With new game studio acquisitions, Microsoft is ready to take gaming seriously, says exec
If it wasn’t clear enough by Microsoft’s E3 showcase this year, head of Microsoft Studios Matt Booty would like to reiterate that the company is, now, more than ever, committed to gaming. In an interview with Polygon, Booty discussed the rationale and thinking behind Microsoft’s recent announcement of five new gaming studios that are intended to come on board and help bolster the company’s gaming profile in the coming years.
In his explanation, Booty lays down a foundation that highlights how important head of Xbox Phil Spencer’s presence at the table of Microsoft leadership was in getting the company back to a more invested interest in the gaming division:
Let’s go back to last summer, last fall, where Phil was promoted, elevated to sit on Microsoft’s executive leadership team. As part of that, Xbox was really made a pillar in the company that sits right alongside Windows and Azure and Office. That’s a pretty big statement by Microsoft to say that, “Look, gaming is important. We’re going to treat it seriously. We’re going to resource it well. We’re going to give it support.” It’s that level of support and kind of encouragement to go big, to chase a bigger gaming ambition.
Now that the relatively small business division has the blessing and financial backing of the rest of Microsoft, it now becomes a strategic dance to acquire the brightest minds in the gaming industry and, according to Booty, the deciding factors included studio heads with a creative mindset:
Phil used some great language today about how we were on a quest to find the great creators. If you look at each of the five groups that we’re looking forward to bringing into the fold, they all have in common a studio leader who really appreciates creativity and the craft of making games. They’re all studios that have got a unique point of view, and they’re really more about their creativity and what they’ve brought to bear there.
That’s kind of how we piece it together. We’ve got different ways and different ideas come in to our bigger family. We’ve got our established franchises like Halo, Gears, Forza, Minecraft, Age of Empires, and then we’ve got new things. That’s how State of Decay came in.
Another aspect that Microsoft Studio mulled over was the proposition that developers get fatigued over rehashing the same IP year after year, and Polygon was apt to point out the trend in their interview. Booty responded by first acknowledging that it was indeed something the division looked at and was part of the acquisition portfolio.
Part of the new studio acquisitions is a focus on exploration, and having the manpower and resources to let developers “try something new:”
“Yeah. Well, your observation is exactly dead on, that you’ve got to really be careful about teams. It can get …anybody working on something for a decade can want to try something new, which is exactly why in almost all our studios we do have pockets of incubation. We’ve got pockets of teams exploring new ideas.”
Booty went on further to discuss taking already existing IPs and expanding “out sideways onto new devices and new audiences,” hinting that future games can lean on existing IPs to create device-specific experiences such as the Gears franchise that is seeing its first PC-centric title in Gears Tactics, as well as its first mobile experience with Gears Pop. Judging by Booty’s comments, the one size fits all mentality has been scuttled for a more realistic and gamer-focused approach for anyone looking to entertain themselves on various devices.
While Booty’s heart and rhetoric appear genuine and heading in the right direction, it’ll be some time before Xbox fans will see the fruits of the recent Microsoft Studios efforts. Realistically speaking, these acquisitions appear to be more in preparation for a potential new Xbox console release in 2020, rather than appeasing thirsty gamers today.
However, the careful thought put into the purchases, the Xbox division getting a seat a Microsoft’s coveted leadership table and a revitalized checkbook should go a long way to reassuring that the company is looking to rebuild its gaming cred in the industry, and build a lasting foundation for a well of entertainment for years to come.Further reading: E3 2018, Gears of War, Matt Booty, Microsoft, Microsoft Studios, Phil Spencer, Video Games, Xbox, Xbox One