Microsoft Game Studios:
At the annual E3 conference, you never know what to expect. During Microsoft’s conference this year, they announced a lot of different games, including some exclusives and world premieres. Among those games announced, Microsoft Game Studios announced the addition of not 3 or 4, but 5 different game studios. That’s right, Microsoft Game Studios will be adding Undead Labs, Playground Games, Ninja Theory, and Compulsion Games into their portfolio of studios. In addition, they will be adding a brand new studio called The Initiative.
Microsoft Game Studios already owns some great studios like 343, The Coalition, Rare, and more. With the addition of the new five studios, what can we expect to see? Let’s take a closer look at each of these and what it means for Microsoft going forward.
Undead Labs was started in 2009 and they launched their first game in 2013, which you may have heard of. That game, State of Decay, ended up being a huge success for Undead, selling over 2 million copies.
In May 2018, Undead Labs released the second game in the series, State of Decay 2. Like the first, it has had great success on Xbox with over 2 million players in the first few weeks. There is no doubt that this “zombie survival franchise” will continue to produce great games for Xbox with their addition to the Microsoft Game Studios family.
Playground Games is responsible for arguably the biggest racing franchise in gaming, Forza Horizon. Established in 2010, Playground Games aims to “make fun games and have fun making them.”
At Microsoft’s E3 conference, they announced the arrival of their latest game, Forza Horizon 4 (pre-order), which will be coming out October 2nd. In addition to an October release date, it will also come to Xbox Game Pass the same day.
The big focus for Forza Horizon 4 is “seasons change everything.” The game, set in Britain, focuses on the 4 main seasons– summer, fall, winter, and spring–. Each change of the season brings new graphics and outcomes. For example, in wintertime, players can explore a part of the map they cannot explore during the other seasons because a body of water is frozen over.
The Forza series has already been a big hit for Xbox. Now that it is part of Microsoft Game Studios, there is no doubt that it will be even more successful. With all of Microsoft’s resources at their disposal, there is no telling what feats Playground Games will accomplish.
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Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, mentioned that Playground Games would be bringing “their open world expertise to a new project.” They didn’t give any more details on it, but considering how successful the Forza series has been as an open world game, whatever they are working on will likely be fantastic.
Compulsion Games has one title under their belt, Contrast. Their second game, We Happy Few, has been in the works since 2016 and is set to release August 10th. We Happy Few will still be coming to PlayStation 4 and PC, in addition to Xbox One. The studio will then become an official part of Microsoft Game Studios and make games focused solely on Xbox.
Microsoft showed off more of We Happy Few at the E3 conference and to be honest, it looks pretty creepy. Basically, the world has become a terrible place and people are addicted to pills called Joy. This artificial happiness gives people a sense of, well, joy and happiness, but when it runs out, they crave more. It is an interesting basis for a game, with an interesting story. It is available today for pre-order and will be released in August.
Compulsion Games has the ability to create interesting narratives. Who knows what they will come up with for their next game, but with the studio under Microsoft’s belt, it will hopefully be something great.
Microsoft Game Studios acquisition of Ninja Theory came as a little bit of a surprise. They are pretty well established with a decent amount of games under their belt, like Hellblade and Disney Infinity 3.0, just to mention a few.
On the Ninja Theory Twitter account, they released a video explaining why they joined Microsoft Game Studios. In it, they said, “We want to be free from the AAA machine and make games focused around the experience and not the monetization.” Joining Microsoft allows for Ninja Theory to have access to all of the Microsoft resources and outlets. So now, Ninja Theory can focus less on marketing and more on creating a quality game that is about the experience and not about the paycheck.
Hellblade was a huge success for Ninja Theory and really showed off their storytelling ability and desire to create a great gaming experience. Phil Spencer called them master storytellers and said that they are “gifted in creating new franchises,” so there is no doubt that they will be expected to bring a lot of new titles to Xbox. This is a fantastic acquisition for Microsoft Game Studios.
The Initiative, unlike the other studios, doesn’t actually exist. It is a completely new studio and will likely help vault Microsoft into the next console generation.
Phil Spencer said that the aim of The Initiative is “building a team of world-class talent to create groundbreaking, new game experiences.” There will no doubt be more information to come about the new studio, but for now, a lot of things are speculation. I think that The Initiative will be responsible for helping launch whatever the next generation of Xbox consoles may be. So, I am not sure we will see anything from them this generation.
If they play their cards right, it could launch Xbox ahead of its competition in the next few years when the next generation of consoles is released.
So what does all this mean for Xbox? Hopefully, it will mean that we are going to get some fantastic Xbox exclusives and see Xbox compete with PlayStation. They have owned the exclusive market recently, so hopefully, Xbox can start to compete with them. This will allow gamers to have the best possible gaming experience.
Phil Spencer said acquiring these studios into the Microsoft Game Studios family will allow companies to “take bigger risks and create bolder worlds.” Hopefully, players continue to see great franchise games grow, and some brand new franchises emerge from this acquisition.