E3 2018: Microsoft adds five new game studios to beef up library of exclusive games

Xbox head Phil Spencer says Microsoft is doubling down on game development by announcing the addition of five new creative teams to the Microsoft Studios family through acquisitions and the formation of a brand-new studio. PHOTO: MICROSOFT
Xbox head Phil Spencer says Microsoft is doubling down on game development by announcing the addition of five new creative teams to the Microsoft Studios family through acquisitions and the formation of a brand-new studio. PHOTO: MICROSOFT

LOS ANGELES - Tech giant Microsoft announced today (June 10, US Pacific Time) that it is doubling the size of its video game development arm by adding five game studios to beef up the library of titles exclusive to its gaming platforms.

Microsoft's announcements were made at a media briefing ahead of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), one of the world's largest gatherings for the video games industry. E3 starts on Tuesday here.

Four of the companies that Microsoft intends to acquire are Ninja Theory, the company behind last year's hit Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice; Playground Games, known for its popular Forza car racing titles; Undead Labs, the creator of the zombie survival game, State of Decay; and Compulsion Games, the maker of survival adventure game, We Happy Few.

The fifth company is a new Microsoft game development studio called The Initiative, which is headed by industry veteran Darrell Gallagher, who was in charge of 2013's new Tomb Raider reboot game at developer Crystal Dynamics.

During the press conference, Microsoft's head of gaming Phil Spencer said that the company was increasing its investment in existing franchises and that it was "amplifying" its investment in new game worlds.

"We embarked on a quest…to find creative teams that have the mastery of our art form. And we found innovative game designers, master story tellers, exceptional world builders," said Mr Spencer, before citing the new companies under Microsoft.

He added that The Initiative would be creating "groundbreaking new game experiences", while Playground Games' open world expertise would be channeled into a new project.

In an attempt to further show its commitment to original titles for its gaming platforms, Microsoft also showcased 18 games it said were "console launch exclusives", such as massively multiplayer online role-playing game Black Desert, action roleplaying title Ashen and skateboarding game Session.

These titles are sometimes timed exclusives, in which the games will launch first for consoles on Xbox One and may be launched later for rival consoles such as Sony's PlayStation 4 and Nintendo's Switch systems, if at all.

These console launch exclusives may also have been released on non-console platforms earlier, such as computers. For instance, Black Desert was launched in South Korea for computers in 2015.

Among the 18 console launch exclusives, Microsoft showed off games exclusive only to its platforms as well - the Xbox One console and computers running the Windows 10 operating system. One was a new game in the popular Halo shooter game series called Halo Infinite, which has long-time protagonist Master Chief back saving humanity in a new adventure.

Other Microsoft exclusives shown off include racing game Forza Horizon 4 and a new Gears of War game called Gears 5.

In total, Xbox featured 52 games, although several such as Cyberpunk 2077, Kingdom Hearts III and Devil May Cry 5, will also be available on other platforms such as Sony's PlayStation 4.

These announcements came after criticisms last year that the firm's Xbox One console lacked exclusive games.

Microsoft also teased during the press conference that it was working on a new Xbox console and was developing cloud technology to allow people to play console quality games streamed to their smartphones, Xbox consoles and computers. It did not give more details on both.

A back-end console support announcement was made by Microsoft as well. Called FastStart, it lets Xbox One gamers launch their games twice as fast as before. FastStart also allows gamers to start playing a game that hasn't been completely downloaded, a feature reminiscent of what Sony's PlayStation 4 offers for certain games.

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