Xbox Game Studios — Here Are Microsoft’s 23 First-Party Studios to Date
Microsoft has heavily expanded its first-party studio roster over the years: here are the 23 studios housed under Xbox Game Studios to date.
With Microsoft heading into the launch of its next-gen consoles, the Xbox Series X and Series S, the company is putting the full power of its lineup of first-party development studios towards new exclusive titles. Alongside its long-time franchises like Halo, Gears of War, and Forza, Microsoft has brought numerous new studios into the fold of its first-party development house, Xbox Game Studios. Most recently, Microsoft made the surprise announcement that it would be bringing in Bethesda Softworks as part of an acquisition deal with ZeniMax Media, making its first-party development roster even more expansive than before.
Coming off the heels of its other recent acquisitions over the past few years like Ninja Theory, Obsidian, Double Fine, and more, Xbox Game Studios now has 23 studios under its belt to bring fan favorite franchises and new IP to Xbox consoles over the coming years. While we previously looked at Microsoft’s studio acquisitions in 2018, here is a more expansive look at all of the first-party studios currently at Xbox Game Studios, and what they have coming in the future.
Turn 10 Studios (founded in 2001)
One of Microsoft’s earliest first-party studios is Turn 10 Studios, the venerable house of the Forza Motorsport series. Founded in 2001, Turn 10 has created all of the mainline Forza Motorsport titles for 15 years, back since the days of the original Xbox and all the way through to the Xbox One.
With that being the case, it’s not exactly a huge surprise that Turn 10 is at work on the next iteration of their flagship racing series, for now titled Forza Motorsport (though likely Forza Motorsport 8). Confirmed for the Xbox Series X and Series S, Turn 10’s next title will be the series’ introduction to next-gen. While it doesn’t have a release date yet, it seems likely that we can probably expect the next Forza Motorsport to arrive sometime in 2021, with their last project being Forza Motorsport 7 in 2017.
Rare (acquired in 2002)
While initially known for its iconic N64-era titles like Perfect Dark, GoldenEye 007, and Banjo-Kazooie, Rare became one of Microsoft’s earliest acquisitions to develop new titles under Xbox. In the Xbox 360 era, it brought early titles to the platform like Perfect Dark Zero, Kameo: Elements of Power, and Viva Pinata, and later on would develop experiences tailored for Xbox Kinect such as Kinect Sports. In the Xbox One era, Rare released the nostalgia packed Rare Replay collection with 30 of its most iconic games, and Sea of Thieves, its nautical pirate multiplayer game that has amassed success on Xbox One and PC.
Most recently, Rare assisted with the development of Battletoads by Dlala Studios, which debuted last month on Xbox One and PC. While the studio is continuing to support Sea of Thieves with new updates and content, looking ahead Rare’s next project is Everwild, a visually-stunning new title that is coming to Xbox Series X/S and PC sometime in the future.
343 Industries (founded in 2007)
After Bungie went its own way from Microsoft to seek independence, 343 Industries was created in 2007 to take up the mantle of Xbox’s flagship franchise, Halo. Following the release of Halo: Reach in 2010, which would mark the final Bungie-developed installment in the series, 343 Industries took up the next chapter of the franchise with Halo 4 in 2012, after starting out with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary the year before.
Since then, 343 has led the charge on developing new Halo projects themselves–like Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians–or collaborated with other studios on spin-offs, such as Halo Wars 2. The studio was also at the helm of The Master Chief Collection, which had a notably rocky launch on Xbox One in 2014, but has since evolved into the definitive home for the Halo series, including its recent release on PC.
343 Industries’ key project right now is Halo Infinite, which was originally intended to launch in fall 2020 as the marquee title for the Xbox Series X and Series S. However, in light of behind-the-scenes development hurdles and notable backlash during its gameplay reveal this summer (including the infamous Craig the Brute), Halo Infinite had a surprise delay pushing it back sometime into 2021.
The Coalition (founded in 2010)
Much like 343 Industries, Microsoft established The Coalition in 2010 to be the future home of the Gears of War franchise. Since the studio’s foundation, The Coalition has been at the helm of the past two mainline entries in the series–Gears of War 4 and Gears 5–and also assisted with development on the franchise’s strategy game spin-off Gears Tactics with Splash Damage.
In terms of what the future has in store for the studio, the easiest guess is that the studio is most likely working on the next mainline installment in the Gears series for Microsoft’s next-gen consoles, while (in the meantime) supporting both Gears 5 and Gears Tactics with new updates and content.
Mojang (acquired in 2014)
The acquisition of Mojang by Microsoft in 2014 was (at the time) one of the biggest shakeups in the games industry and a major deal for the company. Purchased for $2.5 billion, the acquisition gave Microsoft one of the best-selling and most profitable games of all-time, Minecraft, and the opportunity to build on the immensely-popular title into a full-fledged franchise.
Following the acquisition, Mojang has still been able to support and update Minecraft across its several multi-platform releases, but has also developed several new projects under Microsoft’s wing. Aside from new updates and content for the base game, earlier this year Mojang released Minecraft Dungeons on consoles and PC, and last year debuted its mobile AR experience Minecraft Earth. While Mojang has had some smaller projects release over the past few years, presumably we’ll see more Minecraft projects down the line, including (most likely) bringing the original game to Xbox Series X and Series S.
Compulsion Games (acquired in 2018)
Part of Microsoft’s group of new acquisitions at E3 2018, Compulsion Games is a developer with only a few titles under its belt but a lot of promise. Founded in 2009, the Canadian studio made its debut with Contrast, an artistic puzzle platformer that released in late 2013. After that, the studio began work on its next big project We Happy Few, a trippy survival title that drew comparisons to BioShock with its initial reveal. After We Happy Few‘s early access debut in 2016, Compulsion gradually updated and worked on the title heading into its full launch in 2018, followed by several DLC expansions that released up into last year.
At the moment, it’s unknown what Compulsion Games is working on next after We Happy Few. Presumably the studio will be working on a new title for Xbox’s next-gen platforms, but for now we’ll have to wait and see what that turns out to be.
The Initiative (founded in 2018)
Of all of Microsoft’s first-party teams at Xbox Game Studios, The Initiative is still the most mysterious. Founded in 2018, the California-based team was established to create new exclusive titles for Xbox, but there hasn’t been any official word or announcements yet on what the studio is actually working on.
Rumors throughout the past year or so suggest that The Initiative may be working on a new installment or reboot of the Perfect Dark series, with Phil Spencer suggesting that the studio may be working on a project tied to an older IP. However, we’ll have to wait and see what The Initiative is actually working on, but it’s safe to assume that it will be a next-gen project.
inXile Entertainment (acquired in 2018)
Acquired alongside developer Obsidian Entertainment in late 2018, inXile Entertainment has long been known for its roster of RPGs, including 2014’s Wasteland 2. Bringing a studio known for its deep, complex RPGs is likely an enticing offer for Microsoft, especially for the PC gaming crowd and CRPG lovers.
inXile’s most recent project was Wasteland 3, which debuted on consoles and PC last month and garnered critical acclaim for its deep RPG gameplay and emphasis on player choice. At the moment it’s not known yet what inXile might be working on, but recent reports suggest that the studio is working on a next-gen RPG experience.
Ninja Theory (acquired in 2018)
Announced during Microsoft’s major acquisition spree at E3 2018, Ninja Theory was among the biggest names that Microsoft has brought into the fold as part of its first-party development lineup. Known for its story-driven single-player titles such as Heavenly Sword and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Ninja Theory seems prime to deliver the type of deep, third-person storytelling experiences that have been missing from Microsoft’s line of exclusives over the past few years.
In terms of recent projects, Ninja Theory released the original Hellblade in 2017 prior to its acquisition, and earlier this year debuted its first stab at a multiplayer-focused experience with Bleeding Edge. Looking ahead to the future, Ninja Theory’s next big project is Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, the sequel to its award-winning hit that was revealed at The Game Awards 2019. The studio is also experimenting with another title called Project: Mara, which will seemingly explore issues of mental health in a similar vein to Hellblade.
Obsidian Entertainment (acquired in 2018)
Towards the tail end of 2018, Microsoft announced its acquisition of Obsidian Entertainment, the well-known RPG development house known for past titles like Fallout: New Vegas and the Pillars of Eternity series. At the time, Obsidian was just about to announce its latest project The Outer Worlds, which would be released the following year as a multiplatform release.
Since then, Obsidian has been at work on a number of different projects. Most recently, the studio has been developing its early access survival title Grounded, which debuted this past summer for Xbox One and PC. Obsidian also released the first story DLC for The Outer Worlds earlier this month called Peril on Gorgon, with another expansion to follow sometime in 2021. At Microsoft’s first-party showcase for upcoming Xbox Series X games, the studio also revealed its next project Avowed, which will be a fantasy RPG set in the Pillars of Eternity universe.
Playground Games (acquired in 2018)
Another acquisition from E3 2018, Microsoft taking on Playground Games was almost a foregone conclusion given the two company’s long-standing relationship together. For nearly a decade, Playground has worked with Microsoft and Turn 10 Studios to create the Forza Horizon series, which has released a new installment in the spin-off series in-between the Motorsport series.
After releasing four Forza Horizon titles, Playground’s next project has finally been confirmed as a long-rumored reboot of the Fable series, putting the studio into an entirely different playground, so to speak. Initially shown during Microsoft’s Xbox first-party showcase this summer, Fable has been confirmed for Xbox Series X/Series S and PC, but there’s no specific release window for the game just yet.
Undead Labs (acquired in 2018)
Like Playground Games, Undead Labs also has a long history with Microsoft as the creators of the State of Decay series, which debuted on the Xbox 360 and PC back in 2013. After the zombie title’s success, the studio then released an enhanced version of the game a few years later (along with an Xbox One release), followed by the launch of its sequel State of Decay 2 in 2018.
In the wake of Microsoft’s acquisition of the studio in 2018, Undead Labs is continuing to move forward with its zombie franchise with State of Decay 3, which is being developed for Xbox Series X/Series S and PC, with its first reveal trailer coming out of Microsoft’s first-party game showcase this summer.
Double Fine Productions (acquired in 2019)
The longtime indie publisher and developer Double Fine was one of the more recent and surprising acquisitions by Microsoft when it was announced last year. Known for their distinctive titles like Broken Age, Brutal Legend, and Psychonauts, Double Fine has made a name for itself on charming adventure games and more experimental games, bringing some variety to the mix of Microsoft’s first-party lineup.
At the moment, Double Fine is currently working on its long-awaited sequel Psychonauts 2, which was originally crowdfunded and planned as a multi-platform release. We don’t know just yet what the studio has in store yet in terms of Xbox exclusive titles, but given the studio’s pedigree, we can probably expect something very weird and very charming.
World’s Edge (founded in 2019)
Like it has done for Halo and Gears of War, in 2019 Microsoft established the new studio World’s Edge to be the focus of the Age of Empires franchise. Putting its resources behind the long-running RTS series, World’s Edge has worked to bring back older installments of the series to modern hardware, while also looking forward with a new entry in the series.
Alongside remastered editions of the first three entries in the series, World’s Edge is currently working alongside Relic Entertainment to deliver the series’ next mainline installment, Age of Empires IV. At the moment, the title is still currently in development, but rumors suggest it may finally be on track to release sometime in 2021.
ZeniMax Media/Bethesda Softworks (will be acquired in 2021)
Microsoft’s most recent acquisition is arguably its biggest and most surprising. Earlier this week, Microsoft announced its intentions to acquire ZeniMax Media, the parent company of publisher Bethesda Softworks and all of its development studios housed under it. In total, the acquisition adds another 8 studios into Microsoft’s first-party fold: Bethesda Game Studios, ZeniMax Online, Arkane Studios, id Software, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog Games, and Roundhouse Studios. Given that the acquisition now brings acclaimed franchises like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Dishonored, Wolfenstein, DOOM, and more to Xbox, the Bethesda acquisition is a powerhouse move by Microsoft that will have some pretty substantial effects for the future, especially as Bethesda is one of the bigger third-party publishers around.
Currently, Bethesda’s studios have all had a variety of projects in development for the coming future. Bethesda Game Studios, aside from continued updates on Fallout 76, is also at work on The Elder Scrolls 6 and Starfield, its next two massive RPG experiences that are likely quite a ways out from release. id Software released DOOM Eternal earlier this year, with the game also coming to PS5 and Xbox Series X/S in 2021.
For future next-gen projects, Arkane is at work on its next title Deathloop, which was originally intended as a PS5/PC release later this year but has since been delayed into Q2 2021. Tango Gameworks is working on the upcoming GhostWire: Tokyo, which is also planned for release on PS5 and PC for sometime in 2021. ZeniMax Online is continuing its work on The Elder Scrolls Online, while there’s no word yet on what is next from Wolfenstein developer MachineGames. Alpha Dog Games was acquired by Bethesda last year for mobile game development, while Roundhouse Studios was established by the company late last year with members of Human Head Studios.
Xbox Game Studios Publishing
Aside from the actual first-party development teams under Xbox Game Studios, it’s worth noting Xbox Game Studios Publishing as part of the mix as the main publishing branch of Xbox. All of Xbox’s first-party titles are released under the publishing umbrella of Xbox Game Studios, including those produced with external development partners that aren’t owned by Microsoft. From this year alone, that would include releases such as Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Tell Me Why, and more, along with all of the upcoming projects mentioned above from first-party teams.