Microsoft finally responded to the litany of complaints levelled at them about their paucity of compelling exclusive content for Xbox consoles beyond a line of a handful of long running IP this E3, when they announced the acquisition of four studios, as well as setting up a completely new one, doubling the total roster of studios under the banner of Microsoft Game Studios.
Curiously enough, however, the studios they acquired were mostly smaller scale. While Playground Games, the makers of Forza Horizon, make AAA games, the other studios they acquired, including Unead Labs, Compulsion Games, and Ninja Theory, are all known for smaller scale projects (though Ninja Theory do have plenty of experience with major big-budget titles as well). Speaking to PC Games Insider about why Microsoft chose to acquire these studios, and why it went for more smaller scale ones, Matt Booty, CVP of Microsoft Game Studios, explained Microsoft’s rationale.
“Having a collection of dedicated first-party game development studios is a powerful and unique asset,” Booty said. “We are the first to implement new technologies, the first to deliver content for new platforms, the first to explore new business models. It enables us to build a portfolio of exclusive games, and this was the right time to increase that investment. It is also interesting to observe the changes in the industry.
“While the industry is growing across the board, there seems to be fewer teams and studios focused on ‘mid-tier’ games that sit between triple-A blockbusters on one end and smaller indie games on the other. Those are some of the kinds of studios that we’re interested in partnering with right now, studios with teams that can make quality, crafted games that sit just between mid-tier and triple-A and by becoming part of our Microsoft Studios family, can focus on craft and innovation and accelerate their creative growth.”
On the whole, I think I am glad that, at last, Microsoft has understood the importance of having a guaranteed stream of compelling exclusive content, content that will remain exclusive, instead of potentially crossing over to competing platforms some day- that guarantee is what has ensured the enduring, ongoing success of PlayStation and Nintendo, and it should hopefully make Microsoft more competitive in the future, too.
I am also quite pleased that they seem to be focusing on smaller scale game development. There are multiple benefits to this- smaller scale, mid tier games can be more experimental, they can be more creative, they can be put out faster, and in the future, once the development teams are more comfortable, can be scaled up into being full fledged AAA games, if deemed necessary. That’s a no lose scenario (most of the time).
Now, I only hope these studios don’t disappoint with their next projects, whatever those turn out to be.