For the last few years, Microsoft has been focused on growing Xbox Game Studios. Since 2018, they have acquired Ninja Theory, Playground Games, Undead Labs, Compulsion Games, Double Fine Productions, Obsidian Entertainment and inXile Entertainment. On top of that, they have founded The Initiative and World’s Edge. We know that Microsoft is looking to grow Xbox Game Studios to get rid of the narrative that “Xbox has no games.” Considering the fact that Xbox just delayed their biggest launch title, announcing some new studios at their Xbox Series X price reveal would be a good way to convince new players that exclusive games are on the way. Lets look into some of the rumored studio acquisitions that Microsoft has been linked to.
At the end of 2019, rumors started to fly that Microsoft was trying to acquire a studio from Poland. Lets knock the obvious one out first: CD Projekt Red. Unfortunately for Microsoft, there is no way that it is for sale at this time.
Bloober Team is a definite possibility. They previously worked on Blair Witch which was on Game Pass day one. Their current game The Medium, is coming to Xbox and PC exclusively this fall. About a month ago, Bloober Team announced that they picked a short list of advisers for a merger/acquisition. There were three companies from the United States in on that bidding war, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft was one of them.
Another option would be People Can Fly. Microsoft worked closely with them on Gears of War: Judgement and they have been working hard on Outriders since their split from Epic Games. They also have a AAA action adventure game that just started development recently. They have around 200 employees spread out between four studios.
The Farm 51 is a smaller studio who have worked closely with People Can Fly in the past. Most recently they worked on World War 3 and Chernobylite. They have shown that they can make good first person shooters with a limited budget so if they are giving an open checkbook, Microsoft could have a gem here.
My personal favorite would be Techland. After creating Dying Light and Dying Light: The Following, they have been hard at work on Dying Light 2 which looks like it will be a massive step up from the previous entry (which was already a great game). They are putting more of an emphasis on choice and consequence in an already interesting universe. It is crazy to think about how we know more about the second Dying Light game then Dead Island 2 which has been in development before the creation of the original Dying Light.
Poland isn’t the only country with talent developers that we think Microsoft could be trying to buy. Here are a few other options:
Asobo Studio is a company that Microsoft has worked with many times in the past. They were the main developers on Zoo Tycoon and Disneyland Adventures which were both Microsoft titles. On top of that they assisted on the development of ReCore. In 2019, they released A Plague Tale: Innocence which was a breakout game for them. It sold over one million copies and was also played by many through EA Access and Game Pass. Currently they are working on Microsoft Flight Simulator which will be coming out exclusively on Xbox and PC. Microsoft loves acquiring AA studios that have showed promise and giving them the funding to make AAA projects.
Dontnod Entertainment is an AA studio that worked on the Life is Strange series and Vampyr. Dontnod gave players two main games, one prequel, and a free spin off episode in the Life is Strange universe. They took what Telltale started and improved it in almost every area. Vampyr was a very underrated RPG that had one of the best conversation systems I have seen in a while. Most recently, they are working on Tell Me Why which is a game similar to the Life is Strange games that is being published by Xbox Game Studios for Xbox and PC. They are also working on a similar game called Twin Mirror which will be a multi-platform game.
Relic Entertainment is a studio that focuses on real-time strategy games. They most recently released Company of Heroes 2 and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III. They are currently working on Age of Empires IV which will be published by Xbox Game Studios on Xbox and PC. It is possible that Microsoft could acquire them and convert them into an AAA studio like they are currently doing with inXile Entertainment who also used to work on isometric titles.
Turtle Rock Studios who used to be known as Valve South, is the developer team that worked on some of the older Counter Strike games and the Left 4 Dead series. They are currently working on a spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead called Back 4 Blood which is being published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. (This will lead us into our next topic).
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has been a headline for a few months now. There were rumors confirmed by many insiders that AT&T were looking to raise funds by selling off some of its divisions including its gaming line. Microsoft were one of the few companies interested along with Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Take Two Interactive, and Tencent. The rumored acquisition price was around $4 billion and no one is sure if that would even include temporary licensing to some of the products that they have agreements for (D.C, Harry Potter, etc). However, talk died down when Warner Media stated that Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment “remains part of the Studios and Networks group.” Although multiple reputable insiders believe that it is still for sale, it seems that it won’t be the fire sale that people originally expected. If Microsoft was able to acquire them, they would gain the following:
Avalanche Software which has worked on Disney titles before being acquired in 2017. It is rumored that they are working on a Harry Potter RPG which should be getting revealed sometime before 2020 is finished.
Monolith Productions which has worked on F.E.A.R and the Middle-earth games.
NetherRealm Studios which has worked on the Injustice and Mortal Kombat series.
Rocksteady Studios which has worked on the Batman: Arkham series and is currently developing Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League which will be shown off at the DC FanDome event.
TT Games which has six subsidiaries. They are best known for their work on Lego games.
WB Games Boston which has most recently worked on mobile games for Batman and Game of Thrones.
WB Games Montréal which developed Batman: Arkham Origins, and assisted on Batman: Arkham City and Batman: Arkham Knight’s DLC. They are currently working on the next Batman game which will be revealed at the DC FanDome event.
WB Games New York which has been a support studio to help on bigger projects around the company.
WB Games San Diego which opened in 2019 has been working on a free to play mobile game.
WB Games San Francisco which most recently worked on an AR mobile game called Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.
As you can tell, that is a lot of studios and hundreds of employees. It would be a very costly acquisition but it could easily pay off especially if they could get the licensing to the games they are currently working on.
Finally, we know Microsoft has been trying to make Xbox become a more prominent figure in Asia. Sony and Nintendo have dominated the market share and Microsoft wants to take a piece of that cake. But to do that, they will need to give fans of Sony and Nintendo a good reason to make the switch (pun) over to Xbox. They started this by making Yakuza: Like A Dragon a next generation exclusive. However, it will still be releasing on the PS4 at launch, so I am unsure at how much weight this deal will really hold.
There were rumors earlier this year that Microsoft was attempting to acquire Platinum Games but their game director shut down those rumors. Obviously things could change and money talks but I would say things are unlikely especially after how Scalebound got canceled after they worked together a few years ago.
Capcom, FromSoftware, Sega, and Square Enix are four other companies that have huge footprints in Asia but all three are probably to big to acquire. However, I would not be surprised to see more Sega and Square Enix products making their way to Xbox as it seems like a relationship between those companies have grown.
One possibility would be Mistwalker Studios. They are best known for their work on Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, and The Last Story. Microsoft’s backing could help them get back to where they were during their glory years. However, it may just be better for Microsoft to create their own studios in Japan. Mistwalker Studios have struggled recently and buying a studio based on the reputation of one guy could lead to a ReCore/Keiji Inafune situation.
Whether Microsoft acquires a studio or creates their own, we can expect Microsoft to expand their footprint in Japan for the launch of the next generation of Xbox.