What’s in a name? For Xbox Game Studios, it strengthens recent impressions that Microsoft is preparing to extend its game brand across a variety of platforms, including those it does not control.
In 2001, Xbox was a games console; in 2019, the Xbox empire extends, by association, through Windows 10, Nintendo, Android and iOS through to console rival PlayStation. “Xbox is our gaming brand across all devices, no matter how or where you want to play, or who you want to play with,” the company announced.
Having bought Swedish start-up Mojang in 2014, the studio whose “Minecraft” became a phenomenon and can now be found on a plethora of current console, computer and mobile platforms, Microsoft went on an acquisition spree in 2018.
It strengthened its complement of internal studios with the June addition of Montreal, Canada’s Compulsion Games (British alt-60s “We Happy Few”), Seattle, USA’s Undead Labs (zombie franchise “State of Decay”), Britain’s Ninja Theory (acclaimed scandi-celtic adventure “Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice”) and Microsoft-adjacent Playground Games (“Forza Horizon” subseries).
Then in December 2018, it announced that respected role-playing game independents InXile and Obsidian had also been brought under the Microsoft umbrella.
Together with “Gears of War” studio The Coalition, “Halo” house 343, “Forza” originator Turn 10 and mystery outfit The Initiative, together with its Casual Games team, Microsoft Studios (formerly Microsoft Game Studios) is now known as Xbox Game Studios.
Of those, Obsidian’s current project, “The Outer Worlds” is still debuting on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC later in 2019; InXile is likewise pushing “Wasteland 3” to non-Microsoft platforms PlayStation 4, Mac and Linux as well as Xbox One and Windows PC.
Beyond that, release platforms for other future games are not known, but Microsoft envisions a world in which its gamer network, Xbox Live, is present on not 400 million but 2 billion devices.
Senior Xbox team staff will be presenting an expanded Xbox Live at industry convention GDC in March 2019, according to a now-redacted entry in the conference’s schedule.
“Xbox Live is about to get MUCH bigger,” the original description read, as circulated at the start of the week. A cross-platform Xbox Live service would allow developers to “connect players between iOS, Android, and Switch in addition to Xbox and any game in the Microsoft Store on Windows PCs.”
Though Microsoft had already used “Minecraft” to drive through cross-platform multiplayer (while jabbing current console sales leader PlayStation for its unwillingness to comply), the Xbox Live expansion targets players’ “gaming achievement history, their friends list[s], their clubs” and allowing “communities to mingle more freely across platforms.” JB
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