Yesterday, Microsoft announced it is buying up Bethesda and all of the publisher’s game studios. This now brings the total number of first-party Xbox studios to 23. That’s a lot of different developers. As Microsoft prepares to launch its next-gen Xbox this November, let’s take a look at what all these studios are working on and what we can expect from them in the coming months and years.
343 Industries (2007)
- Recent Games: Halo 4 (Xbox 360), Halo 5 (Xbox One), Master Chief Collection (Xbox One, PC)
- Upcoming Games: Halo Infinite (Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC)
343 was created to take over the Halo franchise and IP after Bungie separated from Microsoft in 2007. Since the release of Bungie’s last Halo game, Halo Reach in 2010, 343 has handled the franchise and developed Halo 4, Halo 5, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, and next year’s Halo Infinite, which was delayed back in August. And that’s what the studio is currently working on. The next Halo, like all main Halo games, will be Xbox and PC only. 343 also helps guide and oversee other Halo projects, like books, comics, and spin-off games.
Compulsion Games (2018)
- Recent Games: Contrast (Xbox One, PS4, PS3), We Happy Few (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
- Upcoming Games: TBA
One of the many studios Microsoft bought back in its 2018 shopping spree, Compulsion Games is probably best known for We Happy Few. That game was published not by Microsoft, but by Gearbox, because the studio had already set up a deal with Gearbox’s publishing division before the Microsoft acquisition. Before We Happy Few it released Contrast, a PlayStation 4 launch game. As for what it’s doing next, last year the studio released the last bit of DLC for We Happy Few, so it seems to be done with that game. For now, we don’t really know what the studio is working on, but it is expanding its staff. Odds are whatever it’s working on is probably coming to the next-gen Xbox consoles.
Double Fine Productions (2019)
- Recent Games: Rad (Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC), Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin (PS4 VR, PC VR), Full Throttle Remastered (PS4, Vita, PC, Mac, iOS)
- Upcoming Games: Psychonauts 2 (Xbox One, PS4, PC, Mac)
Double Fine was bought up by Microsoft, a deal announced last year during the Xbox E3 2019 press briefing. Recent Double Fine games haven’t always come to Xbox consoles, like the remastered point-and-click games or smaller titles like Hack ‘n’ Slash. The studio has a track record of creating critical darlings that don’t always sell great, but its next big game might be different. Psychonauts 2, the long-awaited sequel to the studio’s 2005 debut, has garnered a lot of excitement, earning over $3 million via crowdfunding. But that game is coming to multiple platforms, not just Xbox One, so we still don’t know what future exclusives the studio may or may not be planning for Microsoft. Before being acquired by Microsoft, Double Fine founder and CEO Tim Schafer told Variety that he doesn’t want the studio’s next game to be a sequel, but still wants to do a Brütal Legend 2 if money ever allows. I hear Microsoft has a lot of money, so that might be an option now.
inXile Entertainment (2018)
- Recent Games: The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrow’s Deep (Xbox One, PS4, PC, Mac), Wasteland 3 (Xbox One, PS4, PC, Mac)
- Upcoming Games: Frontpoint VR: Proving Grounds (PC VR)
Picked up by Microsoft in 2018, alongside a list of other studios, inXile Entertainment just released Wasteland 3 across multiple platforms. It was also released on Game Pass at launch, a sign of the studio’s new ownership. Having just released a big game like Wasteland 3, it’s understandable that the studio isn’t forthcoming about what’s next. However, job listings for inXile’s New Orleans studio (opened in 2015) are seeking folks to help in developing a “next-gen roleplaying game.” That same listing mentions wanting people who are experienced with Unreal Engine 3 or 4. Considering the studio’s past games, which have been almost exclusively RPGs, it seems highly probable its next game will be a big Xbox Series X/S RPG developed primarily by its New Orleans team. But, nothing official yet.
Mojang Studios (2014)
- Recent Games: Minecraft Dungeons (Xbox One, PS4, PC, Switch), Minecraft Earth (iOS, Android)
- Upcoming Games: TBA (working on updates for Minecraft projects)
Way back in 2014, Microsoft acquired the studio behind Minecraft, and since then the publisher has continued to work to grow the Minecraft IP. Today there are multiple spin-off games, including this year’s Minecraft Dungeons, and even plans for a board game and movie. But Mojang has made non-Minecraft games in the past, like Scrolls (now known as Caller’s Bane) and 2016’s free game, Crown and Council. Currently, the studio is working on DLC and updates for Minecraft, Minecraft Earth, and Dungeons. But who knows what the future holds? It seems likely that more Minecraft games will be released over the next few years, but there aren’t any specifics yet.
Ninja Theory (2018)
- Recent Games: Bleeding Edge (Xbox One, PC), Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC)
- Upcoming Games: Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II (Xbox Series X/S, PC), Project: Mara (TBA)
Another one of the studios Microsoft acquired back in 2018, Ninja Theory is known for its action games, like Heavenly Sword, DMC, and Hellblade. It has also been one of Microsoft’s busiest studios. Back in March of this year, Ninja Theory released the online combat game Bleeding Edge on Xbox One and PC. It has also announced two different upcoming games. The first is a sequel to Hellblade, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, which will be an Xbox console exclusive. The other game, Project: Mara, we don’t know much about. Officially it has no release date or even a platform attached to it. We assume it will probably release for at least PC and most likely Xbox. Ninja Theory describes the game as an “experimental title” that will focus on “mental terror,” and which the studio is hoping will debut “what could become a new storytelling medium.”
What does that mean? No idea. But it’s clear that Ninja Theory is one of Xbox Game Studios’ most productive teams right now.
Obsidian Entertainment (2018)
- Recent Games: Pillars of Eternity II (Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC, Mac), The Outer Worlds (Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC), Grounded (Xbox One, PC)
- Upcoming Games: Avowed (Xbox Series X/S, PC)
Founded in 2003 and then bought by Microsoft in 2018, Obsidian Entertainment is known for its award-winning and popular RPGs, including Fallout: New Vegas, Pillars of Eternity, and South Park: The Stick of Truth. However, its most recent release was Grounded, a game that shares more in common with Minecraft or Ark: Survival Evolved than Fallout or D&D. Obsidian’s next game is a bit more in its traditional wheelhouse. Avowed is coming sometime in the future for Xbox Series X/S and PC and is set in the same universe as the Pillars of Eternity games. It also looks a lot like Elder Scrolls, which is a bit funny now that Microsoft also owns Bethesda.
Playground Games (2018)
- Recent Games: Forza Horizon 3 (Xbox One, PC), Forza Horizon 4 (Xbox One, PC)
- Upcoming Games: Fable (Xbox Series X/S, PC)
Before Microsoft acquired Playground Games in 2018, I would often forget it was already part of Xbox Studios. This is because since the company was founded back in 2009, it has exclusively worked with Turn 10 and Microsoft on the popular Forza Horizon series. But in 2018 Microsoft officially brought Playground into the Xbox family, and rumors began swirling that it was working on something different. Microsoft confirmed those rumors back in July with a teaser trailer for a new Fable. We don’t know much beyond that it’s a reboot and will be on Xbox Series X/S and PC. We also don’t know what’s going to happen with the Forza Horizon series, and if Playground will still handle future installments.
- Recent Games: Battletoads (Xbox One, PC), Sea of Thieves (Xbox One, PC)
- Upcoming Games: Everwild (Xbox Series X/S, PC)
One of Microsoft’s oldest studios, Rare spent a long time working on Kinect games back in the Xbox 360 and early Xbox One era of Microsoft. But now things have changed. The developer that created games like GoldenEye 007 and Banjo-Kazooie just released a reboot of Battletoads on Xbox One and PC. And before that Sea of Thieves, a colorful and fun take on pirates, released in 2018, and continues to be popular today. Rare is still updating Sea, but has announced that its next game is Everwild. It looks gorgeous, and while it will be released on Xbox Series X/S and PC sometime in the future, we still don’t really know what kind of game it is. Me, I’m just happy to see Rare making stuff like Everwild and Sea of Thieves instead of a bunch of crappy Kinect titles.
The Coalition (2010)
- Recent Games: Gears 5 (Xbox One, PC), Gears Tactics (PC), Gears of War 4 (Xbox One, PC)
- Upcoming Games: TBA (Gears 5 and Gears Tactics updates)
The Coalition started life as Zipline Studios back in 2010, then in 2011 became Microsoft Games Studios Vancouver and released Microsoft Flight. In 2012 it became Black Tusk Studios and the following E3 it teased an unnamed game. That game was canned when, in 2015, the studio became The Coalition. Now the studio is focused on supporting and creating new games in the Gears of War franchise, similar to how 343 handles Halo. Its most recent release was Gears 5. (Gears Tactics was developed by Splash Damage with some help from The Coalition.) Right now the studio is helping to support Tactics and continuing to update Gears 5. But we can safely assume that a new Gears of War game is coming—probably for the next-gen Xbox systems—in a few years, and that The Coalition will most likely be the studio handling it.
The Initiative (2018)
- Recent Games: none
- Upcoming Games: TBA
Officially we know very little about what The Initiative, a studio Microsoft founded in Santa Monica back in 2018, is actually doing. Rumors suggest it might be working on something related to Perfect Dark. And in a 2018 interview, head of Xbox Phil Spencer did say that the studio might be working on an IP from the past. But nothing official has been confirmed. All we do know is that it is working on a game that will be released one day. Probably.
Turn 10 Studios (2001)
- Recent Games: Forza Motorsport 7 (Xbox One, PC), Forza Motorsport 6 (Xbox One), Forza Motorsport 5 (Xbox One)
- Upcoming Games: Forza Motorsport (Xbox Series X/S, PC)
Turn 10 Studios is the Old Faithful of Xbox Game Studios. It’s been around for nearly forever and has consistently released a new Forza game every two to three years. While it is possible this studio might go off and do something totally new in the far future, in the near future it’s been confirmed that it is in fact working on the next Forza game. Officially it doesn’t have a number after it, but I’m guessing an 8 will appear at the end of its name between now and when it releases on Xbox Series X/S and PC... likely next year.
Undead Labs (2018)
- Recent Games: State of Decay 2 (Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC), State of Decay (Xbox One, PC)
- Upcoming Games: State of Decay 3 (Xbox Series X/S, PC)
Zombies! Love or hate ‘em, they are big business and all the way back in 2011 Microsoft partnered with a relatively new studio to bring its upcoming zombie game to Xbox 360. (It came to PC and Xbox One later.) That game, State of Decay, became a huge hit and got a sequel in 2018. That game was also a big success, and that same year Microsoft officially bought Undead Labs. The studio is currently working on the recently announced State of Decay 3 for Xbox Series X/S and PC. It will have zombies in it. (Spoilers.) Like a lot of Microsoft’s upcoming exclusive games, we don’t have an actual release date or even year. But we can assume some of these, like SoD3, will be out in the next year or two.
- Recent Games: Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition (PC)
- Upcoming Games: Age of Empires IV
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but in 2019 Microsoft created World’s Edge, a new studio, to control and manage one of its popular gaming franchises, Age of Empires. Yes, this is the same thing Microsoft did for Gears of War and Halo. But it worked for those franchises, so it makes sense to follow that playbook. Last year the studio put out Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition for PC. Looking forward, the team will be working with Relic Entertainment on the next game in the franchise, Age of Empires IV.
Update—7 p.m. ET 09/24/2020: Microsoft reached out to clarify that while Xbox Game Studios doesn’t develop its own games, it does consider the organization to have a role in development as it supports smaller developers with both development and publishing resources.
This isn’t a game development studio like the others. Instead, it helps smaller studios and third-party partners develop and publish games, like Tell Me Why, from Dontnod Entertainment.
Finally, with the news that Microsoft is buying Bethesda, that means that moving forward (once the deal is finalized) all Bethesda games will be part of the Xbox Game Studios family. How this will all work is something that will become clearer with time, but for now, it means that future games like The Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield, plus future Doom, Wolfenstein, and Fallout games, could be potentially released as Xbox-console-exclusive titles.
According to Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s executive vice-president of gaming, this will be determined on a case-by-case basis, which leaves room for some games to also land on PS5 or Switch. And games like The Elder Scrolls Online and Doom Eternal are confirmed to be coming to PS5 in the future. So it seems Bethesda games will stay multiplatform, but that won’t necessarily be the case forever.
With all of these studios working on a long list of big games for the next-gen Xbox, it seems Microsoft is trying to avoid the complaints it faced last gen. Namely, that there just weren’t many first-party games released during the Xbox One’s lifecycle.
Of course, only time will tell when these games come out, or even if all of them come out. For now, it seems Xbox Game Studios has a busy next few years ahead of it. And considering all of these upcoming games will be released on Xbox Game Pass, a lot of players will have busy years coming up, too.