Right now, the XBox One is running in second place to its main competitor, Sony’s PS4. Microsoft’s main hope for resurgence exists in Halo 5: Guardians. More specifically, their hope lies in Bonnie Ross — the boss of Microsoft developing company 343 Industries, responsible for the fate of the Halo Franchise. Ross was recently profiled in Bloomberg Business about Halo 5, and her role in developing the game that is so essential to a crumbling gaming platform.
The game, which is set to be released in just a few days on October 27th, is anticipated to be one of the biggest game releases of 2015, Bloomberg reports. And Ross, who oversees 600 people and the spending of approximately $100 million on the game, is in charge of it all. She and her team have been fixing software bugs, programming and developing for days on end. The fate of XBox is in her hands. “Halo is all about innovation and pushing our technology,” she told Bloomberg. “We feel like we’re pushing where we need to be, and pushing Halo.”
Gamers have spent $4.6 billion in the past 14 years on Halo products and merchandise, with books and even a television show about the franchise in the works. Its influence is wide, and Ross is well aware of the pressure. “For those of us that are a little bit older, we saw Star Wars and stood in line the first time around,” she told Bloomberg. “We are seeing the same thing with Halo, where a lot of dads and parents that started playing when they were 20 or 30 now have kids that are coming in through our, you know, Mega Bloks line.”
Ross, who studied technical communications and computer science at Colorado State University, first interned at IBM. After graduation, she started working at Microsoft, but she got bored very quickly and decided to talk her way onto the developing team to create a basketball game. “I just wanted to take a break, just for, like, one year, to work on something that my friends would understand,” she explained.
In 2007, she chose to focus on Halo after Microsoft ditched its company, Bungie, and took the project on — though her colleagues didn’t trust her decision. “People felt like, Let’s get another Halo or two out, and it’s the end of the franchise,” Ross says. “The thing I asked for was: If I take it over, I want to be George Lucas. I want to own everything, and I want to do things differently.”
Ross pays close attention to her team and how they’re feeling. Headquarters can only hold about half of her team, so the other half are in another building down the block, and she shuttles back and forth between the two, working with them. “During game development, you can feel the pulse,” Ross says. “You can walk in and tell if we’re off or not, and whether morale is up or down, because we all act as one.”
Though Ross is the boss of such a massive team of people, she’s faced adversity being a woman in games. As a female executive in a male-dominated industry, she’s been fighting to remind her colleagues that women are gamers, too, and that there should be fully-fledged female characters in the Halo franchise. She’s also fought to make Halo shirts available in cuts for women.
Ross is deeply invested in Halo and truly passionate about gaming — something she often has to convince men of in the industry. Frankly, her dedication to the series is necessary to manage such a massive team. The burden of XBox’s future is on her shoulders, but Ross, a gamer with brains, heart, and leadership skills, is most certainly the woman for the job.
Read the full Bloomberg Business profile here.
(Image via Twitter.)