Giant Bomb News


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.

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Posted by sickVisionz

Best of luck. I hope he didn't quit before he was eligible for retirement.

Posted by jakkblades

@VikingChux: Most users on this website are under 30, though that doesn't preclude corporate employment.

Posted by EDfromRED

I wish him all the best, I think XBox Live users should be thankfull for his efforts in keeping the service up and running through the years. Anybody who followed his Twitter, and read about his recent experiences dealing with one of his dogs sickness and death, knows he is a big hearted human being, and not just a corporate cog.

Posted by ColonelRick

I dunno how much leeway Toulouse had in running the policy and enforcement team, but I do suppose that had my XBL acocunt been taken over, I would have been a wee bit less neutral about him. I've got some beef with MS over the disparity in the online experience between the various regions it serves(Europeans get much less) but i'm not faulting him solely for the giant mess with the social engineering/FIFA cards, etc. I suspect it must have been a enormously frustrating experience for him, especially with what sounds like a chronically understaffed and underpowered team to handle TOS violations, and having to interface with other departments on the tech side of things as well.

Posted by Th3_James


Posted by scottygrayskull

Wow, surprised to hear he's leaving but that's a good reason to go. Sometimes you just need a change.

Edited by mlarrabee

My, what a lot of butt-hurt comments.

If you've never had to write a policy script for online social interaction, or for content and distribution control, then I have no regrets about dismissing your uninformed whining.

The man was paid to be a figurehead. He didn't design or engineer the system; he was simply the man who explained it to the public and took the heat when it went off of the rails.

Best of luck to him, and I hope the very large shoes he left are filled properly.

EDIT: And for those of you who think you know what a "shill" is, here's the definition.

Edited by GaspoweR

A dude:

hahaha Spoken like a true crackpot.



Posted by Napalm

@YukoAsho said:

@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.

I don't agree with this assessment at all. Do you really think one guy versus an entire network machine can change anything in a matter of months? At this point they almost need to rebuilt the entire system and close as many loopholes as they can. I'm sure Stephen Toulouse has done what he can, but what you cannot deny is the ridiculous amount of pressure that's been put on him ever since these hacks really took off. Declaring that he refused to fix problems is just being blind. One guy can't fix everything, and one guy can't repair loopholes.

Posted by jakob187

So what you're REEEEEALLY trying to say, Patrick, is that Stepto is coming to Giant Bomb?

I'd be okay with that.

Posted by IIChristian89II

@HatKing said:

I wish the average person had the financial security and balls to quit their job of eighteen years, go on a cruise and say 'idunno' when asked what their future plans were. Actually, I think that's fucking crazy for rich white guys in suits too. I doubt that he has no plans.

I dont understand why the color of his skin has anything to do with anything.

Edited by MrKlorox

I agree with the "oh well" sentiment. It's not like Xbox live doesn't need a change. Also all the bombcasts with Stepto or E made it feel like the GB crew were chilling with cops. So stiff and uncomfortable.

Posted by NathHaw

@mlarrabee said:

EDIT: And for those of you who think you know what a "shill" is, here's the definition.

BTW, I wish him luck, because changing a job can suck especially after you've been with one for a while. I'm not even close to 18 years with mine.

Posted by selbie

Looking at that photo, Stepto looks like the Reggie Fils Aime of Microsoft :P

Caption: "Break our rules and imma fuck your shit up!"

Posted by Ariketh

Midlife Crisis?

Posted by Diehardest13

Hopefully major nelson will follow. Sorry but I think and this is just listening to his podcast, they seem some high and mighty like everything they do is perfect and the best. That's why I stopped subscribing to his podcast.

Posted by VikingChux

@KaneRobot said:

@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.

No, of course not. But this is an article about the Director of Xbox Live's policies and enforcement leaving his job after 18 years, not Xbox Live security.

I should have mentioned specifically the comments I'm referencing are the one's not understanding why someone would leave a job after 18 years, not understanding why he wasn't more 'real' in interviews, and not understanding why someone wouldn't have another job waiting for them, etc.

Posted by jamesisaacs

Why write about this guy, he was only a XBL GM, practically.

Posted by blacklab

Well, nothing toulouse, I guess.

Edited by avantegardener

I have friend who just left microsoft for almost the exact same reason. Despite earning extremely good money, he is now going on to start his own business with all the risks that entails. I suspect Toulouse really is feeling some sort of stagnation, I also do know that if your any good, they will have you back in a heartbeat, in fact they like their employees to leave and learn new skills and experiences which they can bring back to the mothership.

Posted by DG991

I hate xbox live.

Posted by Gordo789

Later, duder.

Posted by captain_clayman

was this the guy that was on the livestream that one day where it was the microsoft corporate guys and johnathan blow? that conversation made me angry.

Posted by JBrosk89

I was 5 when he started working for Microsoft...thats crazy to think

Posted by Wolverine

He always seemed overly dapper and optimistic on Major Nelson's podcast. It seemed almost cult like. I'm really surprised he'd leave.

Posted by Commisar123

If he was the guy who approved all the patch and XBLA arcade restrictions then it is probably a good thing in the long run he has moved on.

Posted by MostlyBearded

@blacklab said:

Well, nothing toulouse, I guess.

I don't know if I should high-five you or slap you.

Edited by Massive_basset

After 136 days (originally estimated at 25 days), I finally got this wonderous email from Microsoft:

Уважаемый пользователь Geoff! Это письмо является подтверждением успешного переключения учетном записи XBOX Live с Россия на Соединенные Штаты

So, maybe it would be good to get someone else running the show?

Posted by Hostile_Dan

I always liked Stepto particularly the transparency that he and his team developed. He would openly discuss MS issues on the podcasts, gave an E3 (i think) demonstration about how their team works and most recently made himself available to Patrick Klepek for an interview to discuss the issue of FIFA-players having their accounts jacked. It may not be enough to appease some people but he and the team tried to put a friendly face to the ban-hammer and i appreciated the effort.

Wish him all the best with his future plans!

Posted by BisonHero

@captain_clayman said:

was this the guy that was on the livestream that one day where it was the microsoft corporate guys and johnathan blow? that conversation made me angry.

Which part made you angry? The part where Blow was completely uncompromising to the point that the livestream/podcast became incredibly tense and uncomfortable for everyone involved, or the part where Toulouse gave the lamest corporate shill defenses possible and sounded like a customer service call center agent who has to promote the company line no matter what?

I ultimately agree with Blow's position that a lot of the XBLA and Xbox Live restrictions are completely pointless or could at least be loosened considerably, but he came off as an undiplomatic jerk. Toulouse was more polite, but his counterarguments were just terrible or sidestepped the point of the discussion entirely, and he didn't seem to have any good answers.

Posted by Lind_L_Taylor
@ProfessorEss said:

Man 18 years at a company is a long time. I can only imagine how much longer it feels at such a fast paced company as MS.

Like him or lump him hopefully they'll get someone who is as willing (as he could be I'm sure) to put himself out there.

Good luck.

18 years isn't that long.  I've been at the same corp for 13 years.
I think he's going to regret it.  This one lady at work, her husband
quit his job after 18 years or so, cashed out his 401k & started
using all that cash to go back to college.  So far, he has been 
through multiple career change attempts & settled for none. I
think he's been out of work for 4 years now.  I'm guessing
this Mr. Softy guy will be the same way, never able to decide
what he wants to do, squander his time & bullshit everybody
on his "ambitions".
Posted by osakajack

Three things:

1. He clearly made his own decision and is sticking to it. He's a big boy now.

2. After following the guy for nearly ten years in different media, I think the conspiracy nutjobs and the whanks who welcome his departure, please DIAF.

3. This has been a long time in coming. He's a decent guy who did the crappy job no one else wanted, and he did his best at it.