I think we can all agree that Microsoft’s acquisition of five new studios went down an absolute treat. Though, let’s be fair. If history has anything to tell us, it’s that security under Microsoft’s umbrella is never air-tight. Microsoft has purchased many studios in the past and have then gone on to shut them down at the drop of a hat. On the flip-side, they’ve also purchased studios that are responsible for some of the biggest games in the industry. Whatever the case, it’s like walking on egg shells, but will these five new additions last?
That’s a question that only time can answer and the difference between these five studios becoming the either the next Rare or the next Lionhead, largely depends on what they bring to the proverbial table. I don’t feel that I’m alone when I say that each of these studios are jam-packed with talent and have proven their worth before, but it will indeed be interesting to see what comes from them nevertheless. So, who exactly are these new studios and what might (emphasis on the might) they be working on behind the elusive closed doors?
Undead Labs are responsible for the hugely successful State of Decay and State of Decay 2. Now, these games are far from what I would describe as true AAA quality, but they’re well developed and certainly complement Xbox’s exclusive lineup. Undead Labs are probably hard at work on creating new content for State of Decay 2 given that it’s still pretty fresh, but past that, I assume they’ll start working on State of Decay 3. It would be nice to see more quality from Undead Labs in the long run, but as it stands, they’re doing quite well.
Say what you like about DmC, I absolutely loved it. I thought Ninja Theory did a bang up job with the franchise despite its polarizing reception. They’re well known for crafting some truly intriguing action-adventure games, but more recently took a side step from that formula with the release of their Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. It’s a guess for anyone as to what they could be working on, but given that they now have access to deeper pockets, I expect nothing but the very best from them. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.
Known mostly for their work on We Happy Few, Compulsion Games is certainly no stranger to developing something unique and captivating. Back when We Happy Few was first revealed, it took the world by storm thanks to its captivating design and theme. We Happy Few is still very much in development and will indeed release as a multiplatform game, but what comes after that? Hell if I know. One thing is for certain, they would do well to continue developing games that house a distinct, bizarre backbone. Let’s watch this space.
Despite being one of the better developers from the new five studios, I was least excited about Microsoft’s acquisition of Playground Games, because, well, they’re pretty much a Microsoft-only studio anyway. Playground are currently working on Forza Horizon 4 but rumors suggest that they’re also working on Fable 4. If that’s true, they’re the perfect team for the job. Playground has proven that they’re more than capable of making large, beautiful and interesting open-worlds. I’ll be particularly gutted if they’re not making Fable 4.
The most mysterious out of the bunch is The Initiative; an entirely new studio that’s being lead by Darrel Gallagher, former head of Crystal Dynamics. We’re not at all sure what this studio has been opened to create, but with Gallagher at the helm and a vast amount of resources at his disposal, I can only imagine a bright and interesting future for The Initiative moving forward. It would nice to see them making games that Microsoft needs the most right now, such as a new RPG-focused IP or something other than a shooter/racer. We’ll see.
When all is said and done, Microsoft have bagged themselves a great deal of talent. Let’s hope that each of them can thrive over time and don’t end up falling by the wayside. I highly doubt we’ll learn much more about their projects before the end of this gen. If anything, these have been pulled in to ensure that Microsoft’s next-gen console has a much better first party lineup than this gen’s offerings. Phil Spencer is committed to the future of the Xbox brand, but it’s going to take a lot to win back my confidence that he can truly deliver.