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Microsoft makes huge first-party studio investment: Playground Games, Ninja Theory, Undead Labs and Compulsion Games are all acquired

Microsoft used its E3 press conference to announce the acquisition or establishment of no less than five new studios for its first-party lineup. In the kind of business announcement rarely seen on stage at E3 these days, the company is looking to revive the fortunes of its exclusive slate for years to come.

Playground Games – acquired. Ninja Theory – acquired. Undead Labs – acquired. Compulsion Games – acquired. And Microsoft establishes a new studio in The Initiative.

Phil Spencer said that "We’re increasing our investment in our existing franchises you already love, and amplifying our investment into new worlds. We commit and harness our full resources of Microsoft to develop the future of play." Later adding: "We know exclusive games from Microsoft studios are originally what turned so many of us into Xbox fans."

The acquisition of Playground Games is arguably the biggest news here. The studio’s Forza Horizon titles have have been key to Microsoft’s exclusive lineup in recent years – and the upcoming Forza 4, which premiered tonight, is looking incredibly strong. The studio is also rumoured to be developing a new title in the Fable franchise, which will put Playground at the pinnacle of Microsoft’s own studios.

Also in the UK, Microsoft has acquired Ninja Theory, who had a huge hit on a relatively modest budget with Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Then there’s Compulsion Games, which is working on We happy Few. Plus Undead Labs, which recently launched State Of Decay 2 to an adoring and growing fanbase.

Finally Microsoft Studios is setting up a new studio in Santa Monica, The Initiative, which will be led by Darrell Gallagher. Gallagher was once studio head at Crystal Dynamics and led the team that made the original Tomb Raider reboot.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you can’t turn around what has been a somewhat slim first-party slate in just a year. But E3 2018 looks to be the turning point for Microsoft and Xbox, with these announcements looking to cement an array of first-party content for the future. 

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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