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Phil Spencer: Game Pass Growth Means We Will Constantly be in the Mode of Acquiring More Studios

Phil Spencer: Game Pass Growth Means We Will Constantly be in the Mode of Acquiring More Studios - News

by William D'Angelo , posted on 01 November 2020 / 1,276 Views

Head of Xbox Phil Spencer in an interview with GameReactor says that with the growth of Xbox Game Pass they are seeing he expects team Xbox will constantly be in the mode of acquiring new studios to expand the lineup of games in the subscription service. 

"If we look at what people are playing on Xbox, what Game Pass subscribers are playing, I think what is missing from our portfolio is casual content with a broad appeal," Spencer said. "E-rated content (to use an ESRB rating) is not a strength for us. We obviously have Minecraft and we have some other franchises. But when I think about expanding the creative palette that our teams have, I think that is critically important.

Teams that can build new franchises, tell new stories, those are always sought after. That's why I'm excited about projects like Starfield and the next Compulsion game because I like teams that think about new creations. And frankly, as Game Pass continues to grow, we need to continue to feed that subscription. So, with the growth that we are seeing, I expect we will constantly be in this mode of bringing more creators into the fold."

Xbox Game Pass

Spencer talked about the later years of the Xbox 360 and early years of the Xbox One and he felt the team didn't invest enough into the creative capabilities of their own studios. He says as head of first-party at the time he believed they were underinvesting. The growth seen in Xbox Game Studios in the last few years didn't happen overnight as it took time to get into the right position to find good partners. 

"If I think back during the early Xbox One years and even late in the 360 years, at this time we as a company didn't invest enough in our creative capabilities with our studios, and it showed. Now, the thing with game production is that it takes a lot of time, so if you underinvest it actually doesn't show up next year or even in the next two years. It's maybe three, four, or five years down the road.

"I had this feeling or belief that we were underinvesting and I was head of first-party, so I felt it directly. I wanted to invest more, and we weren't able to. So when I got into this job, I needed to put the business in a good space while getting the support of the company. And then we built a business model that prioritised investing in content knowing that we would have to invest early and wait a while for those investments to pay off.

"But there wasn't kind of a "one morning." It was something that I felt, as I said through the late 360 and early Xbox One years, it just took us a little time to get into a position to find the right partners and get the support from the company. But I'm incredibly excited. Now with ZeniMax we're coming up on 23 first-party studios and an amazing line-up. So I'm feeling very good with the support we have."

Phil Spencer: Game Pass Growth Means We Will Constantly be in the Mode of Acquiring More Studios

Right now Microsoft is in the process of acquiring Bethesda parent company ZeniMax and he expects the deal to close in early 2021 after regulatory approval. Right now he can't sit down with Todd Howard and Robert Altman to plan the future of ZeniMax games as that would be illegal until the deal is finalized. 

"First of all, I would like to say that we haven't acquired ZeniMax. We have announced our intention to acquire ZeniMax. It is going through regulatory approval and we don't see any issues there. We expect early in 2021 the deal will close. But I say that because I want people to know, I'm not sitting down with Todd Howard and Robert Altman and planning their future. Because I'm currently not allowed to do that, that would be illegal. Your question is completely inbound, but I get a lot of questions right now: "is this game exclusive? Is this game exclusive?" And right now, that is not my job in regards to ZeniMax. My job is not to sit down and go through their portfolio and dictate what happens.

"In terms of what I want long term. I want those amazing studios to create the best games they ever created. That's when Todd and I sat down and had a discussion. Todd and I have known each other for years and years, and we talked about this partnership. We looked each other in the eyes and we said, 'okay, what are we really gonna do here?' And he said, 'I wanna build the best games that I've ever built and I want the support of Microsoft to be able to do that.' And I say the same thing about the studios at Arkane and id Software and Machine Games. I want them to do the most amazing work and support them in doing that."

The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S will launch worldwide on November 10.


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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25 Comments

Azzanation (on 26 October 2020)

No suprise, they have built the eco system for it. The more the better for them.

  • +2
sales2099 (on 26 October 2020)

Bring on the studios. More the merrier

  • +1
DonFerrari (on 26 October 2020)

Yes we know it, but we have to keep pretending that it is because Sony was rumored to buy one studio.

  • +1
Cerebralbore101 (on 27 October 2020)

People keep mentioning Sony buying Insomniac, Sucker Punch, Naughty Dog, etc. The thing is those studios traditionally put games exclusively on Sony platforms. As for Guerilla they weren't a good studio until Sony bought them. MS on the other hand is trying to buy up good 3rd party studios. And MS doesn't have a good track record with making studios better after purchase. Look at Rare, Lionhead, and Ensemble. All either closed or forced to make Kinect crap for years.

  • 0
Vendrom (on 26 October 2020)

It currently sounds feasible. And they’ve made it so that Game Pass is accessible to everyone (even compatible on a Samsung fridge lol). So they do aim for the Netflix of gaming and they have the money to buy another surprise studio (or set of studios).

  • 0
gamingsoul (on 26 October 2020)

I hope they don’t do the studios acquire what they did to rare, if they plan to buy half of the industry.

  • 0
HoangNhatAnh (on 27 October 2020)

Same practice as Sony
Didn't Sony buy Naughty Dog, Bend, Guerilla, Sucker Punch and Insomniac?

Naughty Dog, who started in 1984 making Apple II games, branched out to multiple platforms and were published by a variety of publishers including EA and then were bought by Sony and now can only produce games on the closed PlayStation platform.

Insomniac, who started in 1986 and have produced games across Windows, Xbox, iOS, Android and PlayStation, before being bought by Sony and locking their content to the PlayStation platform.

Guerilla Games, who started in 2000 and produced games on various flavours of Game Boy, Windows, PlayStation and Xbox, before being bought by Sony and locking their content to the closed PlayStation platform.

And Sucker Punch Productions, who's cofounders started and Microsoft in 1997, went on to produce everyone's favourite N64 game, Rocket: Robot on Wheels (Published by Ubisoft), before being bought by Sony in 2011 where their content is not locked exclusively to the PlayStation platform.

  • -1
yvanjean (on 26 October 2020)

Between Microsoft, Google and Amazon.... game studios are going to get picked up left and right.

  • -1
Azzanation (on 26 October 2020)

MS know this, seems they are trying to snatch them up before the other big fish do.

  • -1
Tridrakious (on 26 October 2020)

Or, you could build a team from the ground up like Nintendo and Sony does.

  • -1
yvanjean (on 26 October 2020)

They did it's call "The Initiative"; beside there only so much room to build studios from the ground up. You have a limited pool of quality talent.
Nintendo just does their own thing.
Beside this is a list of studios Sony bought that were not build from the ground: Naughty Dog, Guerilla Games, Sucker Punch, Insomniac Games.

  • +6
DonFerrari (on 26 October 2020)

There is plenty of room, this gen several of Sony studios made a second team, there is plenty of talent in the industry... and yes you basically comparing sony buying 4 studios in 4 gen to MS buying what 15 in 2 years?

  • 0
Azzanation (on 26 October 2020)

How many studios has Nintendo and Sony built from the ground up still making games currently?

  • -3
hiccupthehuman (on 26 October 2020)

Sony has acquired 12 studios since coming into gaming.
#https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_acquisitions_by_Sony_Corporation#
Of its current 13 studios, 6 of them were from acquisition: Bend, Naughty Dog, Insomniac, Sucker Punch, Media Molecule, Guerilla.
Sony has formed 7 studios still running today (not counting 2nd teams) across 4 generations.
Microsoft has formed 5 studios still running today (not counting 2nd teams) across 3 generations.

  • +11
hiccupthehuman (on 26 October 2020)

Idk about Nintendo, but according to Wikipedia, Sony has acquired 12 studios since entering gaming.
Out of their 13 studios now, 6 of them are from acquisitions (Bend, Naughty Dog, Guerilla, Media Molecule, Sucker Punch, Insomniac)
So Sony has created 7 studios still running today (not counting 2nd teams) in 4 generations.
Comparatively, MS has created 5 studios still running today (not counting 2nd teams) across 3: 343, Turn10, The Coalition, The Initiative, World's Edge

  • +4
Azzanation (on 26 October 2020)

Right so people complaining about MS not building their own studios, Sony has only built 2 more studios than Xbox and they have been in the console industry a lot longer.

  • -2
Libara (on 26 October 2020)

Which is apparently so much worse than paying a company just to keep a game off another platform...

  • -1
DonFerrari (on 26 October 2020)

It prevents all games from that dev/publisher to be on another platform, but it seems it is better right?

  • +2
hiccupthehuman (on 26 October 2020)

It is better.

MS will fund the games completely, and be involved in the game project from beginning to completion.
The other way you just approach a publisher and give them money to delay release on other platforms, having very little (or no) hands-on with the creation of the project.

  • +4
sales2099 (on 26 October 2020)

People don’t understand that being 1st party makes it acceptable while doing this with 3rd parties is worse. Ownership is everything.

  • 0
HoangNhatAnh (on 26 October 2020)

If this is Sony, then ps5 only
If this is MS, then both XBSX/PC, sometime even Switch

  • -3
chakkra (on 26 October 2020)

Good. I want to see MS going on a full-on "purchase-spree" I love seeing the people that spent years idolizing the word "exclusive" not finding it that funny now.

  • -4
DonFerrari (on 26 October 2020)

Probably because that meant studios built and IPs created instead of poached. But so far none of the purchases really removed a single game I wanted to play.

  • +3

Comments below voting threshold

Ashadelo (on 26 October 2020)

If its such a big deal, just buy an xbox that way you can play whatever they end up buying, I really hope they buy out Sega.

  • -9