Microsoft Studios

Microsoft Studios
Industry Interactive entertainment
Video game industry
Founded 2002 (2002) (as Microsoft Game Studios)
2011 (2011) (as Microsoft Studios)
Headquarters Redmond, Washington, U.S.
Key people
Phil Spencer
(Head of Microsoft Studios)
Shannon Loftis
(General Manager of First-Party Publishing)
Larry Hryb
(Director of Programming For Xbox Live)
Products Game consoles
Xbox 360
Xbox One
Games for Windows
Games for Windows Phone
Xbox Live
Age of Empires series
Alan Wake series
Banjo-Kazooie series
Crackdown series
Forza Motorsport series
Gears of War series
Halo series
Killer Instinct series
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Perfect Dark series
Parent Microsoft
Subsidiaries 343 Industries
Lift London
The Coalition
Turn 10

Microsoft Studios is the video game production wing for Microsoft, responsible for the development and publishing of games for the Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Games for Windows, Steam, Windows Store, and Windows Phone platforms. They were established in 2002 as Microsoft Game Studios to coincide with the already released Xbox, before being re-branded in 2011. The subsidiary had also been known as Microsoft Game Division and simply Microsoft Games before 2002. Microsoft Studios develops and publishes games in conjunction with first and third party development studios under their publishing label.


Microsoft Game Studios logo (2002–2011)

In 2007, Microsoft Studios announced the opening of a European office in Reading, England, headed by general manager Phil Spencer.[1] It disbanded FASA Studio, best known for their work on the MechWarrior series. Former Halo developer Bungie announced that they would split from Microsoft Studios in order to become a privately held independent company. Peter Moore leaves Microsoft Studios to join Electronic Arts as the head of the company's sports division on July 17, 2007, and Don Mattrick joins Microsoft Studios as Senior Vice President in July 2007.

In 2008, Microsoft Studios disbanded casual games studio Carbonated Games, announced the formation of Xbox Live Productions to develop "high-quality digital content" for Xbox Live Arcade.[2] It also began to recruit for 343 Industries to take over development of the Halo franchise after the former developer, Bungie, regained independent status. 343 Industries was first officially revealed as steward of the Halo series in mid-2009 with the announcement of the animated project, Halo Legends.

In 2009, Microsoft Studios disbanded both Ensemble Studios and Aces Studio due to the effects of the late-2000s financial crisis and the restructuring of their game development studios. Phil Spencer was promoted to Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Studios in order to replace the retiring Shane Kim.[3]

In 2010, Microsoft Studios forms a Mobile Gaming studio focused on developing gaming and entertainment multimedia for Windows Phone.[4] It also expanded Rare Ltd. to a second additional 90+ person in Digbeth, Birmingham to produce further titles.[5] formed new internal studios named Microsoft Game Studios - Vancouver[6] and Microsoft Flight Development Team, to bring Microsoft Flight to PC.[7] In October 2010, Don Mattrick is promoted to President of the Interactive Entertainment Business.

In 2011, Microsoft Studios opened new development studios in Soho London, Redmond, Washington and Victoria, British Columbia.[8][9][10]

The Splatters is an Xbox Live Arcade game that was developed by a third party studio and published by Microsoft Studios in 2012

In 2012, Phil Harrison, the former Sony worldwide studios head, joins Microsoft as head of Microsoft Studios Europe and IEB.[11] Microsoft Studios recruited for new development studios in Redmond, including Playful Learning[12] and The Connected Experiences.[13] Microsoft Studios acquired developer Press Play, known for developing Tentacles and Max & the Magic Marker.[14] The studio announced plans to expand Microsoft Studios Victoria to between 80-100 people[15] and reveals new plans, including the final name of their sports entertainment development studio, Skybox Sports[16] and a new games development studio in London, England.[17]

Later, Microsoft downsized Microsoft Studios Vancouver due to the cancellation of the Kinect family title "Project Columbia" and announces ongoing development of the free-to-play PC title Microsoft Flight has ceased due to portfolio evaluation,[18] renamed Microsoft Studios Vancouver to Black Tusk Studios. They aimed to create Microsoft Studios' next big IP to rival their most successful series, Halo. Microsoft also recruited for a new development studio in Los Angeles, California to develop interactive Televised Entertainment for Microsoft platforms.[19]

In 2013, Microsoft established a new European studio "Lift London", a studio that would create digital cloud games for tablets, mobiles and TVs[20] and officially reveals the Xbox One on May 21, 2013. Later, Microsoft recruited for EMEA Publishing to manage relations with third party developers making Microsoft Published games in EMEA regions.[21] and for new "Deep Tech" team inside its Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE) unit; the new team is charged with working with top developers outside the company to build next-generation applications on top of Microsoft platforms.[22]

Microsoft Studios announced that they would publish fifteen Xbox One exclusives within 12 months of launch, 8 of which would be new franchises. Phil Harrison, Corporate vice president at Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, announces Microsoft Studios is investing over billion into exclusive Xbox One games content, twice of that of its competitors.Julie Larson-Green is appointed head of the Xbox division, succeeding Don Mattrick, who leaves Microsoft Studios to join Zynga as Chief Executive Officer on July 1, 2013; and Jason Holtman, formerly Valve's Steam boss, joins Microsoft Studios as the head of PC Gaming Division and Strategy. On December 6, Microsoft decided to close the Victoria Studio with explanation to focus on Vancouver based studio, Black Tusk. However Victoria didn't develop any games.[23]

On January 11, 2014, Microsoft Studios announced they had signed multi-year, multi-title publishing contract with Undead Labs, developers of State of Decay.[24] On January 27, it acquired the rights to the Gears of War franchise and announced that the series will continue under Black Tusk Studios.[23] On February 13, Jason Holtman left Microsoft Studios just 6 months after he joined the company.[25] and Phil Spencer was appointed as the new head and boss of Microsoft Studios.[26] On April 5, Phil Spencer announced that a "couple" of internal game development studios that had not been publicly revealed are currently working on exclusive titles for the Xbox One platform.[27] On May 31, it was revealed that Microsoft has acquired the rights of "Rise of" IP (Rise of Nations and Legend).[28] On July 17, the head of Microsoft Studios, Phil Spencer, confirmed that Xbox Entertainment Studios would close in the coming months. On September 15, Microsoft announced a deal to acquire Mojang, the developer of Minecraft, as their 21st first-party studio along with the Minecraft intellectual property. The deal was closed on November 6.[29]

On March 4, 2015, Microsoft announced that they were merging UK based studios, Lift London and Soho Productions for further games development. The amalgam will operate under the Lift London name[30] On March 7, Microsoft announced at GDC that Microsoft HoloLens games were coming to Xbox One.[30] On March 9, Microsoft announced that Kudo Tsunoda's role was expanding and that he would be the new studio team leader for studios such as Press Play, Lift London and a new internal studio called Decisive Games. Decisive Games was previously mentioned in job postings, saying that they were hiring for work on a "beloved strategy game" for Xbox One/PC. This is the first public acknowledgement of the team's existence as a first party studio.[31] On June 3, Microsoft announced that their first party studio Black Tusk Studios was officially renamed to The Coalition and would be focused on Gears of War experiences.[32] On September 30, Microsoft relinquished ownership of Twisted Pixel Games.[33] On November 19, Microsoft announced that Kudo Tsunoda had left the Xbox division for the development of HoloLens and Microsoft Edge, and other projects that can improve means of human interaction, including voice and gesture.[34]

On March 7, 2016, Microsoft announced the imminent closure of Press Play and that Lionhead Studios would close in the near future.[35] On March 8, Microsoft confirmed that BigPark, Good Science Studio, Leap Experience Pioneers, Function Studios and SOTA had been consolidated during the past several years into other Microsoft Studios and teams,[36] and on April 29, Lionhead Studios officially closed.[37]

Software development studios

Microsoft Studios contains 17 studios worldwide, 9 for game development (343 Industries, Rare, Turn 10, Mojang, The Coalition, etc.) and 8 for non-game development:

First Party

United States

United Kingdom



Non Game Development

Non Game Development

  • Microsoft Studios – EMEA Publishing
  • Connected Experiences
  • Microsoft Studios – Sentient Team
  • Microsoft Studios – Skype Xbox Engineering Team
  • Microsoft Studios – Games Testing Organization
  • Microsoft Studios – Technology and Incubation Group
  • Microsoft Studios – Xbox Core Platform team
  • Microsoft Studios – Deep Tech Team
  • Microsoft Studios – MSN Games Team
Second Party Partners

United States



United Kingdom

Asia and Oceania

Former and Defunct

Former First-Party

Defunct First-Party

Former Second-Party

Defunct Second-Party

Owned franchises and properties

Also, despite having entered into the console gaming industry with the Xbox, they have nevertheless allowed their own franchises to appear on Nintendo's handhelds, including the Game Boy Advance and the Nintendo DS, since Microsoft has not currently entered the video game handheld industry. So far there are no games announced for the Nintendo 3DS.

Game quality

For 2010, the review aggregation site Metacritic gave the average score of Microsoft games as 73.4 (out of 100), making them the fourth highest-scoring major publisher, ahead of rival console manufacturer Sony but behind Nintendo.[38] For 2011, their average score rose to 77.2, the highest for any major publisher, including Nintendo and Sony.[39] For 2012, they had dropped to second with an average of 73.0, just behind Electronic Arts.[40] For 2013, they ranked sixth, behind Nintendo and Sony.

See also


  1. Jenkins, David. "New Microsoft Game Studios Office For Europe". Gamasutra.
  2. Keiser, Joe (May 22, 2008). "Exclusive Interview: MS to Delist XBLA Titles". Retrieved May 22, 2008.
  3. Thorsen, Tor. "Microsoft's Phil Spencer promoted, Shane Kim retiring". CNET.
  4. Crossley, Rob. "MGS turns to mobile games". MCV.
  5. "Microsoft adds second 90 person Rare Ltd. Studio to development roster".,
  6. "Microsoft Studios Vancouver".
  7. "MGS bring Microsoft Flight to PC".
  8. "Microsoft Studios Victoria".
  9. "Microsoft opens new studio for Kinect".
  10. "Microsoft opening game studio in Victoria".
  11. "Phil Harrison takes over Microsoft Europe".
  12. "MGS recruits for Microsoft Studios - Playful Learning".
  13. "Microsoft Studios - The Connected Experiences".
  14. "Microsoft acquires Magic Marker dev Press Play".
  15. "Microsoft to grow Victoria base".
  16. "Skybox Sports: Jobs at Microsoft".
  17. "New Microsoft London studio 'to work on social game projects'".
  18. "Report: Microsoft reduces staff at Vancouver studio, cans 'Project Columbia' for Kinect".
  19. "New Microsoft LA studio".
  20. "Microsoft announces Lift London, a new developer focused on cloud games for tablets, mobiles and TVs'".
  21. "Microsoft Recruits for EMEA publishing arm'".
  22. "Microsoft Recruits for Deep Tech team'".
  23. 1 2 Xbox Wire Staff (January 27, 2014). "Microsoft Studios acquires rights to Gears of War franchise". Xbox Wire. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  24. "State of Decay sequels on Xbox One".
  25. "Microsoft's PC gaming chief leaves after just six months".
  26. "Phil Spencer named new boss of Xbox".
  27. "Microsoft Studios bigger than previously revealed".
  28. "Microsoft bought the rights to "Rise of" IP".
  29. Molina, Brett (September 15, 2014). "Microsoft to acquire Minecraft maker Mojang for $2.5B". USA Today.
  30. 1 2 "Hololens games on Xbox one". The Verge. March 7, 2015.
  31. "Kudo Tsunoda Expands Role at Microsoft". Eurogamer. March 9, 2015.
  32. "Introducing The Coalition". Xbox Wire. June 3, 2015.
  33. Twisted Pixel Games Goes Indie (Again),
  34. McWhertor, Michael (November 19, 2015). "Xbox's Kudo Tsunoda moves to new role at Microsoft". Polygon. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  35. "Changes at Microsoft Studios, UK and Denmark".
  36. "A Microsoft Studios Website Cleanup Turned Into Unfounded Rumors Of Impending Layoffs".
  38. "Metacritic's 1st Annual Game Publisher Rankings". Metacritic. 2011-02-09. Retrieved 2014-02-13.
  39. "Metacritic's 2nd Annual Game Publisher Rankings". Metacritic. Retrieved June 21, 2012.
  40. "Metacritic's 3rd Annual Game Publisher Rankings". Metacritic. Retrieved June 15, 2013.

External links

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