Microsoft Acquire Ninja Theory, Playground, Undead Labs & Compulsion Games

Microsoft have been on the back foot with first party exclusives for a long time, but at E3 Phil Spencer made a big statement for the future of Xbox.

It starts with the founding of The Intiative in Santa Monica, but it goes far, far beyond that with four big acquisitions of developers of different sizes.

Perhaps the most notable is Ninja Theory, who released the excellent Hellblade last year. Having been independent for a long time, the move will give them a lot more financial security when their games have sometimes struggled to gain the audience they deserve.

State of Decay’s Undead Labs joined their network of studios on 6th June, while Playground Games, best known for the the Forza Horizon games, have been brought in house alongside the announcement of Forza Horizon 4 and a second game that will be announced later in the show.

Compulsion Games is the last addition, as they currently wrap up production on We Happy Few. That game is still to be published by Gearbox, however this will change their future work.

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  1. The MS show was quite a demonstration of what is possible if you need to make a real effort, because you’re severely lagging behind.
    So, I’m relieved that MS is determined to stay in the business. A strong competition is good for consumers, also those on the Sony side like myself.
    It is a shame, though, that quite a few studios lost their independence and won’t be able to reach a broader audience any longer. Means for me to say bye e.g. to Ninja Theory, which is sad, as they just got an excellent game out with Hellblade.

    • I lost you at ‘on the Sony side’.

      • Well, fragmentation of the market is often a pain nowadays. I don’t know how many subscriptions for music, TV content, and game consoles you have, but I tend not to waste my money on several of these. So I play only on one console, and MS does not primarily take the route of creating new studios, but buying them up and excluding most of the market from the respective games. A shame.

    • None of these studios “lost” their independence. They weren’t forced to join Microsoft, but will have seen their relationship with Microsoft as a boon. Yes it’s a shame that the next Ninja Theory game won’t be on PlayStation, but the company has never been particularly secure financially, never had the sales with a certain publisher to get a second title approved. Hellblade was Ninja Theory running on a tiny budget and with a small team for a reason. This has removed the day to day risk and stress of the company not having enough work and funding and going under.

      It’s a similar story for Undead Labs, whose first State of Decay was turned away by everyone until Microsoft signed them, and Playground Games have only ever worked with Microsoft. Compulsion Games is more unusual, but again I see it as them finding security and having had a fairly close relationship with Xbox.

      Sony have the strength and depth that they don’t need to do this very often, but let’s not forget that Naughty Dog, Guerrilla Games, Media Molecule, Sucker Punch and more were all independent before being bought by Sony.

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