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Xbox Game Studios (formerly known as Microsoft Games, Microsoft Game Studios, and Microsoft Studios) is the American video game developer division of technology conglomerate Microsoft.

The studio is responsible for creating games for its Xbox family of consoles as well as PC. Some of these include Halo, Gears of War, Forza, Fable, Ori and the Blind Forest, and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. The studio has also been recently known to have initiated several high-profile acquisitions of multiple development companies, most notably Rare Ltd. (creators of Banjo-Kazooie and Sea of Thieves), Mojang Studios (creators of Minecraft), Undead Labs (creators of State of Decay), and ZeniMax Media (rights holders of The Elder Scrolls, Doom, Wolfenstein, and Fallout).

Company history

2000 - 2011: Microsoft Games and Microsoft Game Studios

Before the proper formation of the studio, Microsoft had long established its Games Group to develop titles for the Windows operating system. Around March 2000, the Games Group would then be moved into a different division called Microsoft Games, following the company's reveal of its first home console - the Xbox;[1] the division was initially led by senior vice-president Robbie Bach[2] and vice-president Ed Fries.[3] The newly formed division was to develop and publish titles for both the console and Windows. A year after the formation, it was renamed to Microsoft Game Studios.[4]

Following the establishment, Microsoft Game Studios began a series of high-profile acquisitions and creations of subsidiary, with the first acquisition being Bungie in June 2001.[5] At the time, Bungie was in the midst of developing Halo: Combat Evolved; following the purchase, the game became a launch title for the Xbox. In the same year, MGS launched its first internally-made subsidiary, Turn 10 Studios, to develop the Forza series.[6] In 2002, Microsoft made its second major acquisition with Rare Ltd., a former second-party developer for Nintendo.[7] In 2004, another internal subsidiary, Carbonated Games, was launched to develop titles for the web-based MSN Games service on MSN Messenger.[8] In 2006, a third acquisition was made with Lionhead Studios, creators of the Fable series.[9]

In 2007, MGS announced the opening of a European branch in Reading, England with general manager Phil Spencer at the helm.[10] In the same year, Don Mattrick was named vice-president of Xbox and Games Business.[11] Also in 2007, Bungie amicably split from MGS to become a privately held company, leaving Microsoft the rights to the Halo franchise.[12] The original development team went on to create two additional titles, Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach, MGS created another internal subsidiary, 343 Industries, in its place.

In 2008, Carbonated Games was disbanded and replaced with another internal subsidiary, Xbox Live Prodcutions, to create games for Xbox Live Arcade.[13] In January of the following year, over 5,000 employees were laid off throughout Microsoft following low sales of personal computers as a result of the late-2000s financial crisis.[14] In the following May, Microsoft acquired Canadian studio BigPark to develop titles for the Kinect motion sensor add-on for the Xbox 360.[15] Later in the year, Phil Spencer was promoted to corporate vice-president of MGS, succeeding Shane Kim.[16] In 2010, MGS established MGS Mobile Gaming, a development team focused on creating titles for Windows Phone devices.[17]

2011 - 2019: Microsoft Studios

In June 2011, the studio quietly renamed themselves to simply Microsoft Studios.[18] In the same year, they acquired Twisted Pixel Games[19] and established another subsidiary, Microsoft Casual Games. In 2012, another acquisition was made with the studio Press Play.[20] Microsoft Studios' Vancouver branch was also downsized after the cancellation of their Kinect game Project Columbia, with the remaining staff now going under the name Black Tusk Studios.[21] In 2013, a new European studio, Lift London, was created to develop cloud-based games for televisions and portable devices.[22] In the same year, Don Mattrick left the company prior to the release of the Xbox One; he was eventually succeeded by Julie Larson-Green.[23]

In 2014, several intellectual property acquisitions were made; these include a publication deal with Undead Labs for State of Decay,[24] the rights to Gears of War from Epic Games[25] (which were then assigned to The Coalition, the rebranded name of Black Tusk Studios[26]), and the Rise series from Big Huge Games.[27] In February, Phil Spencer replaced Jason Holtman as head of Microsoft Studios.[28] Later in the year, another high-profile acquisition was made with Mojang Studios, which was purchased for $2.5 billion.[29]

In 2015, Microsoft announced the merger of its UK studios, Lift London and Soho Productions, into one studio under the Lift London name.[30] In September, Twisted Pixel and Microsoft Studios amicably split ways.[31] In March 2016, Lionhead and Press Play were shut down following the cancellations of their upcoming respective projects, Fable Legends and Project Knoxville.[32] Several other subsidiaries (namely BigPark, Good Science Studios, Leap Experience Pioneers, and Function Studios and State of the Art), had been closed as well and consolidated into other teams.[33]

In September 2017, Phil Spencer was promoted to the senior leadership team, now holding the title of "executive vice-president of gaming",[34] while former business leader in Mojang Studios Matt Booty was promoted to vice-president of Microsoft Studios.[35] On June 2018, during E3, several more acquisitions were announced; these included Ninja Theory (developers of Heavenly Sword and Hellbalde), Playground Games (developers of the Forza Horizon series), Undead Labs (creators of State of Decay), and Compulsion Games (creators of Contrast and We Happy Few).[36] A new studio in Santa Monica, California named The Initiative was also unveiled.[37] More acquisitions were made the following November, namely Obsidian Entertainment (makers of Fallout: New Vegas and The Outer Worlds) and inXile Entertainment (creators of The Bard's Tale).[38]

2019 - Present: Xbox Game Studios

The company rebranded itself yet again on February 2019 to its current moniker, Xbox Game Studios, as to reflect Microsoft's usage of the Xbox brand to support gaming across all of its supported devices.[4] Another acquisition was announced at that year's E3, being Double Fine (creators of Psychonauts),[39] as well as the formation of a new internal subsidiary named World's Edge, bringing the company's studio total to 15.[40] That same year, Xbox Game Studios began publishing some of its exclusive titles to the Nintendo Switch, notably Cuphead and Ori and the Blind Forest. However, the company clarified that these were dedications to "existing commitments to other platforms" and have no plans to expand exclusive first-party titles to other systems.[41]

With 15 studios under its ownership, Matt Booty believed they were not likely to acquire anymore studios, stating that the company has been "shifting [their] focus...from acquisition and growth, to a phase of execution and delivery".[42] Despite these statements, another high-profile purchase was made on September 2020, with Microsoft acquiring ZeniMax Media and its family of studios (most notably Bethesda Games, developers of The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Doom) for $7.5 billion in cash, with the acquisition expected to close before June 2021.[43]

Gaming systems

Consoles

Other hardware

Involvement with Super Smash Bros.

Xbox Game Studios is the eighth third-party company to join Smash following the inclusion of playable DLC characters from two of its subsidiaries. The first of which is Rare Ltd.'s flagship characters Banjo & Kazooie, who joined Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as a part of Fighters Pass Volume 1. Packaged with their DLC is the stage Spiral Mountain, a collection of music tracks, and multiple Spirits on the DLC Spirit Board.

Mojang Studios's Steve and Alex (with a Zombie and an Enderman as their palette swaps), the playable characters from Minecraft, later joined Ultimate as a part of Fighters Pass Volume 2. They bring with them the stage Minecraft World, 7 music tracks, and multiple Spirits. Separate paid DLC Mii Fighter costumes modeled after a Creeper, a Pig, and the Diamond Armor are also available.

Trivia

  • Xbox Game Studios is the only third-party company to have its playable representatives come from subsidiaries, as it lacks an in-house development studio.
    • It is also one of five companies to be introduced to Smash through DLC; the other four being Square Enix, Atlus, SNK, and Mojang Studios.
      • Technically, the list would be six to include PlatinumGames, which strangely is not credited along with the rest of the copyrights. This could be due to the fact that they technically do not own the Bayonetta intellectual property (Sega does instead).
  • As Xbox Game Studios is a division of Microsoft, it technically is the only company that currently competes with Nintendo in the console market.
    • This is discounting Sega and SNK, both of which were former console makers and competitors of Nintendo, but have since become development and publishing companies instead.
  • During Masahiro Sakurai's gameplay demonstration of Banjo & Kazooie, he mentions that the only way to play the Banjo-Kazooie games are through Rare Replay on the Xbox One. This then caused the term "Xbox One" to trend amongst Japanese players on Twitter, something that hadn't been done before due to the Xbox family of systems' notoriously poor performance in the country.

References

  1. Xbox Brings “Future-Generation” Games to Life (English). Microsoft (10 March 2000). Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  2. New Game: Head of Microsoft’s Games Division Outlines Company’s Strategy for PC and Console Games (English). Microsoft (10 May 2000). Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  3. Microsoft Promotes Fries to Vice President of Games Publishing (English). Microsoft (10 May 2000). Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Stevens, Colin (5 February 2019). Microsoft Studios Is Now Xbox Game Studios (English). IGN. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  5. IGN Staff (19 June 2000). Microsoft/Bungie Interview (English). IGN. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  6. Gitlin, Johnathan M. (31 October 2014). A trip to Turn 10, the Forza studio merging car culture with games (English). ARS Technica. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  7. Bouldling, Aaron (24 September 2002). Microsoft Buys Rare (English). IGN. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  8. MCV Staff (23 July 2007). Q&A: Joshua Howard, Carbonated Games (English). MCV Develop. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  9. Yin-Poole, Wesley (12 May 2016). Lionhead: The inside story (English). Eurogamer. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  10. Jenkins, David (4 May 2007). New Microsoft Game Studios Office For Europe (English). Gamasutra. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  11. Sterling, Jim (7 July 2007). Confirmed: Peter Moore leaving Microsoft, replaced by Don Mattrick (English). Destructoid. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  12. Romano, Benjamin (10 October 2007). Microsoft, “Halo” maker Bungie split (English). The Seattle Times. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  13. Edge Staff (22 May 2008). EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: MS to Delist XBLA Titles (English). Edge. Archived from the original on 20 August 2012. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  14. Vance, Ashlee (22 January 2009). Microsoft to cut 5,000 jobs in company's first major layoff (English). The New York Times. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  15. The Canadian Press (8 May 2009). Microsoft to buy Vancouver-based game developer BigPark (English). CBC. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  16. Thorsen, Tor (15 September 2009). Microsoft's Phil Spencer promoted, Shane Kim retiring (English). cnet. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  17. Crossley, Rob (12 August 2010). Microsoft Game Studios adds in-house mobile team (English). Develop. Archived from the original on 15 August 2010. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  18. Thorsen, Tor (6 June 2011). E3 2011: Halo 4 anchors Microsoft press conference (English). GameSpot. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  19. McElroy, Justin (12 October 2011). Microsoft buys indie developer Twisted Pixel (English). Engadget. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  20. O'Connor, Alice (6 June 2012). Microsoft acquires Magic Marker dev Press Play (English). ShackNews. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  21. Hafer, T.J. (30 November 2012). Microsoft's new Black Tusk Studios, headed by ex-EA devs, looking to make the next Halo (English). PC Gamer. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  22. Yin-Poole, Wesley (10 January 2013). Microsoft announces Lift London, a new developer focused on cloud games for tablets, mobiles and TVs (English). Eurogamer. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  23. Corriea, Alexa Ray (11 July 2013). Julie Larson-Green to take over Xbox hardware division following Mattrick's departure (update) (English). Polygon. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  24. Matulef, Jeffrey (11 January 2014). State of Decay dev signs multi-year agreement with Microsoft (English). Eurogamer. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  25. Xbox Wire Staff (27 January 2014). Microsoft Studios acquires rights to Gears of War franchise (English). Xbox Wire. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  26. Fergusson, Rod (3 June 2015). Introducing The Coalition – A Message from Rod Fergusson (English). Xbox Wire. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  27. Matulef, Jeffrey (30 May 2014). Rise of Nations: Extended Edition due next month on Steam (English). Eurogamer. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  28. Yin-Poole, Wesley (31 March 2014). Phil Spencer named new boss of Xbox (English). Eurogamer. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  29. Stuart, Keith (15 September 2014). Minecraft sold: Microsoft buys Mojang for $2.5bn (English). The Guardian. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  30. Welch, Chris (4 March 2015). Microsoft is bringing Xbox games to its futuristic HoloLens headset (English). The Verge. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  31. McWhertor, Michael (30 September 2015). Splosion Man studio Twisted Pixel no longer part of Microsoft (English). Polygon. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  32. Lemke, Hanno (7 March 2006). Changes at Microsoft Studios, UK and Denmark (English). Xbox Wire. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  33. Hurley, Leon (8 March 2016). Lionhead might not be the only studio Microsoft canned: all the Kinect teams look dead (English). Gamesradar. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  34. Weinberger, Matt (19 September 2017). Microsoft Xbox boss Phil Spencer just got a big promotion and will now report directly to CEO Satya Nadella (English). Business Insider. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  35. Maggio, Edoardo (19 January 2018). Microsoft promoted its 'Minecraft' boss to be the new executive in charge of all Xbox game efforts (English). Business Insider. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  36. Yin-Poole, Wesley (10 June 2018). Microsoft buys Ninja Theory, Playground Games, more (English). Eurogamer. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  37. Crecente, Brian (10 June 2018). Former Crystal Dynamics Head Opens Microsoft Game Studio the Initiative (English). Variety. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  38. Gamasutra Staff (10 November 2018). Obsidian, inXile acquired by Microsoft Studios (English). Gamastura. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  39. Jones, Ali (9 June 2019). Psychonauts developer Double Fine is now an Xbox Game Studio (English). PC Games N. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  40. Kerr, Chris (10 June 2019). Microsoft has quietly established a new Age of Empires studio (English). Gamasutra. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  41. Dring, Christopher (20 August 2019). Microsoft has "no plans" to release more Xbox exclusives on PS4 or Nintendo Switch (English). GamesIndustry.biz. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  42. Robinson, Andy (14 November 2019). Xbox is ‘shifting focus’ away from studio acquisitions (English). Video Games Chronicle. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
  43. Dina Bass, Jason Schreier (21 September 2020). Microsoft to Buy Bethesda for $7.5 Billion to Boost Xbox (English). Bloomberg. Retrieved on 16 January 2021.
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