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Xbox Live Director of Policy Stephen Toulouse Leaving Microsoft

The man known as "Stepto" departing the company he's been with for 18 years.

Toulouse was part of the team that, among other things, was responsible for the banhammer.

Stephen Toulouse, commonly known as Stepto and the Microsoft’s Xbox Live director of policy and enforcement, is leaving Microsoft.

Toulouse made the announcement on his blog this morning.

“Over the past year I’ve been doing quite of bit of thinking,” he said. “Nothing specific, nothing groundbreaking. Just plain old thinking. I turn 40 this year. Despite the wonderful ability in Microsoft to change careers pretty dramatically inside the company, I’ve been there nearly 18 years and it’s the only world I’ve really ever known. I feel too strangely comfortable, and too strangely tied.”

One of Xbox 360’s most public faces will remain with the company until February 15, before spending a vacation on a cruise boat wondering about what to do next.

Toulouse intends to write another book (his first one recounted his nearly 20 years at Microsoft), but there are no permanent plans.

“I have no idea what the future holds, for the first time in my life," said Toulouse.

As someone who’s spoken with Toulouse several times, I’ve always enjoyed our conversations about Microsoft policy. I didn’t always get the answers I wanted from Toulouse, but few people at any company were as willing to engage in the debate as often as Toulouse would. It’s unclear who will take his spot, but he’ll be difficult to replace.

My last chat with Toulouse was regarding the state of Xbox Live security. You can read it here.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by eulogize_my_baked_goods

Dude, that is one tough job and either way you spin it you're likely to piss someone off. The 'tired' comment is telling I think. I guess at some point you say to yourself enough is enough, and reaching 40 is as good a time as any. I wish him luck with whatever he does next and don't envy the next in line for that role.

Edited by MangyForestKat

@BisonHero said:

@ProfessorEss said:

@NipCrip66 said:

I really liked his discussion with Jonathan Blow on the E3 podcast and felt he defended MS policy very well against someone who obviously wanted far less restrictions.

I liked it too. Unfortunately that discussion left me with substantially less respect for Blow himself.

I thought Toulouse didn't defend MS policy very well at all, other than the standard "hey man, big corporations are incredibly resistant to policy change, and most XBLA games aren't imaginative enough that the policies are that big of a deal, so tough luck". I thought his response to Blow's criticism was terrible.

But I do also agree that it reflected sort of poorly on Blow, since he really kept pressing the issue to the point that things got pretty tense, on what was otherwise a pretty relaxed podcast. It didn't really seem like the right time or place, but I imagine it was Blow's only chance to personally confront someone at MS in a public forum, so he took advantage of it. Depending on your viewpoint, that may or may not be self-serving.

It is. Taking advantage is the very definition of self serving. Instead of discussing it like a normal human being he used the Bombcast and the relative safety of a public forum to bring out the knives on why XBLA policies personally pisses him off.

Blow could have easily made his own console, launched it, put as few restrictions on it as he wanted to and made his fucking game any which way he wanted, but he didn't. If Blow found it that hard or annoying to work with the policies of Xbox Live he should have simply shut the fuck up and published it on Steam where it would have been buried under the overbearing mass of "indie" games. Hey look I put a Warthog in 1-1 I made an indie game! Alternatively, hey look at my Half-Life/Source Engine mod it's an indie game!

Yeah, Blow's game wasn't fucking unique enough to warrant special treatment he should grow the fuck up.

Edited by dvorak

I always found him an insufferable pretentious snob though, so I'm glad to see him go.

I'm not sure why it should be news, or why we should care. People of his position come and go at companies like Microsoft all the time. Being able to quit in a job environment like this must be quite a luxury. Plus he'll have all that freedom afterwords on that cruise to make up his mind about writing a book!

Ugh.

Posted by coakroach

Is this the guy that Jonathan Blow told to 'sack up'?

Posted by Humanity

@TheHBK said:

He probably got fired and they just asked him for his resignation. A step down message like that would come with some indication of better opportunities popping up.

That does sound a lot like it. Not a lot of people work for a company for 18 years, get high enough on the food chain to be making a decent chunk of change - then suddenly say "wow this is pretty boring I'm 40 years old, perfect time for drastic changes in my life!" Maybe he's just a nut like that but I dunno.

I also wish every single article about him wouldn't keep reminding me that he's commonly known as Stepto. I got it already.

Edited by phrali

this sounds like he got fired but was given the chance to resign.

apparently i'm not the only one that sees this.

Posted by jasondesante

Big suprise (not actually) considering the last article I read about this guy. He must have gotten tired spraying Microsoft bullshit everywhere. Microsoft eats people up like shark grow teeth.

Posted by MangyForestKat

@coakroach said:

Is this the guy that Jonathan Blow told to 'sack up'?

Yes. The man is a hero. Blow needs to get off his high horse.

Posted by Demoskinos

This guy is awful. The episode last E3 where him and "E" as he likes to call himself basically ganged up on Jonathan Blow made me not like either of them. I know they have "job intrests" working/formerly working at Microsoft but man... they both came off as complete company shills and assholes.

Posted by NipCrip66

@MangyForestKat: @ProfessorEss: @BisonHero: I thought he argued as articulately as he could against some really rather unrealistic criticisms ("I want to make a game with no words", "why do I need exactly 1000 achievement points", etc) and was polite and respectful the entire time. I've kind of always though Blow was a pretentious, obnoxious little prick but I am glad there are people like him and Jenova Chen making games and I was really impressed that both of them appeared on the E3 podcasts.

Posted by Maitimo

Given how low-effort Microsoft's efforts at addressing the Live/Fifa problem have been and the fact it hasn't really exploded as you'd expect, I don't really think he was forced out.

Posted by KaneRobot

@dvorak said:

I'm not sure why it should be news, or why we should care.

Because XBox Live security is an incredibly important story in this industry right now, and he was basically their frontman. Pretty much everyone connected to Live should care.

Posted by C0V3RT

@Grilledcheez said:

I was never a fan of him personally, but good luck to him.

Same here. Something about him just kind of rubbed me the wrong way.

Posted by TadThuggish

Get the fuck out clap clap clap-clap-clap

Posted by Seanakin66

Awesome, even better if this means he won't be around to taint GB's otherwise-awesome E3 coverage.

Posted by Andorski

@Humanity said:

@TheHBK said:

He probably got fired and they just asked him for his resignation. A step down message like that would come with some indication of better opportunities popping up.

That does sound a lot like it. Not a lot of people work for a company for 18 years, get high enough on the food chain to be making a decent chunk of change - then suddenly say "wow this is pretty boring I'm 40 years old, perfect time for drastic changes in my life!" Maybe he's just a nut like that but I dunno.

I also wish every single article about him wouldn't keep reminding me that he's commonly known as Stepto. I got it already.

Robbie Bach, J Allard, and Shane Kim.

High profile MS employees who have been with the company for years and then leave isn't something new. The Xbox division of Microsoft seems to exerting the most change and evolution within the company, and the constant changing of focus/refocus gives employees plenty of opportunities to evaluate their future value within the corporation. It's clear that Microsoft isn't going to pitch the next Xbox as solely a game console, and with Stepto's expertise being online gaming security he might have come to the conclusion that his place within Microsoft has been reduced in importance.

Posted by RadleyDuder
@Punkgasm
I guess he's got nothing Toulouse...
GOD. FUCK. I HATE THIS GOD DAMN WEBSITE.

Anyway, regardless of how he did, I hope he finds a new direction to take his life that he enjoys.
Edited by spiceninja

He was ok I guess. He always seemed a little phony on the Major Nelson podcast. But everyone sounds phony on that podcast since they all work at Microsoft and can't really badmouth games. So they end up talking about games that aren't that great like they're actually pretty good. Oh, and they all freaking LOVE Kinect because they'd be killed my Microsoft if they didn't.

Yeah, goodbye Stepto.

Posted by MangyForestKat

@Demoskinos said:

This guy is awful. The episode last E3 where him and "E" as he likes to call himself basically ganged up on Jonathan Blow made me not like either of them. I know they have "job intrests" working/formerly working at Microsoft but man... they both came off as complete company shills and assholes.

Ganged up? Yeah maybe they ganged up on a few of the most retarded comments that have ever been made by a human being.

WHY WON'T YOU LET ME CIRCUMVENT POLICIES THAT YOU DON'T PERSONALLY CONTROL?!

WHY CAN'T I MAKE A GAME WITH NO WORDS ON XBLA?!

WHY DO I NEED EXACTLY 1000 ACHIEVEMENT POINTS IN A FULL RETAIL GAME?!

Posted by Marokai

Never liked him. Never understood why people like him. 
 
I guess that's the difference between myself and someone who's inside the video game "beltway," if you will.

Online
Posted by HonchoGrande

I wish him the best. His department's role within XBL is a thankless, vet vital, component. Like him or not, his "be good to each other" mantra that he spoke about on Major Nelson's podcast is something the people I have to mute online could take a cue from.

Posted by Arrested_Developer

I wonder if he stepped on anyone's toes with leaving.

Posted by joelalfaro

I friggin loved tollbooth!

Posted by zodstein

Hopefully to be replaced by someone more competent.

Posted by jillsandwich

Hopefully his next book is going to be a candid, tell-all sort of thing. I want to to know the real shit behind Xbox Live policies.

Posted by Mijati

@jillsandwich said:

Hopefully his next book is going to be a candid, tell-all sort of thing. I want to to know the real shit behind Xbox Live policies.

NDAs and all sort of contracts will stop him saying more than he's been able to now.

Edited by Curufinwe

@DarkDude said:

@jillsandwich said:

Hopefully his next book is going to be a candid, tell-all sort of thing. I want to to know the real shit behind Xbox Live policies.

NDAs and all sort of contracts will stop him saying more than he's been able to now.

The only way we'll ever get the truth about Xbox security is if they get in a proper lawsuit and they have to turn over company emails about it as part of discovery.

Posted by pancakehumper

Good fucking riddance

Edited by TeenageJesusSuperstar

Stepto was always a stickler for the company line, which could be frustrating in interviews (see Microsoft v. Jonathon Blow E3 2011); but it always felt he was standing up for something he really believed in, as apposed to just being some corporate shill. I sincerely hope nothing but the best for him and his, wherever he may end up.

Posted by envane

OH NOE WHAT WILL E DO WITH OUT STEPTO

Posted by MideonNViscera

@Napalm said:

I refuse to believe that he wasn't thrown under the bus in some capacity with all of the Xbox Live hacking issues. EDIT: Either that, or his leaving is tied to that in some capacity. This announcement just feels too convenient. But hey, if he wants to leave, good for him. I'm just pointing out a nagging feeling I have about this.

Only took 2 posts for a conspiracy this time!

Posted by Miacosa

Probably asked to leave beacuse of all the hacking that's been going on XBL.

Posted by Rolyatkcinmai

Hey, look, those cunts that complained constantly about absolutely nothing during the E3 broadcast are still here.

Shouldn't some of you have gone off to Kotaku by now?

Edited by gizmo88

I always got the creep vibe from this guy whenever he did any podcasts. I can't say I feel bad for him. Microsoft probably wanted to part ways.

The mere fact his gamertag was Stepto should give you some insight into his personality.

Posted by Napalm

@MideonNViscera said:

@Napalm said:

I refuse to believe that he wasn't thrown under the bus in some capacity with all of the Xbox Live hacking issues. EDIT: Either that, or his leaving is tied to that in some capacity. This announcement just feels too convenient. But hey, if he wants to leave, good for him. I'm just pointing out a nagging feeling I have about this.

Only took 2 posts for a conspiracy this time!

More like common sense if you actually pay attention to current events in our industry.

Posted by Dany

@Napalm: Or you know, he actually left for personal reasons.

@gizmo88: He's great in the Major Nelson podcast.

@Miacosa: Considering these hacks aren't fixed, I'd imagine not.

Posted by Brendan

Man people, maybe he just hit that mid-life point and wanted a change. Try making up conspiracy comments and assumptions when you've hit that age and have decided how unlikely it is that someone would want to do something different. Hint: It actually happens quite often.

Posted by Napalm

@Dany said:

@Napalm: Or you know, he actually left for personal reasons.

@gizmo88: He's great in the Major Nelson podcast.

@Miacosa: Considering these hacks aren't fixed, I'd imagine not.

Go back and read my original comments on the first few pages. I'm not re-explaining everything to you specifically.

Posted by Grimluck343

Stepto leaves Microsoft, or Patrick's investigative journalism forces Microsoft's hand!? You be the judge!

But seriously, wish him all the best (Stepto, not Patrick. Well, Patrick too I guess).

Posted by Sander

He doesn't want to take the heat for things like this, so he's out. Flaking out on his responsibility so somebody else can clean up the fecal matter he leaves front row, center. I expect nothing less.

Posted by YukoAsho

I don't buy that "strangely comfortable" line for a moment. At 40, one's thoughts should be on family and other more "grown-up" things. I can't imagine leaving a job you've been at for nearly 20 years unless you were miserable. Which leads us to...

@Sander
said:

He doesn't want to take the heat for things like this, so he's out. Flaking out on his responsibility so somebody else can clean up the fecal matter he leaves front row, center. I expect nothing less.

Yeah, it seems way too convenient. Hopefully whoever replaces him will be willing to admit that there's something wrong with XBL and go about FIXING them. Microsoft's silence is deafening at this point, especially in contrast to Sony's forwardness with regards to their FAR LESS CATASTROPHIC network outage.

Posted by dagas

@YukoAsho said:

I don't buy that "strangely comfortable" line for a moment. At 40, one's thoughts should be on family and other more "grown-up" things. I can't imagine leaving a job you've been at for nearly 20 years unless you were miserable. Which leads us to...

You may have heard of something called a mid life crisis? He has worked for the same company all his life and now that he is turning the big four-o he is thinking that he wants to do something new and cool with his life. It happens to a lot of people.

I've been listening to the Major Nelson podcast for years where he has been part of the regular podcast members for the last few years and I just don't get the feeling he is the kind of guy who quits just because a few game sites talk about him. It's not like he has been on the cover of New York Times or anything.

But who knows, I wish him luck all the same. At least we still have "e" and "lollipop" on the podcast.

Posted by YukoAsho

@dagas said:

You may have heard of something called a mid life crisis? He has worked for the same company all his life and now that he is turning the big four-o he is thinking that he wants to do something new and cool with his life. It happens to a lot of people.

I've been listening to the Major Nelson podcast for years where he has been part of the regular podcast members for the last few years and I just don't get the feeling he is the kind of guy who quits just because a few game sites talk about him. It's not like he has been on the cover of New York Times or anything.

But who knows, I wish him luck all the same. At least we still have "e" and "lollipop" on the podcast.

Hehe, there's always that.

Wonder if he'll try to go back if that's the case... And if MS'll let him back in?

Posted by ColonelRick

Director of policy=/= responsible for tech security. He handled the XBL TOS and its violators. Technical security would fall somewhere under Neustadter's (E) department, I guess. They'd work together, but you can't blame this guy for everything.

Used to listen to the Major Nelson podcast as well, but over time, I kinda lost interest.

Posted by Stache

Nice MySpace photo Stepto.

Posted by Fuga

@Napalm said:

@MideonNViscera said:

@Napalm said:

I refuse to believe that he wasn't thrown under the bus in some capacity with all of the Xbox Live hacking issues. EDIT: Either that, or his leaving is tied to that in some capacity. This announcement just feels too convenient. But hey, if he wants to leave, good for him. I'm just pointing out a nagging feeling I have about this.

Only took 2 posts for a conspiracy this time!

More like common sense if you actually pay attention to current events in our industry.

hahaha jesus christ

Posted by MideonNViscera

@Napalm said:

@MideonNViscera said:

@Napalm said:

I refuse to believe that he wasn't thrown under the bus in some capacity with all of the Xbox Live hacking issues. EDIT: Either that, or his leaving is tied to that in some capacity. This announcement just feels too convenient. But hey, if he wants to leave, good for him. I'm just pointing out a nagging feeling I have about this.

Only took 2 posts for a conspiracy this time!

More like common sense if you actually pay attention to current events in our industry.

hahaha Spoken like a true crackpot.

Posted by Airickson

@ColonelRick said:

Director of policy=/= responsible for tech security. He handled the XBL TOS and its violators. Technical security would fall somewhere under Neustadter's (E) department, I guess. They'd work together, but you can't blame this guy for everything.

Used to listen to the Major Nelson podcast as well, but over time, I kinda lost interest.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Posted by VikingChux

A lot of these comments are most likely from people who've never: A) worked at the same company for more than even 5 years B) worked at a large corporate company. and C) aged past 30.

Posted by KaneRobot

@VikingChux said:

A lot of these comments are most likely from people who've never: A) worked at the same company for more than even 5 years B) worked at a large corporate company. and C) aged past 30.

Because fulfilling all of those requirements is a MUST in order to realize something is seriously messed up with XBox Live security.

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