E3 2018: Microsoft Shores Up Xbox First-Party By Adding Five Studios, Confirms Next Xbox Console In The Works

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Microsoft and the Xbox One have been under fire for a seeming dearth of exclusive games when compared to the PlayStation 4. Phil Spencer came out firing during the company’s Xbox E3 Press Briefing on Sunday by announcing five studios were being brought into Microsoft Studios, plus there were other big announcements concerning the future of gaming on Xbox.

Fifty games were shown during the Xbox E3 2018 briefing, but the studio announcements, service announcements, and a new console confirmation were the most important to the long-term health of Microsoft’s Xbox console. The addition of five new studios, plus future feature announcements and a console confirmation, should put to rest constant rumors that the company plans to sell or spin-off the Xbox division.

New Studios

The Initiative is a brand new first-party game studio to be headed by Darrell Gallagher based out of Santa Monica, California, as reported by the Xbox website. The studio will be “working to create groundbreaking new worlds, characters, and game experiences.”

Gallagher was most recently the Head of Development at Activision from the start of January, 2016, to this past April when he joined Microsoft. He was in the same role at Square Enix for the three years prior and Crystal Dynamic even before then, where he oversaw the rebooted Tomb Raider.

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Playground Games should be a familiar name for Forza Horizon fans, according to Xbox website. The open-world Forza Horizon 4 demo was impressive, and the studio will bring that expertise to an entirely new project.

Ninja Theory, known for Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Heavenly Sword, Kung Fu Chaos, and more, also joins the fold. The studio is known for creating impressive games with limited resources and limited budget. The studio explained in a YouTube video that Microsoft offered them complete creative control and access to all of the company’s development resources.

Undead Labs has essentially served as a second party developer with State of Decay and its recently released sequel. The zombie survival franchise will continue to grow now with the full weight of Microsoft behind it as a first party developer.

Finally, Compulsion Games impressed everyone with its We Happy Few debut trailer two years ago. The game is close to completion and will be released on the PC, Xbox One, and PS4. However, the Montreal-based studio will develop games exclusive for the Xbox platform afterward.

Xbox Game Pass

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The Netflix-like subscription service recently grew to include first-party titles like Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2 as part of the library when those games launched. Future titles like Forza Horizon 4, Crackdown 3, and Gears of War 5 will receive the same treatment. Additionally, ID@Xbox program titles like Warhammer: Vermintide 2, Ashen, Afterparty, and Phoenix Point will be included as well.

FastStart

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The length of time it takes to download games on the Xbox One is a barrier for many and FastStart aims to make games available to play twice as fast as before. Microsoft engineers have devised a way for games to download the files a game needs to start first while the rest of the title downloads in the background.

The FastStart feature will be coming as part of the June update for select titles.

Cloud Gaming

An Xbox cloud gaming initiative has been mentioned by Microsoft before, but has not made much public progress. Electronic Arts recently jumped into the cloud streaming game and the company announced plans to “develop a game streaming service to unlock console-quality gaming on any device.”

New Xbox Console

Phil Spencer planted a stake in the ground during the E3 briefing by confirming another Xbox console is on the way and it is being developed by the same team responsible for the Xbox One X. The console is code-named Scarlet, according to Paul Thurrott, but there is no timetable for release yet.

It is easy to see how the next Xbox will be built around services like Xbox Game Pass and cloud streaming. Microsoft has appeared to have learned from its mistakes from the Xbox One launch, which cost it dearly in the console war with the PlayStation 4. Do not be surprised if it is not released until 2020 or later, though.