Speculation following departure of Bungie, Bizarre and BioWare misplaced, says MGS GM Phil Spencer

Microsoft Game Studios GM: ‘Quicksand in our foundations? No way’

The general manager of Microsoft Game Studios has rubbished speculation that the publishing division is struggling in its deals with developers.

Speaking to Develop in an exclusive interview, available to read here, general manager Phil Spencer – who oversees Microsoft Game Studios’ relationships with external developers and the firm’s current ramp-up of its European office – openly discussed the division’s plans following the divestment of Bungie and acquisition of development partners Bizarre Creations and BioWare.

Some commentators had speculated that MGS was in bad shape following the three individual deals, which Newsweek coined as the ‘Killer Bs’, saying "the house that [MGS head] Shane Kim built may rest on quicksand".

Spencer was quick to put paid to such commentary, however.

He explained: "I will say – and I mean it respectfully – that I find it all a little humorous. I don’t think people sometimes completely understand the relationship between a publisher and a developer. But I know what our relationships with our partners are, and I know the collaboration.

"I think speculation is fine – it’s good to have smart people talking about what’s going on. But I think this time next year, when we’re sat here talking about a great Banjo game or a great Fable game, or other upcoming games, it will all be a distant memory. I understand the speculation – but quicksand in our foundations? No way."

He added: "In terms of Bungie, our relationship with them now has never been stronger. Our relationship over the future of Halo, and at the same time making new Halo games, is probably at the most collaborative point it’s ever been at."

On the subject of Bizarre Creations’ acquisition by Activision Spencer said: "I love Bizarre Creations, I think they’re a great studio, and we’ve known them for a long while – they’ve helped us launch two platforms and I look at them as pioneers on Live. I will miss working with the team, but this opportunity came along for them. We did talk to them before they made the final call on it, and in the end we had to look at what they wanted versus what we might have done with them. But it was best that they followed their hearts, and I wish them well."

And when asked about upcoming titles and development deals, and why Microsoft Game Studios has chosen to keep fairly quiet about 2008’s slate of games – in comparison to 2007’s prolific line-up that relied on many games from third party, independent developers – he said the company was shying away from showing games early, rather than struggling to find development partners, as some have speculated.

"When we’re asked what’s coming up in the next two to three years, well, there’s tons we’re working on and we’re going to show them – not ‘when they’re ready’, or play some egotistical trick – but show them when they are ready to be shown," he explained.

"One of the things we don’t want to do now is getting ahead of ourselves and showing games too early. I don’t think we do a service to our games community when we show games which we’re not completely sure of what games they are going to be. I have a real sense of responsibility to those consumers that have bought our platform, and want to be comfortable that when we show a game we have belief in that game and think it is representative of what it might be when that game comes out. I’ve seen games too early – or even things shown that aren’t the game, to try and build excitement about that game, but for us I’m not about doing that."

He added: "One the experiences I’ve really learnt from the past few years was showing Too Human at E3 a few years back. I’m proud to say that the game has really turned itself around – but we showed it too early back at that E3 – both Denis [Dyack, head of Too Human creator Silicon Knights] and I will put our hands up and admit that."

Part one of the interview can be found here.

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