Microsoft studios and game acquisitions4 minute read

Jim Cullinane looks into the strategy behind Microsofts acquisitions and a list of the studios Microsoft own, and their respective games

Microsoft entered the console war in November 2001 with the original Xbox. It was a member of the sixth-generation of gaming and a direct competitor to the PlayStation 2, GameCube and Dreamcast. After the Atari Jaguar stopped sales in 1996, the Xbox was the first American console offered to the market. The name was a derivation of Microsoft’s graphics API DirectX, and was originally dubbed the DirectX Box. After a battle, primarily with online servers and online play, Xbox became popular enough to have its successor – the Xbox 360.

Now we can flash forward 19 years. The world is now awaiting the release of the ninth-generation console from Microsoft – the Xbox Series X (and Xbox Series S of course). Microsoft have truly become a powerhouse in both online gaming and hardware.

Minecraft (image credit: Mojang Studios)

However, as recent news dictates, Microsoft is also becoming known for its development studios, many of which have been acquired. Buying into large studios has not only helped Microsoft build its catalogue of games, but the revenue from cross-platform game sales has certainly been a lucrative business for the console developer.

Multiple acquisitions

The strategy that Microsoft have been implementing over the last few years is one that pushes towards Game Pass. Game Pass is the online catalogue of games that are made readily available for free to subscribers. Pushing towards this strategy has changed the playing field when it comes to the console war of the ninth-generation. Sony are moving forwards with their exclusives and the prestige that the name PlayStation carries. Nintendo continue to make their impact on the industry by being more innovative and creative. But Microsoft have moved away from gimmicks (Kinect) and hardware focussing (not to say the Xbox Series X isn’t one seriously impressive piece of kit).

Microsoft are concentrating their efforts on subscriptions and, as of today, Microsoft currently have 15 million Game Pass subscribers. At an average of $10/£10 a month (giving allowance for the three-month $1/£1 sign-up deal) this is $1 billion in annual subscriptions.

Xbox Game Pass (image credit: Microsoft)

The strategy is clear

Having a line-up of powerhouse-status studios gives Game Pass an edge over any competition (including Google Stadia). The acquisition of Obsidian Studios meant that, upon the release, Outer Worlds was free for anyone with an Xbox Game Pass. Players on other consoles had to purchase the game outright and of course Microsoft still benefitted from this.

As a result the strategy is clear, and adding ZeniMax Media, and its subsidiaries, to the ever growing Microsoft family of studios is a clever play. Looking into the current line up of games that ZeniMax Media own and what Microsoft already own from previous acquisitions it is certain that Microsoft are becoming a software powerhouse that Sony need be afraid of in this next generational war.

Wolfenstein (image credit: MachineGames, Arkane Studios)

Below is a compiled list of the studios Microsoft now owns, and some of the games that we can hopefully see new content for, sequels to and Game Pass access to.

ZeniMax Media

  • id Software
    • Doom, Doom Eternal, Rage, Quake
  • MachineGames
    • Wolfenstein
  • Roundhouse Studios
    • Rune II
  • Tango Gameworks
    • The Evil Within, Ghostwire: Tokyo
  • Alpha Dog Games
    • Wraithborne, Monstrocity: Rampage
  • Arkane Studios
    • Dishonored, Wolfenstein, Prey, Deathloop
  • Bethesda Game Studios/Softworks
    • Fallout 3, Fallout 4, Fallout 76, Fallout 4 VR, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, , The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, , The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, , The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR, The Elder Scrolls: Blades, Starfield, The Elder Scrolls VI
  • ZeniMax Online Studios
    • The Elder Scrolls Online, Fallout 76
Xbox Game Studios (image credit: Microsoft)

Xbox Game Studios

  • 343 Industries
    • Halo, Halo Wars etc.
  • Compulsions Games
    • Contrast, We Happy Few
  • Double Fine Productions
    • Psychonauts, Grim Fandango, Broken Age, Brutal Legend, Costume Quest, Stacking, Double Fine Happy Action Theatre, Kinect Party, The Cave, Full Throttle
  • inXile Entertainment
    • Wasteland, Bard’s Tale, Hunted: The Demon’s forge, Choplifter, Heist
  • Mojang Studios
    • Minecraft, Minecraft Dungeons
  • Ninja Theory
    • Devil May Cry, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Dexed, A Star Wars VR Series: Vader Immortal – episode I, Bleeding Edge, Project: Mara
  • Obsidian Games
    • The Outer Worlds, South Park: The Stick of Truth, star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Neverwinter Nights 2, Alpha Protocol, Fallout: New Vegas, Dungeon Seige III, Pillars of Eternity, Grounded, Avowed
  • Playground Games
    • Forza Horizon, Fable
  • Rare
    • Sea of Thieves
  • The Coalition
    • Gears of War
  • Turn 10 Studios
    • Forza Motorsport
  • Undead Labs
    • State of Decay