Microsoft made huge strides towards solving their long-running first-party game deficiency this year with the creation or acquisition of over half a dozen studios. So what the heck are each of them doing? Let’s take a look at what we know – or have heard – about each of Xbox’s dozen first-party development studios.
Current Known Project: Halo Infinite
Status: Halo Infinite, aka Halo 6, was officially unveiled at E3 2018. It’ll utilize a brand-new graphics engine called Slipspace, and it’s going to be the flagship launch title for the Xbox Series X. Interestingly, it’ll only be the second time that a Halo game has launched with an Xbox console, joining the original Halo: Combat Evolved from the original Xbox. Expect 343 and Microsoft to put everything they’ve got into this one.
Current Known Project: Gears 6
Status: Gears 5 was another home run for The Coalition. It delivered a powerful, character-driven narrative that made us care about the new generation of Gears even more. It even flipped the script on your gameplay expectations in the middle acts as well, in addition to once again offering a complete and compelling multiplayer package. Gears 6 is inevitable, and if we had to guess it’ll probably land in the Fall of 2022.
Current Rumored Project(s): Fable reboot, Forza Horizon 5
Status: Longtime second-party Xbox developer Playground – the wizards behind the seminally brilliant Forza Horizon series – are now formally part of the Microsoft family. They’ve been quietly building a second team, and word on the street is that team is tasked with reviving Fable – which jells with the studio’s open-world expertise and inherent British charm quite nicely. As for the Horizon team? Can you imagine Horizon 5 on Series X? With Forza Motorsport taking a year off, it’s likely that we’ll have to wait until Fall of 2021 for Horizon 5. Buckle up!
Turn 10 Studios
Current Rumored Project: Forza Motorsport 8
Status: Yeah, we technically don’t know what Turn 10 is up to, but it’d be a real surprise if it wasn’t Forza Motorsport 8 and due out in 2020 to show off the capabilities of Xbox Series X. Turn 10’s last effort in the sim-minded track-racing series had a bit of a rough start with some microtransactions that got quickly patched out, and they also have to follow up yet another tremendous Forza Horizon release from Playground. Nevertheless, expectations are high for the eighth Motorsport entry.
Current Projects: Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2, Bleeding Edge
Status: Another recent Microsoft acquisition, the Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice developer just announced Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2. It was shown running in real-time on an Xbox Series X immediately after the console’s official unveiling at The Game Awards, and it looks absolutely stunning. Meanwhile, Ninja Theory also has Bleeding Edge in the pipeline – a team-based brawler releasing on March 24.
Current Known Projects: Sea of Thieves, Battletoads, Everwild
Status: Rare is actively working on three games we know about: Sea of Thieves, which continues to be fleshed out and improved with continuous content updates, Battletoads, which Rare is overseeing but not doing the day-to-day development on, and Everwild, the most recently announced game that has a colorful, cooperative, adventure vibe. Don’t expect Everwild to see the light of day any time soon, but we can rest assured with Rare’s multiple teams the developer will have a significant presence on the Xbox Series X in the coming years.
Current Rumored Project: Unknown
Status: The Montreal-based studio shipped We Happy Few to generally mixed reviews for publisher Gearbox. Now they’ve folded into the Xbox family, and barring a massive staff-up, they’ll remain a medium-sized studio. As such, it’s probably not wise to expect anything from them anytime soon. If we were betting on it, we’d look for a new IP in the second or third wave of the Series X generation.
Current Rumored Project: Class4
Status: Microsoft also put a ring on State of Decay developer Undead Labs after their solid, bargain-priced zombie-survival sequel. The series is almost certain to continue after the acquisition, and the next logical step is the long-discussed “Class4,” the codename for a massively multiplayer online version of the zombie RPG. Series X will offer the power, and the stability of being a first-party studio will give Undead Labs the time to pull off the higher degree of difficulty that making an MMO requires.
Current Known Projects: Minecraft, Minecraft: Dungeons
Status: Mojang has, in fact, made a non-Minecraft game since Microsoft acquired them (2016’s Cobalt), but the announcement of the dungeon-crawler spinoff Minecraft: Dungeons suggests that Mojang might not venture too far outside of the Minecraft IP moving forward. Expect continued Minecraft support, as always – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – as well as the new Dungeons game, which is on the way to Xbox One as well as PC after being initially announced as PC-only.
Current Rumored Project: Unknown
Status: Microsoft’s new Santa Monica-based ‘AAAA’ studio will almost certainly be crafting something brand new, possibly in the vein of Sony’s narrative-driven third-person action-adventure portfolio headliners like The Last of Us and God of War, given that it will draw from that same Southern California talent pool. We likely won’t see The Initiative’s first release until well into the Series X generation, given that the studio only recently opened and is still hiring staff. But this project looks like it’ll be Halo-level big.
Current Known Projects: Wasteland 3
Status: Microsoft’s other RPG-making acquisition is headed by industry luminary Brian Fargo. Wasteland and The Bard’s Tale now belong to Microsoft. Their most recent project, 2018’s The Bard’s Tale IV, was well-received. Now that they’re in the first-party family, will inXile continue one of their existing franchises after Wasteland 3 ships, or make something new? All we can be reasonably sure of is that its first Xbox project would be an RPG, as that’s the veteran studio’s specialty.
Current Known Projects: Grounded
Status: Yes, Microsoft bought not one but TWO prominent Southern California RPG makers. Obsidian joined the Xbox fold just before the release of its first-person, sci-fi RPG The Outer Worlds with future installments in that series potentially joining the well-regarded Pillars of Eternity as first-party franchises. Obsidian is also working on a cooperative, survival game called Grounded, which should keep all of Obsidian’s teams busy focusing on the transition from Xbox One to Series X. Microsoft has definitively checked off “RPG” from their exclusive genre shopping list.
Current Known Project: Psychonauts 2
Status: Game design luminary Tim Schafer has been creating funny, smart, and charming games at Double Fine since the ex-LucasArts legend set up his own shop in 2000. The studio’s latest project is the crowdfunded Psychonauts 2, which will continue the telekinetic adventures of Raz. It will publish on PS4 as well since Microsoft didn’t come along until recently, so it’ll be very interesting to see what Schafer has in mind for the studio once the Psychonauts sequel ships in 2020.
As you can see, Microsoft is playing to win the next generation by fortifying and reenergizing their first-party stable of studios. What all of these new games are – and how they turn out – remains to be seen, but with any luck, the Xbox’s best days are still ahead of it. For more on all things Xbox, check out our weekly Xbox show, Unlocked, every Tuesday at unlocked dot IGN dot com.
Ryan McCaffrey is IGN’s Executive Editor of Platforms. Follow him on Twitter at @DMC_Ryan, catch him on Unlocked, and drop-ship him Taylor Ham sandwiches from New Jersey whenever possible.