Studio acquisitions are always a tricky subject, but there are certainly pros and cons to them. Microsoft has been on an acquisition frenzy lately, and most notoriously acquired one of the biggest studios in the gaming industry, Bethesda. But Xbox head Phil Spencer says they are “definitely not done” acquiring more studios.
In a recent interview, Phil Spencer was asked whether Xbox Game Studios was now complete after currently consisting of 23 different game development studios, or if there was room for more growth: “I’m really proud of some of the creators that have chosen to become part of Xbox,” Spencer said. “So many of these creators, they have choice.”
“If you look at some of the people we’ve acquired and partnered with, it’s people we’ve had long-term relationships with, and they’ve come inside of Xbox now and they see our roadmap on platform and service, and I want them to be able to do their most amazing creative work as part of this team.”
Studio acquisitions have long had a history of disappointment in the gaming industry, most notably with EA who infamously used to shut down developers shortly after acquiring them and taking creative control away from the developers. But Xbox’s ethos is much different, and could help to sway public opinion at some point:
“We offer some financial stability for them. It’s not about only the success of their next game. I want to give them some more creative capability, longer timelines when required to do their best work. And that’s my goal, we’re big believers in the power of content.” Spencer said. “So we’re always out there looking for people who we think would be a good match and teams that would be a good match with our strategy. So we’re definitely not done.”
“There’s no quota. There’s no kind of timeline where I have to go acquire studios by a certain time, but if we find a studio where we have a good fit, we share what we’re trying to go do and what they’re trying to go do, and if we feel we can both get better together, absolutely.”
It’s clear that Microsoft wants to bolster the Xbox Game Pass service - especially with big hitters like Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6 - and acquiring studios to work under the Xbox Game Studios banner means more titles available on the service day one, growing it even more. More acquisitions are absolutely a part of that, but for now this seems like the future of gaming for Microsoft.
Spencer was also asked whether the acquired studios were required to change their identity in order to fit in with the Xbox ecosystem, like Bethesda, but Spencer stressed that “these relationships are really built on trust,” which certainly goes both ways for the studios and their audiences.
“When I think about Bethesda – Bethesda’s great at being Bethesda. I don’t need Microsoft or Xbox to come in to help them be a better Bethesda than they were. I want to be listening. I want to be in listening mode with the creators, whether it’s Bethesda or Tim Schafer at Double Fine. I think about all of the creators at Playground building Forza Horizon 5.”
“There’s amazing teams out there and I want to be listening to those creators and getting the signal from them on what are they seeing, what are they trying to create and then challenging ourselves as a platform company – can we build the best platform for them – so that they feel like they can do their absolute best work.”
“And that’s an ongoing journey, right? It’s not a destination, it’s a journey. We’ll be on that journey for years, but having them be the best version of themselves. And not somehow, you know, all getting the kind of Xbox stamp. If they don’t want to, it’s fine – keeping them independent is great.”
What do you think? Are these studio acquisitions a good thing for developers and players? Or do you still not trust there’s no influence from the parent company? How do acquisitions benefit and hinder developers? And how has Microsoft handled them recently? Let us know!