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Phil Spencer: Our Goal is to Release 4 or 5 AAA Games Every Year on Xbox

Phil Spencer: Our Goal is to Release 4 or 5 AAA Games Every Year on Xbox - News

by William D'Angelo , posted on 01 March 2020 / 6,083 Views

Microsoft in the last few years has increased its number of first-party video game studios.

At E3 2018 the company announced the of Ninja Theory, Playground Games, Undead Labs and Compulsion Games, and the formation of developer The Initiative. In November of the same year Microsoft announced the acquisitions with Obsidian Entertainment and inXile Entertainment.

With Xbox Game Studios now having 15 studios Phil Spencer in an interview with jeuxvideo revealed the goal is to release four or five AAA games on the Xbox and Game Pass every year.

He is giving their studios creative freedom on what they want to develop. An example of this is Obsidian Entertainment that recently released the AAA RPG, The Outer Worlds, and at X019 announced survival game Grounded. The latter is being developed by a small team. 

"Having a steady stream of great outgoing games on our Xbox platform as well as on the Game Pass is essential for us," said Spencer.

"Our goal is to be able to bring four or five new big games to the platform every year. (...) We do not have an imposed formula in terms of team size, style of play, ranking or genre. We give our teams a lot of creative freedom on what they want to create."

"We let our studios decide which franchises they want to work on," he added. "More and more, the leaders of our teams meet and discuss opportunities between studios, so that, perhaps, a certain franchise belonging to one studio is taken and assumed by another. These are opportunities we want to seize without feeling forced."


A life-long and avid gamer, William D'Angelo was first introduced to VGChartz in 2007. After years of supporting the site, he was brought on in 2010 as a junior analyst, working his way up to lead analyst in 2012. He has expanded his involvement in the gaming community by producing content on his own YouTube channel and Twitch channel dedicated to gaming Let's Plays and tutorials. You can contact the author at wdangelo@vgchartz.com or on Twitter @TrunksWD.


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44 Comments
coolbeans (on 24 November 2019)

I think the title is deceptive, especially considering how we categorize AAA today. One of the Phil quotes even brings up how they don't have an imposed formula in regards to team size.

  • +13
V-r0cK (on 24 November 2019)

It's so sad that I feel like everything Phil says I have to make the same comment over and over again: "Talk is cheap"

  • +10
Mr Puggsly V-r0cK (on 24 November 2019)

Was buying studios just talk? I'm not arguing they will achieve the goal by the way.

  • +4
MIXSTER37 V-r0cK (on 25 November 2019)

@Mr Puggsly They might achieve that goal but at what cost? If they're having that quick of a turn around what is at stake quality-wise? Crackdown 3 was in development how long? How did that game turn out? I'd hate to see if that game was only in development then pushed out within 2 years. It is plausible of some quality AAA titles but I'm still going with SONY next gen seeing that we will get 2 more Spider-man games, Horizon Zero Dawn sequel/prequel, next Uncharted, MLB The Show, Bloodborne 2 among many other entertaining titles and I'll just play any XBOX exclusives on my gaming rig.

  • 0
Hynad V-r0cK (on 25 November 2019)

Nothing is at stake quality wise if all the games are made by different fully staffed studios...

  • 0
MIXSTER37 V-r0cK (on 26 November 2019)

@Hynad Doesn't matter either way because like I stated before I'll be going with SONY 100% in terms of console and play any XBOX first party games on my gaming rig and save the $600+

  • -2
Hynad V-r0cK (on 26 November 2019)

Ok, then please save us from reading such narrow minded and [openly] biased comments from now on.

  • 0
Mr Puggsly V-r0cK (on 26 November 2019)

@MIXSTER37 - I actually feel the campaign aspect of Crackdown 3 was fine, I think if you enjoyed the original Crackdown than you have fun with 3. I suspect a lot of resources and time was really wasted with the MP. Either way, much of that was 3rd party and not reflective of all their projects.

If MS wanted to do 4 AAA games a year, then they need 12 studios developing games. Assuming you want every game to have at least 3 years development, some games may require less like Forza. MS could also have 3rd party studios developing projects as well.

If you have a gaming PC, then it makes sense to just play your games there.

  • +1
shikamaru317 (on 23 November 2019)

Right now they have 7 AAA capable teams; 343 (Halo), Coalition (Gears), The Initiative (working on a narrative AAA action adventure game based on rumors), Turn 10 (Forza Motorsport), Playground team 1 (Forza Horizon), Playground team 2 (rumored to be rebooting Fable), and Obsidian’s AAA RPG team (The Outer Worlds). That means they need at least 1 more AAA team or studio in order to pull off 4 per year with 2 years of development per game, or 5 more to pull off 4 per year with 3 years of development per game. Which means that they either need to expand some of their AA studios to be AAA capable, expand some of their AAA studios like 343 and Coalition to be multi-team studios, acquire more AAA studios, or rely heavily on 2nd party studios for AAA exclusives.

  • +8
trunkswd shikamaru317 (on 23 November 2019)

Doesn't Obsidian have 2 AAA teams? One for The Outer Worlds and another for a different RPG that is in development. Unless I am remembering this wrong. You are also forgetting Rare. I see Everwild being their BotW if done right. Ninja Theory with the resources could also work on AAA games. That would make 10 teams working on AAA titles.

  • +4
shikamaru317 shikamaru317 (on 24 November 2019)

Haven’t heard anything about Obsidian having a 2nd AAA team. I was under the impression that they have 1 AAA 3D RPG team (The Outer Worlds), 2 AA isometric RPG teams (which released Pillars of Eternity 2 and Tyranny most recently), and the single A 13 man team that is making Grounded.

As for Rare, I am hesitant to call them AAA currently, at least until I see more of Everwild. Sea of Thieves felt more AA than AAA to me, and before they were working on Kinect games. At one time Rare had 4 development “barns” around their central common building, each able to hold a separate team of 100 devs, but currently they are only using 2 or 3 of those barns, with around 250 devs (much less than the 400 or so they have room for), and those 250 devs are split between SoT ongoing content, Everwild, and I believe a 3rd project as well.

Ninja Theory is an interesting case. They have a goal of creating AAA games, but with AA team sizes, by using technology to make up for the deficit of developers. It’s a lofty goal, but they are split into 3 or 4 AA sized teams currently, and if each of those teams can pull off AAA quality and AAA sized games in spite of the AA team sizes, Ninja Theory will greatly bolster the ranks of Microsoft’s AAA capable studios/teams.

  • +3
WoodenPints shikamaru317 (on 24 November 2019)

Undead Labs have doubled their size since the acquisition also and will likely be hitting the AAA space by the time they release SoD3, Rare have at least 1 AAA team for with the SoT been AAA for sure and probably Everwild will be when or if not somehwere in the void between AA/AAA.

We have only listed internal teams so far but there will also be XGP to step in and provide one of those game per year such as we got Titanfall, Ryse, Sunset Overdrive, Quantum Break, Killer Instinct etc this gen.

  • +3
Zoombael shikamaru317 (on 24 November 2019)
  • -9
VAMatt shikamaru317 (on 25 November 2019)

They have outright said recently that they're open to buying more studios. That jibes with this statement from Phil. The math done in this comment section shows us that they're probably a little short on AAA studios if they want 4+ games per year. If they buy a couple more, they'll be on track.

  • +6
Hynad shikamaru317 (on 25 November 2019)

"Buy CDPR or R*."

That’s a dumb yet funny one. xD

  • 0
LudicrousSpeed (on 25 November 2019)

Doesn't say AAA anywhere in his quote.

If you asked Papa Phil, he'd classify games like State of Decay and Bleeding Edge as "big games". But they're both $30 AA type games.

  • +5
2zosteven (on 24 November 2019)

would be nice to see this happen with new titles

  • +4
DonFerrari (on 25 November 2019)

Good luck bringing 5 AAA per year by internal studios. Sony and Nintendo don't do that yet, and MS loudly saying they will have it by currently having a hard time putting 1 AAA a year...

  • +3
ClassicGamingWizzz (on 24 November 2019)

Its been like What? Five? Six years of the same talk, telling people What they want for cheap PR points. People still believe this guy 😂

  • +2
Mr Puggsly ClassicGamingWizzz (on 24 November 2019)

They just bought a bunch of studios recently, several of which capable of making AAA games.

For 2020, Halo Infinite, Forza 9 probably, Flight Simulator, Age of Empires IV is likely coming to Xbox and other game were announced that might be AAA. So they could achieve that goal next year while other studios are working on projects for 2021.

  • +10
chakkra ClassicGamingWizzz (on 24 November 2019)

Errr... you know that they just have basically doubled up the amount of people working for them, right? What exactly do you think they're gonna do with that extra manpower?

  • +2
Azzanation (on 23 November 2019)

With 15 studios with 2 teams each, thats 30 games every couple years if they take 2 years to develop. Very possible.

  • +2
JRPGfan Azzanation (on 23 November 2019)

However only 4 out of those 15 are capble of makeing AAA games right?

  • +1
chakkra Azzanation (on 23 November 2019)

With the amount of studios they have at the moment I dont think it´s possible. I mean, isn´t that almost the same amount the Sony and Nintendo have had for years? BUT I can totally see them putting out 2 AAAs and 3 AAs per year. Besides, they already said that they are not done adquiring studios so..

  • +7
Azzanation Azzanation (on 23 November 2019)

@JRPGfan
What says they cannot dish out AAA games? Ori started as a AA game and its sequel now fits in the AAA range.

Rare, Obsidian, Playground Games, 343i, Turn 10, The Coalition, The Initiative, Ninja Theory and Worlds Edge is 9 Studios i can count off the top of my head that are more than capable of making AAA games.

So id expect a ratio of 1 to 2 AAA games a year with 3 to 4 AA games that same year. Thats still impressive and alot of games to play in 1 year.

  • +2
mjk45 (on 24 November 2019)

No matter whether your Sony MS or Nintendo, Games with AAA budgets doesn't always mean success and if you take the first two uncharted games they were done on modest budgets around 20 million the success especially UC2's allowed for not only UC3 to have a large budget but ND to expand enough to do The last of Us, my concern is it comes across as a worthy aspiration for the expanded xbox division, but with the program not yet completed Phil would have been better served keeping it that way, and just say we have the teams now in place to bring out a steady stream of games, all this comes from the new world where subscribed content trumps everything and games are no longer a single bespoke product but something that needs to be mass produced.

  • 0
Azzanation mjk45 (on 24 November 2019)

The reason he is saying this is due to the nay sayers and fanboys claiming MS are no longer making AAA type games anymore and focus solely on GamePass styled games.

I am glad his clearly that rumour up. But actions speak louder than words so lets judge when the balls rollings.

  • 0
chakkra mjk45 (on 24 November 2019)

This idea that "gamepass games" don't need to be good to keep subscribers happy is totally alien to me. Like, why the heck would people KEEP paying a monthly subscription if they are not happy with the product they are getting?

  • +1
Zoombael mjk45 (on 25 November 2019)
  • -5
Azzanation mjk45 (on 26 November 2019)

@Zoo some of the most popular games are cheap. Tetris, Minecraft, Fortnite and gamers love those games. I dont see MS going that route when playing games like Gears 5 and Horizon 4 etc. Halo Infinite definitly does not look like a cheap GamePass title. But i am happy to wait and see the results first before assuming.

  • -1
Radek (on 24 November 2019)

Why are people getting downvoted? Not even Sony or Nintendo can release 4-5 AAA games every year.
Or are games like Grounded considering AAA now according to Microsoft? Because just few months ago they were considered Indie or AA games... I see people's theory that Microsoft wants to release few smaller games throughout the year to push Xbox Game Pass sales was true... RIP epic experiences like God of War, Spider-Man or TLOU 2, you know these EPIC huge high production values. Come on, downvote this to hell like every sane post here..

  • 0
Azzanation Radek (on 24 November 2019)

MS have more studios than Nintendo and Sony so if my maths is right, more studios is more games. AAA is how much money gets invested in the project so if MS invest AAA budgets into those studios than there is your anwser.

  • +1
Radek Radek (on 24 November 2019)

One more studio than Sony equals 4-5 AAA games a year, got it

  • +1
chakkra Radek (on 24 November 2019)

Well, to be fair, he did not actually say "AAA" plus, he has said before that they are not done buying studios.

  • +3
Mr Puggsly Radek (on 24 November 2019)

I would would assume he doesn't mean 4-5 games generation defining games a year. Either way, a constant stream of notable content will help push Gamepass.

  • +4
Azzanation Radek (on 25 November 2019)

@Radek You aren't thinking outside the square. MS also hires from outside there own Studio. Games like Killer Instinct, Ori, Recore, Crackdown, Halo Wars and more are not made internally so not only do they have more studios but they also hire which will obviously push for more games output.

  • +2
MIXSTER37 (on 25 November 2019)

If these "AAA" games turn out like Crackdown 3 or the other plethora of XBOX exclusives that were in development for years were to come out that soon count me out for any of those games. It takes time to develop great games and that's why the PS4 has hit it's stride the last few years because they make sure the games are polished at launch instead of just rushing it out to appease the fans. Albeit that Crackdown 3 was in development and MICROSOFT tried to get it working perfect but keep in mind that they didn't want more of the same backlash that the cancellation of Scalebound received.

  • -1
KazumaKiryu (on 25 November 2019)

There's always a lot of paperwork on Microsoft xD Fact is: In the last 7 years, there was no quality like Uncharted 4, Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, Spiderman, Death Stranding, Persona 5 or The Last of Us 2 / Ghost of Tsushima on Xbox. The players want quality and not mass, so many AAA games in one year are not possible. My interest for xbox is gone.

  • -1
Random_Matt (on 23 November 2019)
  • -28