Xbox Game Studios in execution mode but still acquiring, says Spencer

While Xbox Game Studios is largely in “execution mode”, developing new games for the likes of Xbox Series X, Phil Spencer told Stevivor that it still has gaps and the need for “new points of view”.

“We’re always open”

At E3 2018, Spencer confirmed that Xbox Game Studios had acquired Ninja Theory (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice), Compulsion Games (We Happy Few), Undead Labs (State of Decay 2and Playground Games (Forza Horizon 4) in addition to the formation of a new studio called The Initiative. This was followed up by the acquisition of Obsidian (The Outer Worlds) and inXile Entertainment (Wasteland 3) later that same year. While Spencer is pleased with the Xbox Game Studios’ growth, he still says there’s room for improvement.

“We’re always open,” Spencer said when asked if he was still interested in acquiring new developers. “I liked the geographic diversity that we’ve been growing with our studios. If you look at Asia, we don’t have any first party studios in Asia. I think that’s an opportunity for us.”

“We’ve moved from acquisition mode to execution mode,” Spencer continued. “[We are] sitting here with 15 plus studios working on games. But it’s not about a logo parade, or ‘look at who we acquired this week’, but really about what games [the studios] are going to go build.

“I do think that a strong, growing first-party is definitely part of our strategy,” he concluded. “I’d love to see us continue to get new storytellers with new points of view into our first-party portfolio.”

“It’s really what creatives will do”

At X019 in London, Xbox announced Obsidian’s Grounded alongside another look at Ninja Theory’s Bleeding Edge.

“Both of those were started before the acquisition,” Spencer stressed. “So we saw them when we were going through acquisitions at both studios.

“It’s really what creative studios will do — they’ll usually find a small group that wants to go off and try something different. It’s funny with Ninja Theory, because my first game with Nina [Kristensen] and Tameem [Antoniades, co-founders of the studio] was Kung Fu Chaos on the original Xbox. I see similarities between Kung Fu Chaos and what Bleeding Edge is.”

Spencer said he hopes that Xbox Game Studios can help to nuture that state of creativity.

“The ability to give studios financial stability so they can experiment with new things, absolutely, is one of the things that Matt [Booty, head of Xbox Game Studios] and the team brings,” he said.

“Because you have enough studios and enough rolling business, it’s not make or break for every experiment that a studio takes. We should be able to take some risks.”

While Microsoft has confirmed what Ninja Theory’s next project is — Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 — we still don’t know what the next big things are from most of the teams at Xbox Game Studios. With head Matt Booty confirming we’ll see newly announced titles on both Xbox One and Xbox Series X for the next few years, those confirmations shouldn’t be too far off.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.