Toys for Bob goes independent, but explores partnership with Microsoft

Longtime Activision developer Toys for Bob is spinning off as an independent game studio, breaking off from Activision’s new owners Microsoft… but curiously also then exploring a potential new partnership with Microsoft.

In the announcement, Toys for Bob writes:

We’re thrilled to announce that Toys for Bob is spinning off as an independent game development studio!

Over the years, we’ve inspired love, joy, and laughter for the inner child in all gamers. We pioneered new IP and hardware technologies in Skylanders. We raised the bar for best-in-class remasters in Spyro Reignited Trilogy. We’ve taken Crash Bandicoot to innovative, critically acclaimed new heights.

With the same enthusiasm and passion, we believe that now is the time to take the studio and our future games to the next level. This opportunity allows us to return to our roots of being a small and nimble studio.

To make this news even more exciting, we’re exploring a possible partnership between our new studio and Microsoft. And while we’re in the early days of developing our next new game and a ways away from making any announcements, our team is excited to develop new stories, new characters, and new gameplay experiences.

Our friends at Activision and Microsoft have been extremely supportive of our new direction and we’re confident that we will continue to work closely together as part of our future.

Toys for Bob was founded all the way back in 1989 as a partnership between Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford, having a solid success with their first game Star Control and its sequel. While they spent much of the 1990s as part of Crystal Dynamics and then Eidos, they’re now best known for their time as part of Activision, who acquired them in 2005. Their biggest, most notable success was with the toys-to-life Skylanders series, which ran for a few years before the genre quickly peaked and faded into nothingness.

Since then, they created the very well received Spyro Reignited Trilogy and Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time in 2018 and 2020 respectively – after which co-founders Reiche and Ford left the studio – and last year’s Crash Team Rumble, but have also been sucked into the Activision-wide grind to produce supporting content for the Call of Duty franchise.

Toys for Bob was naturally included within the huge acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft, and sadly that meant they were hit and affected by the sweeping layoffs that were announced last month. Having had around 180 employees back in 2021, 89 people were laid off from Toys for Bob in January, and the studio’s offices in Novato were closed, transitioning the studio to remote work.

We’re still waiting to see what Microsoft really intends for Activision going forward, in terms of how singular the company’s focus will be on Call of Duty, and how many opportunities Activision studios will have to revisit Activision IP and create new games, but this makes sense for Toys for Bob. Their strength has really been with the Spyro and Crash Bandicoot series over the last decade, as opposed to getting “additional work” credits.

What’s really interesting to consider is that, while now independent, they’re exploring a partnership with Microsoft immediately. Could they be entrusted with Spyro or Crash again? Or will they cook up a new IP?

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