Microsoft has had a busy year in terms of studio acquisitions, and with the recent announcement of X018, it doesn’t sound as if it’s going to be slowing up anytime soon. Among the studios bought this year are Playground Games (Forza Horizon 4), Ninja Theory (Hellblade, DmC), Undead Labs (State of Decay 2), and Compulsion Games (We Happy Few).
However, despite splashing the cash on these studios, and with more purchases surely in the pipeline, Microsoft has said these studios will be acting independently and are free to do the games they want rather than be forced to develop projects hand-picked by Microsoft. For examples of how this latter tactic can go wrong, look no further than Rare, once one of the most respected names in gaming, the now-defunct Ensemble Studios, or Bungie, whom, tired of relentless Halo sequels, made a dash for the warm embrace of Activision for Destiny.
Of the recent acquisitions, Xbox marketing general manager Aaron Greenberg said: “This was first and foremost about finding the world’s greatest teams, who can bring new types of content to our first-party studios, and allow them to continue to operate independently. If you think about a game like Hellblade, how many big companies would have greenlit a game like that? But it’s brilliant and it addresses a lot of important issues. Those are the types of teams that really inspire us, and it’s a privilege to be able to work with them.
“For them to become part of our team provides financial security, access to resources and tech capabilities, and still the creative independence to go and do what they want to do. These teams they would never want to partner and work with us if that wasn’t part of the conditions.”
The future’s looking bright for Microsoft’s new studios then. Hopefully, this means Microsoft can finally scrape together a few more worthwhile first-party exclusives. The beauty of this situation is that all the games will be coming to both Xbox One and PC thanks to Xbox Play Anywhere. We’re eager to see what these studios can dream up next, although Undead Labs and Compulsion Games have a bit of work to do to convince fans of their credentials after a couple of disappointing titles.