Microsoft’s last big move in the video games industry was its blockbuster acquisition of ZeniMax Media/Bethesda in March, but the company is probably not done acquiring new studios. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Xbox boss Phil Spencer and head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty said that future studios acquisitions may well surprise us.
Now with 23 game studios under its belt, Microsoft is committed to releasing one new first-party game on Xbox Game Pass every quarter. As of today, there are already a lot of projects coming day one in the coming months including Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, and Age of Empires IV coming before the end of the year.
However, Microsoft isn’t only betting on expensive blockbuster games to reach new audiences. Indeed, the two Xbox execs revealed in the interview that Microsoft may be interested in diversifying its studio portfolio with new talent from India, Africa, or South America that would be creating games for these markets.
“It would actually surprise me if that doesn’t happen,” says Spencer. “Just knowing the talent that’s available, and the tools [such as game engines Unity and Unreal] that are so much more accessible … I would be surprised if in the next three to five years, you don’t see numerous studios in places that aren’t the traditional hubs of video game development.”
Booty agrees. “There should be a several-hundred-person studio [in one of these territories],” he says. “And not for outsourcing or support, but a team building whatever the version of the best blockbuster game may be for that market. That is very much the vision.”
In recent years, Microsoft purchased studios in the US (Obsidian Entertainment, inXile Entertainment, Double Fine Studios, Undead Labs), the UK (Ninja Theory, PlayGround Games), Canada (Compulsion Games), and Sweden (Mojang). The company has also teamed up with several studios in Europe to create exclusive games for the Xbox ecosystem, and the list includes Asobo Studios (Microsoft Flight Simulator), Dontnod (Tell me why), Moon Studios (Ori and the Will of the Wisps), or Remedy Entertainment (Quantum Break).
Creating video games takes a lot of time and money, and Microsoft isn’t the only player interested in acquiring new talent right now. Sony recently made big moves with its acquisition of Finnish studio Housemarque, the developer of the critically-acclaimed PS5 exclusive Returnal. Previously, the PlayStation company also acquired Marvel’s Spiderman developer Insomniac Games, a studio that previously worked with Microsoft on the Xbox exclusive game Sunset Overdrive.
As Sony has been having a lot of success with big blockbuster games in recent years, do you think it would be a good strategy for Microsoft to invest in smaller studios in new places to create games for more diverse audiences? Let us know what you think in the comments below.