“What we have right now is so different than the position we’ve been in in the last five years,” says Phil Spencer.
Recently, Microsoft has been working aggressively to fix what has been one of its biggest issues in the gaming space for some years now- that being their lack of first party exclusive output in terms of software. In an area where Nintendo has traditionally been exceptionally strong, and Sony has gone from strength to strength with each new generation, Microsoft has been sorely lacking. But with the acquisition of five new studios announced at E3 2018, followed by two more in Obsidian and inXile just a few months later, Microsoft are looking much healthier now in terms of their first party studios lineup than they have in years.
And according to Xbox boss Phil Spencer, that growth is only going to continue. Recently, while speaking on a podcast with Microsoft’s Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb, Spencer said was full of praise of the position Microsoft has recently put itself in with first party studios, where they can now always have a steady stream of exclusive content in the works, before going on to talk about how Microsoft has more plans to grow as far as their lineup of first party studios is concerned, which would be in line with earlier reports about the same.
“The capability that we have now as a first-party organization I do think it will continue to get bigger, but what we have right now is so different than the position we’ve been in in the last five years, which is awesome,” said Spencer. “I’ve seen what Ninja Theory’s working on next and what their pipeline looks like… I saw what Playground’s working on next, I saw what Rare is working on next and their continued growth and success with Sea of Thieves.”
Playground’s next project is, of course, something that’s long been in the news. Though we know that it’s going to be a while yet before we hear anything concrete about it, rumours have suggested heavily that the game they’re working on is Fable 4, and apparently, that project also played a huge role in Microsoft’s decision to acquire the studio.
As for Rare, their constant and incessant updating and post-launch support of Sea of Thieves has really turned the ship around, and turned what was a disappointing game at launch into a significantly better one, as often ends up being the case with such service-based ongoing titles. With Ninja Theory, there’s very little information to go on that can suggest what they’re working on, but based on what Microsoft have said about how they want the studio to function, we can expect them to make the kind of games they’ve always been known for making, while retaining their creative independence.
And according to Phil Spencer, the strength in depth Microsoft now has with its first party studios is something that is surely going to benefit them and their fans in the long run. “The real goal with the studios for me is to get a large enough studio base where we can delight and surprise ourselves and our fans with games, and it’s on a regular cadence, so we’re not always pinched to say ‘okay, well what can we announce?'” he said. “Now we can say ‘what do we have to announce, and which of these things do we actually want to announce, and what do we want to let sit and percolate a little longer.’ It’s been a while since we were in that position with our internal studios.”
Other Microsoft studios are also at work, of course. 343 Industries is working on Halo Infinite, The Coalition is working on Gears 5, Obsidian is working on The Outer Worlds (which will be a multiplatform title, as it’s being published by Take-Two’s Private Division), inXile are also currently at work on an unannounced new project. Needless to say, things are looking good for Microsoft right now, and if they can add even more studios to their roster, and manage all of them well enough, the next few years might prove to be very fruitful for Xbox.