Xbox Game Studios

Xbox Game Studios, previously known as Microsoft Studios, Microsoft Game Studios, and Microsoft Games, is a division of Microsoft based in Redmond, Washington. It was established in March 2000, spun out from an internal Games Group, for the development and publishing of video games for Microsoft Windows. It has since expanded to include games and other interactive entertainment for the namesake Xbox platforms, Windows Mobile and other mobile platforms, and web-based portals. As the studio grew, it has acquired and relinquished ownership of several other studios, and is the parent organization of fifteen other studios.

Xbox Game Studios
  • Microsoft Games (2000–2001)
  • Microsoft Game Studios (2001–2011)
  • Microsoft Studios (2011–2019)
IndustryVideo game industry
PredecessorMicrosoft Games Group
FoundedMarch 2000
Area served
Key people
SubsidiariesSee § Subsidiaries


As Microsoft Games and Microsoft Game Studios (2000–2011)

Microsoft Game Studios
Microsoft Game Studios logo (2001–2011)

Prior to the formation of a dedicated game division, Microsoft had its own Games Group, and had already made some acquisitions for developers and titles. This included the acquisition of FASA Interactive in 1999 for its MechWarrior game series,[1] Access Software the same year for its Links series of golf games,[2][3] and Aces Game Studio, which worked on the Microsoft Flight Simulator games.[4] The Games Group had also established long-term publishing deals with developers like Ensemble Studios (Age of Empires, Age of Mythology),[5] and Digital Anvil (Starlancer).[6] Under Microsoft, FASA Interactive was renamed FASA Studio,[7][8] and Access Software became Salt Lake Games Studio.[9]

Microsoft transitioned the Games Group into a wholly separate division named Microsoft Games around March 2000, along with other consolidation of games-related projects within Microsoft. This came alongside the public announcement of the first Xbox console, with Microsoft Games to serve as a developer and publisher of titles for both Xbox and Microsoft Windows.[10] Robbie Bach, who held executive positions in Microsoft's entertainment divisions, was named senior vice-president while Ed Fries, a member of the former Games Group and instrumental for some of its acquisitions, was named as vice-president of the new division.[11][12] Shane Kim served as the division's general manager.[13] In 2001, the division was renamed Microsoft Game Studios (MGS).[14]

FASA Studio and Salt Lake Games Studio remained with Microsoft Games Studios.[7][8] Digital Anvil and Ensemble Studios were acquired by Microsoft in 2000 and 2001, respectively.[7][8] One of the first major studio acquisitions following the division's formation was Bungie in June 2000, in the midst of its development of Halo: Combat Evolved.[15] With the acquisition, Halo, which had been planned for release on personal computers, became a Microsoft-published title as well as a launch title for the Xbox on its release in 2001. Turn 10 Studios was established in 2001 for work on the Forza series of racing games.[16] In September 2002, Microsoft Games Studios acquired Rare, who had previously extensively developed for Nintendo platforms.[17] In 2003, Microsoft recognized that the EA Sports label was in a far stronger position to develop sports games for the Xbox console, and among realignment steps, laid off about 78 employees within Microsoft Game Studios that were developing sports games in-house, and sold Salt Lake Games Studio, now named Indie Games to Take-Two Interactive in 2004, where it became Indie Built.[18][19]

Peter Moore was named in 2003 as vice-president of Microsoft's Home and Entertainment Division, which included MGS, the Xbox division, and Microsoft's home hardware market, reporting to Bach.[20] In addition to pulling big publishers like Electronic Arts to the Xbox platform, Moore tried to push the Xbox in Japan by courting Japanese developers with support from MGS publishing. Such games included Phantom Dust and Blinx: The Time Sweeper.[21]

Around 2004, MGS established Carbonated Games as an internal studio for the development of casual games for Microsoft's web games portal MSN Games, on the chat client MSN Messenger, and on the Xbox Live platform.[22] Kim and Fries were instrumental for securing MGS' publishing deal with Lionhead Studios for their 2004 game Fable, which would serve as the first major role-playing game on the Xbox platform. Subsequently, in 2006, MGS acquired Lionhead Studios along with the Fable properties, as it sought to secure a Fable sequel for the upcoming Xbox 360.[23] MGS folded the staff of Digital Anvil into the larger studio in 2005, following the release of 2003's Brute Force, and closed down the studio entirely in 2006.[7][8] FASA Studio was closed three-and-a-half months after the May 2007 release of their last game, Shadowrun.[7][8]

In 2007, MGS announced the opening of a European office in Reading, England, headed by general manager Phil Spencer.[24] Moore opted to leave Microsoft in July 2007, as to move back to the San Francisco Bay area with his family and to rejoin Electronic Arts. Don Mattrick was named as his replacement as the new vice-president of the Xbox and Games Business, which included MGS.[25] Later in 2007, Bungie amenably split from MGS to become a privately held independent company, with MGS retaining the rights to the Halo property.[26] Bungie continued to develop two additional Halo games for MGS, Halo 3: ODST (2009) and Halo: Reach (2010).[27] Simultaneously, MGS founded 343 Industries as an internal studio to develop future Halo games without Bungie.[28]

In 2008, MGS disbanded Carbonated Games and announced the formation of internal studio Xbox Live Productions to develop "high-quality digital content" for Xbox Live Arcade.[29]

Microsoft as a whole announced layoffs of up to 5,000 jobs across all divisions in January 2009 due to slowing sales of personal computers as a result of the late-2000s financial crisis.[30] Within MGS, the studio had already planned to disband Ensemble Studios after the completion of Halo Wars in early 2009,[31] while the new layoffs led MSG to also disband Aces Game Studio.[4] Microsoft acquired Vancouver-based BigPark in May 2009, using the studio to develop some of the first games for the upcoming Kinect sensor for the Xbox 360.[32] Later in 2009, Phil Spencer was promoted to corporate vice-president of MGS, in order to replace the retiring Shane Kim.[33]

In 2010, MGS formed a mobile gaming studio, MGS Mobile Gaming, focused on developing gaming and entertainment multimedia for Windows Phone devices.[34] It also expanded Rare with a second studio in Digbeth, Birmingham.[35]

As Microsoft Studios (2011–2019)

Microsoft Studios logo
Microsoft Studios logo (2011–2019)
The Splatters 03
The Splatters is an Xbox Live Arcade game that was developed by a third-party studio and published by Microsoft Studios in 2012.

By the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2011 in June 2011, Microsoft Game Studios was quietly renamed to Microsoft Studios.[36] Later in 2011, Microsoft Studios acquired Twisted Pixel Games.[37]

In 2012, Phil Harrison, the former Sony worldwide studios head, joined Microsoft as head of Microsoft Studios Europe and IEB.[38] Microsoft Studios acquired developer Press Play, known for developing Tentacles and Max & the Magic Marker.[39] They also announced a new development studio in London, England.[40] Later in 2012, Microsoft downsized Microsoft Game Studios Vancouver due to the cancellation of the Kinect family title Project Columbia and announced that the ongoing development of free-to-play title Microsoft Flight had been ceased due to portfolio evaluation.[41] The reduced Vancouver studios were renamed to Black Tusk Studios and tasked with making similar franchise-building title as Halo.[42][43]

In 2013, Microsoft established European studio Lift London, a studio that would create could-based games for tablets, mobiles and TVs.[44] Later, they created a 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.[45]

While Mattrick had overseen much of the development of Microsoft's next console, the Xbox One, he left in July 2013, prior to its release, to take over as CEO of Zynga.[46] Mattrick was succeeded by Julie Larson-Green, who was named the president of the Devices and Studios Engineering Group, following a realignment of Microsoft's divisions, overseeing both the Xbox hardware divisions and Microsoft Studios.[47] In early December 2011, Microsoft Studios created Microsoft Casual Games, a division to revamp its past casual games for Windows (like Windows Solitaire and MSN Games) using more up-to-date software delivery platforms.

Early 2014 saw additional intellectual property (IP) acquisitions by Microsoft Studios, including a publishing contract with Undead Labs for their game State of Decay,[48] the rights to the Gears of War series from Epic Games,[49] and the Rise of IP (Rise of Nations and Rise of Legends) from Big Huge Games.[50] Microsoft Studios assigned Gears of War to Black Tusk Studios, which was later rebranded in 2015 as The Coalition.[51]

Jason Holtman, who had been head of Microsoft Studios for about six months,[52] left the company in February 2014, with Phil Spencer replacing him.[53] In July 2014, it was announced that Xbox Entertainment Studios would be closed in the following months; the closure was completed by October 29.[54]

One of the most significant acquisitions made by Microsoft Studios was for Mojang, the developers behind Minecraft, in late 2014.[55] Microsoft spent US$2.5 billion to acquire the studio, and upon the deal's completion in November, the studio's key founding personnel, Markus Persson, Jakob Porsér and Carl Manneh, departed Mojang.[55] As a result, Persson became valued around US$1.3 billion.[56] Microsoft Studios committed to keeping Minecraft available across multiple platforms, including rival PlayStation consoles.[55]

On March 4, 2015, Microsoft announced that they were merging UK-based studios, Lift London and Soho Productions for further games development, with the amalgam continuing to operate under the Lift London name.[57] On March 7, Microsoft announced at the Game Developers Conference that HoloLens games were coming to Xbox One.[57] 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 and PC, but this is the first public acknowledgement of the team's existence as a first-party studio.[58]

Twisted Pixel and Microsoft Studios agreed to split in September 2015.[59]

Kudo Tsunoda left the Xbox division in November 2015 for the development of HoloLens and Microsoft Edge, and other projects that could improve means of human interaction, including voice and gesture. Tsunoda's role was filled by Hanno Lemke and Shannon Loftis.[60]

In March 2016, Microsoft canceled development of two major projects: Lionhead's Fable Legends and Press Play's Project Knoxville, shuttering both studios in the following months.[61][62] Around the same time, changes to Microsoft Studios' website indicated that further studios—BigPark, Good Science Studio, Leap Experience Pioneers (LXP), Function Studios and State of the Art (SOTA)—had been closed; Microsoft Studios clarified that all of the had been consolidated into other Microsoft Studios teams over the past several years.[63]<[64]

In September 2017, Spencer was promoted to the senior leadership team, gaining the title of "executive vice-president of gaming".[65] In January 2018, Matt Booty was promoted from leader in the Minecraft games business to corporate vice-president of Microsoft Studios.[66]

On June 10, 2018, during the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2018, Microsoft announced the acquisitions of Ninja Theory, Playground Games, Undead Labs and Compulsion Games,[67] as well as the opening of a new studio in Santa Monica, California, entitled The Initiative, which would be led by the former Crystal Dynamics studio head Darrell Gallagher.[68] In November, Microsoft Studios announced further acquisitions with Obsidian Entertainment and inXile Entertainment.[69]

As Xbox Game Studios (2019–present)

The studio rebranded itself on February 5, 2019 as Xbox Game Studios, as to reflect Microsoft's intent to use the Xbox brand to support gaming across all the devices it supports.[70][71] At E3 2019, Xbox Game Studios announced it had acquired Double Fine,[72] and established a new internal studio dedicated to Age of Empires headed by Shannon Loftis, bringing their total studio count to fifteen.[73]


The following is a list of studios have are were formerly under Xbox Game Studios, along with games or series that they worked on with Microsoft as the publisher.


As of June 2019, Xbox Game Studios consists of fifteen internal studios and their Xbox Global Publishing division.

United Kingdom
United States


Sold or spun off
Closed or consolidated


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External links

343 Industries

343 Industries is an American video game developer located in Redmond, Washington. Named after the Halo character 343 Guilty Spark, the company was established in 2007 by Microsoft Game Studios (now called Xbox Game Studios) to oversee the development of the Halo science fiction media franchise following a split between Microsoft and Bungie. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary was the first title released by 343 Industries in which they played a lead development role. The newest release from the company was Halo: Fireteam Raven in 2018. 343 is currently developing Halo Infinite.

Bonnie Ross

Bonnie Ross is an American video games developer and Corporate Vice President at Xbox Game Studios. Ross established and is the head of 343 Industries, the subsidiary studio that manages the Halo video game franchise.

Compulsion Games

Compulsion Games Inc. is a Canadian video game developer known for Contrast and We Happy Few. The studio is located in a former gramophone factory in the Saint-Henri district of Montreal. In 2018, Compulsion Games became part of Microsoft Studios (now known as Xbox Game Studios).

Double Fine

Double Fine Productions, Inc. is an American video game developer based in San Francisco, founded in July 2000 by Tim Schafer after his departure from LucasArts. In June 2019, it became part of Xbox Game Studios.

Though the company's first two games Psychonauts and Brütal Legend were critically praised, both underperformed publishers' expectations. The future of the company was assured when Schafer turned to several in-house prototypes built during a two-week period known as "Amnesia Fortnight" to expand as smaller titles, all of which were licensed through publishers and met with commercial success. Schafer has since repeated these Amnesia Fortnights, using fan-voting mechanics, to help select and build smaller titles. Double Fine is also credited with driving interest in crowdfunding in video games, having been able to raise more than US$3 million for the development of Broken Age, at the time one of the largest projects funded by Kickstarter. The company has continued to build on their independent developer status and has promoted efforts to help other, smaller independent developers through its clout, including becoming a video game publisher for these titles. Double Fine has also been able to acquire rights to remaster some of the earlier LucasArts adventure games, including Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle, and Full Throttle.

The Double Fine website is also host to seven webcomics, which are created by members of Double Fine's art team and are collectively referred to as the Double Fine Comics.

Fable (video game series)

Fable is a series of action role-playing video games for Xbox, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Xbox 360 and Xbox One platforms. The series was developed by Lionhead Studios until the studio was closed in 2016, and is published by Xbox Game Studios. Flaming Fowl Studios released a Free-to-play card game called Fable Fortune in July 2017.

Forza (series)

Forza ( FORTS-ə; Italian for "power") is a series of semi-sim racing video games for Xbox consoles and Microsoft Windows published by Xbox Game Studios. The franchise is primarily divided into two series; the original Forza Motorsport series developed by American developer Turn 10 Studios, which focuses on primarily professional-style track racing events and series, and the open world-styled Forza Horizon series mainly developed by British developer Playground Games, which revolves around a fictitious "annual" music and racing festival called the "Horizon Festival" that is held in fictional representations of real world areas. Each main installment of both series have so far been released on a biennial basis, with Motorsport entries releasing in odd-numbered years and Horizon entries releasing in even-numbered years.

Forza seeks to emulate the performance and handling characteristics of a large number of real-life production, modified and racing cars. Forza Motorsport is often seen as Microsoft's answer to Sony's Gran Turismo series for the PlayStation systems.

Gears 5

Gears 5 is an upcoming third-person shooter video game being developed by The Coalition that will be published by Xbox Game Studios for Microsoft Windows and Xbox One as part of Xbox Play Anywhere. The sixth installment of the Gears of War series, it is the sequel to Gears of War 4 and is scheduled to be released on September 10, 2019.

Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite is an upcoming first-person shooter video game developed by 343 Industries and published by Xbox Game Studios for Microsoft Windows, Xbox One and the upcoming Project Scarlett. The game is scheduled to be released in 2020 and is the sixth main entry of the Halo series. It continues the story of the Master Chief as the third chapter of the Reclaimer saga, following Halo 5: Guardians.

InXile Entertainment

inXile Entertainment, Inc. (pronounced "in exile") is an American video game developer that specializes in role-playing video games. The company was formed in late 2002 by Brian Fargo, a founder of Interplay Productions. The company is headquartered in Newport Beach, California, and, since 2015, has a subsidiary studio in New Orleans.On November 10, 2018, at X018, it was announced that the studio had been acquired by Microsoft and become part of Microsoft Studios (now known as Xbox Game Studios).

List of Relic Entertainment games

Relic Entertainment is a Canadian video game developer based in Vancouver and founded in June 1997 by Alex Garden and Luke Moloney. After its debut title Homeworld (1999), the company developed two more games, Impossible Creatures (2003) and Homeworld 2 (2003), and signed a contract with publisher THQ for an additional two games. Before either game was released, however, Relic was bought by THQ in May 2004 for US$10.2 million in cash; the company was renamed THQ Canada, with "Relic Entertainment" used as a marketing brand by the studio. THQ published the next five games by the company. A few months after being purchased, Relic released its first licensed title, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War (2004). It released two more original titles in 2006, The Outfit and Company of Heroes, before transitioning to focus on further titles and expansion packs in the Warhammer 40,000 and Company of Heroes franchises.

In December 2012, THQ declared bankruptcy and began selling off its properties and subsidiary companies; THQ Canada was auctioned to Sega in January 2013, for US$26.6 million, along with the rights to the Company of Heroes franchise. The studio was then renamed back to Relic Entertainment. Since joining Sega, Relic has released one more title in both the Warhammer and Company of Heroes franchises, both published by Sega. It is currently developing Age of Empires IV, to be published by Xbox Game Studios.

List of Xbox Game Studios video games

Xbox Game Studios (formerly Microsoft Games, Microsoft Game Studios and Microsoft Studios) is an American video game publisher that acts as a division of technology company Microsoft. The division was created in March 2000 and replaced Microsoft's internal Games Group. This is a list of games that were published by Microsoft through the Games Group and, later, through Xbox Game Studios.

MSN Games

MSN Games (also known as - formerly known as The Village, Internet Gaming Zone, MSN Gaming Zone, and MSN Games by is a casual gaming web site, with single player, multiplayer, PC download, and social casino video games. Games are available in free online, trial, and full feature pay-to-play versions.

MSN Games is a part of Xbox Game Studios, associated with the MSN portal, and is owned by Microsoft, headquartered in Redmond, Washington.


Mojang AB (from Swedish mojäng; Swedish pronunciation: [mʊˈjɛŋː]; lit. "gadget") is a Swedish video game developer based in Stockholm. The company was founded as Mojang Specifications in 2009 by Markus Persson, and transformed into Mojang AB in 2010 with Jakob Porsér. Mojang is best known for creating Minecraft (released in 2011), the best-selling video game of all time. In November 2014, Mojang became part of Microsoft Studios (now known as Xbox Game Studios).

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is an upcoming platform-adventure Metroidvania video game developed by Moon Studios and published by Microsoft Xbox Game Studios for Microsoft Windows and Xbox One. It is a sequel to the 2015 title Ori and the Blind Forest and was announced during Electronic Entertainment Expo 2017.

The game is planned to be a 4K UHD, Xbox One X Enhanced and Xbox Play Anywhere title.

Playground Games

Playground Games Limited is a British video game developer and based in Leamington Spa, England. It is known for developing the Forza Horizon series, which is part of the larger Forza franchise. In 2018, Playground Games became part of Microsoft Studios (now known as Xbox Game Studios).

Psychonauts 2

Psychonauts 2 is an upcoming platform video game developed by Double Fine and published by Xbox Game Studios. The game was announced at The Game Awards 2015 ceremony, and is planned for release in 2020.

Double Fine and game director Tim Schafer had expressed the desire to create a sequel to Psychonauts, but the financial demand of developing the game stalled any serious attempt. After strong sales of the original through various outlets along with strong demand from the fanbase of the original game, Double Fine sought to acquire part of its financial capital to fund the developments of Psychonauts 2 through a US$3.3 million crowd-funding and investment drive through Fig, launched simultaneously with the game's announcement. The campaign raised nearly $4 million by the beginning of 2016.

The Coalition (company)

The Coalition (formerly Zipline Studios, Microsoft Game Studios Vancouver and Black Tusk Studios) is a Canadian video game developer based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and a subsidiary of Xbox Game Studios. The Coalition is best known for developing games in the Gears of War series after the franchise's acquisition by Xbox Game Studios from Epic Games.

Turn 10 Studios

Turn 10 Studios is an American video game developer based in Redmond, Washington. The company was established in 2001 under Microsoft Game Studios (now known as Xbox Game Studios) to develop the Forza series for Xbox platforms. The most recent game developed Turn 10 is Forza Motorsport 7, released in 2017.

Undead Labs

Undead Labs LLC is an American video game developer based in Seattle, Washington. The company was founded in November 2009 by Jeff Strain and developed the State of Decay series. In 2018, Undead Labs became part of Microsoft Studios (now known as Xbox Game Studios).

Xbox Game Studios
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