charge of the user experience for all things gaming at Microsoft, including Xbox Live, Game Pass, and cloud gaming. He also helped with research into first-party games.

Novak began his career at Xbox in November of 2002 as design director, becoming design architect in 2009 and serving as the latter for seven years. He would eventually take over Xbox’s R&D division and become an instrumental creative force in several of Xbox’s most prominent initiatives. Novak reflected on his time at Xbox in an interview with Polygon (opens in new tab).

“Microsoft has been where I’ve gotten to learn in the crucible of gaming, from the world’s best across the industry,” Novak said. “I’ve got to see it in its best times and its worst times. And that learning process, I tremendously treasure.”

Novak was promoted to head of research and development during a strategic shift at Xbox. Just a few months prior, Xbox announced its Play Anywhere initiative at E3 2016, which allowed players to access their games on Xbox consoles and Windows PCs. 

“How big is that challenge when you’re trying to build experiences of entire games on a device that it was never designed for? That was the challenge at hand,” Novak said. “We spent a huge amount of time as part of the xCloud effort, with the xCloud engineers, chasing that down and making sure that all the technology allowed us to render this output to any device. […] That is one of my proudest moments.”

Novak told Polygon he won’t be joining another company immediately as he wants time to refocus his life following the death of a person close to him. We wish him all the best.

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