Why Microsoft doesn't need to buy first-party studios

By Andrew Yoon, Nov 06, 2013 10:30am PST

Nintendo has quite a stable of first-party studios, owning its various EAD studios, Retro, Intelligent Systems, and Monolith Soft. Sony also has an equally impressive collection of developers, including Japan Studio, Polyphony, Naughty Dog, Santa Monica Studio, Sucker Punch, London Studio, Guerrilla Games, and Media Molecule. But Microsoft's stable of internal first-party developers working on games is quite small in comparison. Instead, Microsoft tends to work with third-parties for exclusives, like EA with Titanfall, Capcom with Dead Rising 3, and Crytek with Ryse. Does that approach make sense?

Microsoft Studios VP Phil Spencer noted that their approach has worked, and pointed to one of the biggest successes of the previous generation: Gears of War. "I've just never taken the approach that I need to own a studio to work with them. If I look at the 360 generation, our partnership with Epic over that generation was incredibly strong," he said. "A first-party should be judged by the games you put out that are exclusive to your platform."

And most studios might not want to be acquired, Spencer points out. "Did they even want to be owned? There can be some value to owning a studio, but in the end, the studio's just a holder of the great people that work there. You've got to be matched with the motivations of the people in the studio. They can always walk away. It's not like owning the brand name is owning the employees there," he said.

"I don't focus on the number of studios that we own. I don't think that's what gamers play. Gamers play the games we put out. My dedication and commitment to Xbox One and Xbox customers is that we'll continue to invest in core franchises, whether it's from Remedy as they stay as an independent studio or Turn 10 or Black Tusk as internal studios, they're all first-party games and they're equally important to us and we're fully invested in them."

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