No, Phil Spencer’s shirt isn’t teasing a big game reboot — yet

Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox and the CEO of Microsoft Gaming, has once again given in to conspiracy-oriented video game fans with a cheeky fashion choice. To close out the Xbox Games Showcase stream, Spencer wore a black T-shirt with a print of the box art for hexes, a long-dormant series that – thanks to the acquisition of Bethesda and with it id Software – is now owned by Xbox. Was he teasing the announcement of the company’s next big first-person shooter reboot?

“That wasn’t me pre-announcing it,” Spencer told Polygon in a post-stream interview. “But I recognized the importance of some games in our portfolio.”

You’re forgiven for expecting something more official. The exec has a long history of using T-shirts as playful marketing, whether supporting an indie, announcing a new release, or yes, even hinting at a reboot of a long-dormant franchise – looking at you Battle Toads.

Spencer shared an origin story for his T-shirt tradition: “The first time I wore a T-shirt on stage like this was a game called Jumpman which I used to play with my dad on the Commodore 64. Epics Jumpman. I wore one Jumpman shirt thinking no one would know what it was except my dad because he was watching. And it was right around Father’s Day, which is when E3 always is.

For Spencer, the hexes shirt is just a continuation of that tradition. “To be honest,” he said, “I haven’t really communicated it much internally. And then I’m on camera recording that and people say, ‘What’s that?’ And I thought, ‘Oh, don’t worry.’

“So for me, wearing the [Hexen] shirt wasn’t so much about a tease as it was about nostalgia. I recognize that as our portfolio grows, we become important [games] that we need to protect and cherish and maybe bring back at some point.

Of course, Spencer wouldn’t mind if fans got a hexes revival

“Witches was a game I loved,” said Spencer. “If you know anything about where that game was built or where it was published… There are only games that come together – or have the potential to come together – that get me excited. […] If you think about where our future could go, there’s an interesting intersection.”

Having said all that, perhaps we should take Spencer’s denial with a grain of salt. In 2015, Spencer said the following to Polygon when asked about wearing a T-shirt for the then-unannounced Battle Toads: “I don’t think I’ve ever worn a T-shirt that was completely fake. I don’t think I… did I? I would not do that.”