New UK office for Microsoft Game Studios sparks hunt for first-party games

Microsoft increases focus on European developers

From next week the UK will become host to a new team supporting Microsoft Game Studios, a group that arrives in Europe with one simple mandate: to find and publish new European-made software for its games platforms.

The European arm of Microsoft Game Studios (MGS) is to be headed by Phil Spencer, general manager of MGS. While reporting to Shane Kim, corporate VP of Microsoft’s busy games publishing operation, Spencer will continue to run the MGS publishing business and work with studios from around the world while building a European publishing team alongside director of European production Shannon Loftis and Todd Stevens, director of business management.

MGS’ new Europe-facing team will be charged with finding first-party games for its Xbox 360 games platform, building upon work done with independents like Bizarre Creations (makers of Project Gotham racing and Geometry Wars) and Real Time Worlds (Crackdown) and the studios it has acquired, Rare and Lionhead.

"Europe is obviously very important to our platform efforts and an area where have a strong history of working with some of the best game industry talent," said Spencer. "We already have an established presence in the region with some of the world’s best development talent like Lionhead and Rare, and great publishing partners like Bizarre Creations, Real Time Worlds and Remedy.

"I’m very excited about what we’ve accomplished in Europe and I look forward to continuing and strengthening that success by building deeper relationships with the development community here."

In many respects the move has been a long time coming – until today, all MGS’ work with European studios has been facilitated by staff based in the company’s Redmond, US HQ. But according to Spencer’s colleague Chris Satchell, general manager of the XNA Group, which supplies Microsoft’s games development tools, the company intends to strengthen its ties to Europe and get native developers "on the inside track".

"We’ve done lots of travel between Redmond and Europe, but the time difference sometimes presents a difficulty. Instead we want to make sure that the people in Europe will be completely up to date. I am completely committed to making sure that the developers in Europe don’t get information that’s old and I want them on the inside track," said Satchell in an exclusive interview printed in Develop issue 72, out today.

Microsoft’s rival Sony has been an active player in European game development since the PlayStation’s first arrival 12 years ago, thanks to its own busy team of account managers and its growing stable of External Development deals, masterminded from Liverpool. But now the heat is on the PlayStation company as MGS ups its game, both in terms of finding firsty-party games and giving general development support to those making 360, XBLA or PC games a move developers are welcoming, claimed Satchell.

He said: "We’ve had great feedback on this already – developers absolutely love the idea of having Microsoft people on the ground who can come to see them."

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