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Microsoft downplays Bill Gates' pledge to support potential Xbox spin-off

"We remain committed to Xbox and the millions of Xbox fans around the world."

Microsoft has downplayed comments by founder Bill Gates, who said in a recent interview that he would "absolutely" support CEO Satya Nadella if he wanted to spin-off the company's Xbox division.

Speaking with Fox Business (skip to the 27 minute mark), Gates said spinning off Xbox wouldn't be "obvious" because of Microsoft's unified gaming strategy.

"We're taking PC gaming and Xbox gaming and bringing those a lot closer together," he said. "The power of the graphics chips means you can do great games there.

"So I'm sure Satya and the team will look at that. It's up to them. We're going to have an overall gaming strategy so it's not as obvious as you might think."

Gates was then asked: "Would you support him he wanted to spin-off Xbox?"

His response: "Absolutely."

The comment was taken as an indication that Gates felt Microsoft should spin-off Xbox, and sparked the company into issuing a comment of its own.

Communications chief Frank Shaw told Eurogamer Gates' comments "were reflective of his support of Satya as CEO", and reiterated its support for Xbox.

"As Mr. Gates noted, Microsoft is committed to gaming across multiple platforms with Xbox as the centerpiece of our gaming strategy," Shaw added. "We remain committed to Xbox and the millions of Xbox fans around the world."

Microsoft has faced questions over a potential Xbox spin-off ever since Nokia chief Stephen Elop was reported to have considered selling the division if he took over the company.

But after Nadella got the top job the gaming business was reorganised so Xbox, Xbox Live and creative teams, which include Xbox Music, Xbox Video and Microsoft Studios, were unified under the control of Phil Spencer.

Xbox One launched in November 2013 and while it is selling at a faster rate than its predecessor, the Xbox 360, sales are lagging behind Sony's PlayStation 4.

Microsoft is expected to push hard at the E3 trade show in June, where a number of high profile projects will be announced as part of a refocus on hardcore gamers.