- Satya Nadella in several interviews, since the intent to purchase Zenimax has been made known, that they intend to purchase more studios to expand their IP and content portfolio.
- Even as the Zenimax deal was being finalized, there were ongoing talks to purchase WB Game Studios from AT&T.
- Satya Nadella has a compensation incentive (reported as 5% of his compensation by Brad Sams) to grow gamepass.
- The previous market Xbox was trying to win over and serve was the console gaming market. In the past 2 years that goal has changed to trying to serve the entire 3 billion strong gaming market. To do that, they need more and varied content.
- Phil Spencer has come out specified a particular area of weakness as E rated content. This is an area that consists of a lot of bigger name players if they intend to get more known and popular commodities.
- The gamepass and xcloud service is reportedly launching on over 1 billion devices next year. With a major launch, they are likely to drop some pretty big news to secure subscriptions with this new launch.
- Gamepass subscriptions have grown at a steady pace and the service is now profitable.
- The 2021 SEC financial plan for Microsoft in the Xbox section indicates that they intend to acquire more IP and studios to produce content.
- Microsoft is flush with cash and money that is sitting in a bank for them is lost potential.
- There is more pressure than ever from others trying to enter this market that are buying up talented studios, notably, Amazon, Google and Tencent. A shocking number of studio purchases particularly by Tencent will likely make the decision process a faster one.
In case you missed it, this week I broke the news that new AAA games are in the works at IOI, Respawn and Eidos-Montreal.
IOI is working an an unannounced AAA multi-player focused game. Respawn is in the early development phase for a New IP. Eidos-Montreal is in production phase on an unannounced open world game that could be a new Deus-Ex game.
According to the IO Interactive , tjob postings they are putting together a team for another AAA title, this one focused on multi-player. We already knew they were wrapping up Hitman 3 and in production on a new James Bond video game. It will be exciting how the studio that has focused on stealth develops their new multi-player focused title. One things for sure though, with this team, it will look great!
Respawn Entertainment has an interesting new job listing for a Software Engineer for ground floor development of a new IP. Based on the language in the job listing, this looks like a completely new IP and not something related to any Titanfall or Star Wars properties. One things for sure, fans should be looking for this on EA Play and Xbox Gamepass in the future! We’ll keep an eye out for any more updates.
The studio behind Deus Ex, Eidos-Montreal is hiring at a fast paced looking for people with experience with open world games. Additionally, the Linked In profiles for a number of Eidos-Montreal profiles now indicate they are working on a new unannounced AAA game.
The only two series that Eidos-Montreal has fully developed on their own are Theif and Deus Ex, thought they’ve helped on Tomb Raider. With Deus Ex receiving critical acclaim and the interest in cyberpunk environments, it would make sense that it would be a new Deus Ex in development.
- Inxile Entertainment is currently working on a Steampunk AAA RPG. The game supposedly has the second highest budget for an Xbox game in development aside from Halo (Bethesda/Zenimax not included).
- Obsidian is developing 6 projects including three AAA RPGs. Having grown quite quickly and depending on how lightly in development is being used this may be true.
- Xbox has secured publishing rights for a big unannounced AAA surprise that will launch in 2021.
- Xcloud will be joining several new markets next year including iOS and Samsung TVs.
- Several additional titles are launching exclusively to the Xbox ecosystem next year with Forza Horizon 5, Starfield and Wolfenstein 3.
- UPlay is going to be coming to Xbox Gamepass subscription just like EA Play did for holiday 2021.
- Xbox will be dropping Xbox Live Gold or rolling it into the Gamepass service. Free 2 play games will not require any subscription.
- All (non-MMO) Bethesda/Zenimax titles will be exclusives starting in 2021.
- Xbox is swinging big again and will be acquiring Sega in 2021.
- Xbox has already acquired two additional studios aside from Bethesda/Zenimax with one being large and the other being small.
The last console generation Xbox was criticized for not having games or enough first party content on their console. This eventually led to the management changes including Phil Spencer and Matt Booty taking rthe reins for Xbox and Xbox Games Studios. They quickly worked to identify the issues in their market position in terms of the content, ecosystem and fan support and worked to make changes quickly.
A number of changes occurred in the direction Xbox was heading to support those areas and to set a new direction for the brand. Phil Spencer convinced Satya Nadella of his vision for gaming, bringing high quality Xbox gaming to 3 billion gamers worldwide. Not just that but he wanted Xbox at the forefront, breaking down barriers for gaming like mobile gaming limitations, making gaming more accessible, developing consumer friendly services like existed in movie/TV streaming, and doing all that while generating a reliable revenue stream.
Once the vision was set, Xbox began making major moves in the gaming industry, acquiring 15 studios over a 4 year span and included in the sales were many beloved IP. While the payoff has not been immediate, these studios have wrapped up their pre-existing projects and will be releasing new, highly funded games for the Xbox ecosystem over the next few years. Once the Bethesda/Zenimax acquisition, Xbox will have somewhere between 32 and 38 teams developing and working on games.
Let’s take a look at the games that are confirmed or likely in development by their first party.
- Action Adeventure: Hellblade 2, Everwild
- FPS: Halo Infinite, Perfect Dark, Wolfenstein 3
- Racing: Forza Horizon, Forza Motorsport
- RPGS: Avowed, Elder Scrolls VI, Fable, Starfield, The Outer Worlds 2
- Strategy: Age of Empire IV
- Misc: Flight Simulator, Project Mara, Psychonauts 2, State of Decay 3
- GaaS: Minecraft, Sea of Thieves, Elder Scrolls Online, Fallout 76, Grounded
- Action Adventure: Dishonored 3 or Prey 2, Compulsion Games unannounced title
- FPS: Doom 3
- TPS: Gears 6
- RPG: Fallout, inXiles unannounced title
- GaaS: Zenimax Online unannounced title
- Wildcard Unannounced titles: Roundhouse Studios, Alpha Dog Studios, Tango Games, Obsidian small pet project, Double Fine next title
As impressive as that is, things are unlikely to slow down on the Xbox Games Studio build out. Satya Nadella has been priming investors for more acquisitions on the Xbox front. A repeated point of conversation has been the importance of content and that you can’t just build that overnight, and that acquisitions will be a key to their future as a result. Generally a CEO of a company like Microsoft will not prime investors for small acquisitions, so I’d expect some exciting additions to Xbox Games Studios in the near future.
While the first party is being built out, it’s been equally as exciting to see the constant additions of third party content to Xbox Games Studios. There has also been a pickup in activity for second party and ID@Xbox content. Next year there’s dozens of new titles joining Xbox gamepass.
There’s so much going on at Xbox, I couldn’t possibly cover it in one blog post, but hopefully I hit on the brightest spots. Enjoy gamers!
New job listings reveal that Remedy Entertainment is working on a F2P GaaS title for one of their games for Epic. The listing, shown below gives the first hint about the next title from the traditionally single player focused studio. This should be quite the departure from that mold and it will be interesting to see how their story telling abilities run of in a multi player experience.
If you take a look back at 2013 and the state of Xbox’s first party when Phil Spencer took over it was a sad state of affairs. The first party consisted of 343, The Coalition, Turn 10, Publishing and Rare. That’s it, 5 studios. Recently they had closed the studio that made their Fable titles, Lionhead Studios.
There has been a drastic turn of events since Phil Spencer and Sataya Nadala discussed the future of Xbox with Microsoft and Phil convinced Sataya that it is a pillar of the company.
They now sit at 23 studios and looking to grow. So what happened? What was that drastic change? Well Phil outlined the market opportunities and strategies to reach that market. That market is 3 billion gamers and the method of reaching that market is through the existing infrastructure and streaming through their gamepass subscription service.
Now in order to go after such a large market, you first need to establish yourself, build reputation, spread goodwill among the user base and start establishing your service as the best and have content that can only be viewed through your service. Once you have a base you’ll need mass appeal and offerings that appeal to everyone.
Phil himself has said they are trying to be the Netflix of gaming and they are in the early years of that. He’s right about that and it shows. Microsoft has been working extremely hard to lock down premium content and build up their teams internally. They are building from areas of strength and past reputation by really building out the shooters and RPG content.
Right now, they are counting on those content additions and the internal build out that they have done to lock in that initial subscription user base that should quickly overtake their existing gaming revenue streams to prove out success while establishing themselves as the leaders in game streaming.
With that being said, I doubt they view Shooters and RPGs as what will entirely establish themselves as the leaders and I am sure they are well aware that they aren’t going to appeal to the masses with their biggest exclusives as Shooters and RPGs. They are going to have to establish themselves as the content leaders in a few other areas. They will diversify their offerings. To do that, they will need to acquire additional Studios/IP. Because they are early in building towards their goal of universal appeal, I expect they will try to make a play for a mass amount of content that fills holes in their portfolio but may also take a few areas they have offerings in and make them the undoubted leader.
There is also a ton of smoke that Microsoft is looking to make some splashes in terms of content. They reportedly had been interested in acquiring WB, Sega and Bungie and that’s just as far as what leaked (keep in mind Zenimax didn’t leak and there were 2 yrs of conversation). These are conversations that are more recent and would seem to be in addition to what they did with Bethesda and not off the table based on what Sataya Nadala said after the Zenimax acquisition of them continuing to be interested in adding even more content.
It is clear Microsoft recognizes the opportunity and know they need content and are not afraid to break out the wallet even further, so expect some more industry shaping acquisitions to happen from the Microsoft side to secure exclusive content and talent.