Microsoft buys Playground Games, Compulsion Games, Undead Labs, and Ninja Theory

One of the biggest announcements at Xbox’s E3 2018 press conference was that Microsoft has bought up not one, not two, not even three, but four studios to help bolster its first-party lineup going forward. Along with these four acquisitions, it announced the creation of an entirely new studio, led by veteran talent.

So let’s break this announcement up and see if we can’t surmise what this means for the future of Xbox:

Playground Games

Who are they?

This may be the least surprising of all Microsoft’s acquisitions, as Playground and Xbox have had a longstanding partnership thanks to the Forza Horizon series. The studio is already known to be working on Forza Horizon 4, which was confirmed during the Xbox E3 press conference, but head of Xbox Phil Spencer also teased that Playground is putting its expertise to work on something else, which will be revealed “later”.

What could they be working on?

Rumors suggest Fable 4. Playground knows how to build beautiful open worlds, and just because they’ve historically filled those landscapes with expensive cars doesn’t mean they couldn’t instead focus their designs on something more fantastical.

Undead Labs

Who are they?

Again, not a super huge surprise here. Undead Labs is the studio behind State of Decay and State of Decay 2, which have been solid hits for Microsoft and are Xbox exclusive. It makes sense that Microsoft would want to keep Undead Labs to itself, and this acquisition keeps the relationship strong.

What could they be working on?

Well, more State of Decay 2 content, for starters. The game only came out in May 2018, so there’s bound to be lots of post-launch stuff to keep players coming back for awhile. After that, who knows? State of Decay 3 is a relatively safe bet, but there’s always a chance the studio will want to explore new options, especially with Microsoft’s money backing them.

Ninja Theory

Who are they?

Ninja Theory made a name for itself by developing action-heavy adventure games like Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, and DmC: Devil May Cry. More recently, it shook up the indie scene by developing Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, a game it called representative of “independent AAA” development.

What could they be working on?

With Microsoft’s acquisition, Ninja Theory moves from “independent AAA” to “just AAA”. Expect more of what Ninja Theory specializes in: solid, exciting combat and emotionally-driven narratives. Just don’t expect DmC 2; Capcom is already working on a new entry in that series (which seems to have taken major visual cues from Ninja Theory’s work).

Compulsion Games

Who are they?

Compulsion is the studio behind the artful Contrast and currently working on the psychedelic survival game, We Happy Few. It was founded by a former executive producer at Arkane Studios, and is staffed by employees who’ve worked on everything from Far Cry 3 to Darksiders.

What could they be working on?

We know the next game on Compulsion’s slate: We Happy Few (which, to be clear, is still a multiplatform game). Inspired by the trippy aesthetic of the ’60s, the game has you struggling to survive and escape the rapidly-collapsing society of Wellington Wells. Beyond that, expect more games with stylish flair and unique twists you won’t see from the usual AAA crowd.

The Initiative

Who are they?

A totally new studio, led by the former head of Crystal Dynamics, Darrel Gallagher.

What could they be working on?

The Initiative’s formation was announced as part of Xbox’s E3 2018 press conference, and “it exists” is pretty much all we know so far. Still, with Gallagher at the helm, hope for big things is warranted.

Be sure to check out the E3 2018 schedule (opens in new tab) to see when the other major players will announce their news, and keep an eye on our list of E3 2018 games (opens in new tab) to see all the titles coming your way. 

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