During Microsoft's E3 2018 press briefing Phil Spencer announced the acquisition of Ninja Theory, Playground Games, Undead Labs and Compulsion Games, as well as the formation of 'The Initiative', a new Santa Monica based studio. Spencer promised a better future for the Xbox community in terms of AAA exclusive blockbuster titles, but the way I see it, their problems are far from solved by these acqusitions.
Sure these acqusitions is a step in the right direction, but Microsoft's problem isn't just the low output of AAA exclusive titles, but the quality of the games itself. Their tentpole franchises; Halo, Gears of War and Forza Motorsport are far from their peak, and while Forza Horizon, the best current Xbox franchise, is knocking it out of the park, I fear fans of the franchise might get fatigued in the future, as Playground Games keep re-using the same formula, but location - look what happened to Halo and Gears of War.
Metacritic scores of current generation output from Microsoft Studios, excl. remasters and definitive editions.
- 343 Industries (average score of 84)
- Halo 5: Guardians (84 score on Xbox One)
- The Coalition (avergage score of 85)
- Gears of War 4 (84 score on Xbox One and 86 on PC)
- Turn 10 Studios (average score of 83)
- Forza Motorsport 5 (79 score on Xbox One)
- Forza Motorsport 6 (87 score on Xbox One)
- Forza Motorsport 7 (86 score on Xbox One and 82 on PC)
- Playground Games (average score of 88)
- Forza Horizon 2 (86 score on Xbox One)
- Forza Horizon 3 (91 score on Xbox One and 86 on PC)
- Rare (average score of 67)
- Killer Instinct (73 score on Xbox One)
- Kinect Sports Rivals (60 score on Xbox One)
- Sea of Thieves (69 score on Xbox One and 67 on PC)
- Undead Labs (average score of 68)
- State of Decay 2 (67 score on Xbox One and 69 on PC)
- Compulsion Games (average score of 62)
- Contrast (59 score on PS4, 62 on PC and 65 on Xbox 360)
- Ninja Theory (average score of 84)
- Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice (88 score on Xbox One, 81 on PS4 and 83 on PC)
I know Metacritic scores isn't the end-all be-all, but it paints a good, and more importantly, true picture of one of Microsoft's biggest shortcomings this generation, quality. Not only has Microsoft Studios's low output been terrible, but the quality of the games has taken a massive dive from the Xbox 360 era. Remember when the world was sat on fire upon the release of a new Halo and Gear of War game? That hasn't happened in a long time.
It is also worth noting, that Playground Games and Undead Labs were already making Microsoft exclusive titles, Forza Horizon and State of Decay respectively, so them being acquired by Microsoft won't amount to more exclusives on their platforms. With that being said, I'm super excited to see what Ninja Theory does next. I genuinely applaud Microsoft for acquiring such a talented and unique studio.
Something else I also want to touch on, is Microsoft's second party situation - Remedy, a studio that has long been associated with the Xbox brand, has chosen to go multiplatform. And Insomniac, that started this generation by allying themselves with Microsoft for Sunset Overdrive, has since released Ratchet and Clank on Playstation 4 and are now working on one of Sony's upcoming tentpole franchises, Spider-Man.