Microsoft expanded its investment in first party games when it announced that it would be doubling the count of first party developers up to ten at E3 a few months ago. Among the purchases the company had made was Ninja Theory, the UK based developers of fan favorite action games like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, which launched last year to ravenous acclaim.
Microsoft buying them was definitely a big get- they make very different kinds of games than Microsoft pushes (they make relativelty shorter, linear, cinematic single player games), and would be the perfect addition to the company’s lineup- assuming Microsoft doesn’t interfere and force them to fall in line with the rest of the company’s mandate.
Thankfully, it doesn’t sound like that will be the case. In an interview with Games Industry, Matt Booty, the the head of Microsoft Games Studios, explains that the intent is for Ninja Theory to do its own thing, not becoming a franchise studio, and just giving them the funding and support that they need to keep putting out the kinds of games they have been known for.
“I think the main thing with Ninja Theory, is that it is getting more difficult to maintain a studio of that size – of about 100 people – making games that take between two/two and a half years. It’s tough,” he said. “The push for those studios is to orient toward very high production values, and they actually end up in a sphere where they’re being compared to AAA. But they’re clearly bigger and have more substantial funding needs than a typical small indie. So our goal really is to be able to empower them, support them and fund them, to take the step to whatever their next level of evolution is. We want to free them from worrying about where the next project is coming from, and what work-for-hire stuff they might need to take on.
He continues: “This afternoon I’m getting on a plane to visit Nina and Tameem and the folks at Ninja Theory. This will be the first time that I’ll be meeting a lot of people at the studio. I was thinking about how the cliche would be to show up and say something like: ‘Welcome to the family’. But I don’t know if that sends the right message. It’s not our intention to pull these studios in and start putting Xbox posters up everywhere. It’s more about giving them the support so that they can focus entirely on making game, and to relieve some of the tension that I think exists for a studio of that size.”
It’s good to hear Microsoft intends on not interfering with the studios- that’s important, because the company’s mismanagement of its first party developers are what led it to its current dilemma in the first place. May these new purchases mark the beginning of a new era for Xbox first party titles. That certainly seems to be a focus for them going forward.
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