Microsoft buy Forza Horizon and Hellblade studios, and more

Microsoft have gone on a spending spree, buying four studios and opening a new one of their own. During their E3 pressblast tonight, Microsoft announced that they’ve picked up Forza Horizon developers Playground Games, Hellblade developers Ninja Theory, State Of Decay developers Undead Labs, and We Happy Few developers Compulsion Games. They’ve also opened The Initiative, a new studio in Santa Monica with a name like a faction of WWE heels.

All of the newly-Microsofted studios have put out statements that say–and I’m paraphrasing here–“We’re excited to join Microsoft, not least of all because they have bountiful resources, and we’re going to make good games and all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Basically.

As for how it works out in reality, well, we’ll see over the next few years. With all of Microsoft’s own games also being PC games these days, albeit tending to require Windows 10 and its lousy Store, everything these studios make should still be coming our way.

As for The Initiative, it sounds like Microsoft want more home-grown ‘indie’-style games.

“We’ve been given the freedom to explore, try new things and operate like an independent studio, with the backing from one of the biggest companies in the world to do something bold and different,” studio head Darrell Gallagher said. He was formerly the head of Crystal Dynamics.

Playground Games announced Forza Horizon 4 tonight too, racing around old Blighty, so they’ve certainly had a big day.

Check out our E3 2018 tag for more announcements, trailers, news, and goodness knows what else.


  1. int says:

    Senua’s sacrificed.

  2. Jokerme says:

    Four more dead studios. Such a shame.

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      That’s a bit of a reach. Studios turned into first party devs for publishers hasn’t always ended well, but it has worked for some (eg Naughty Dog). Ninja Theory seem pretty happy about it:

      • mitrovarr says:

        The problem with Microsoft is that they don’t care at all about the success or failure of games, they just use them to try to push anti-consumer stuff nobody wants. Remember those games that required GFWL subscriptions for the multiplayer, like that Shadowrun game nobody played?

        So when Ninja Theory’s next game comes out and is an online multiplayer-only game that is only sold on the Windows 10 store, plays in a start menu tile, and requires an Xbox Live subscription and a Kinect, don’t be surprised. And when it subsequently sells only 3 copies (to reviewers who didn’t get codes) and tanks, MS won’t care, because they didn’t need the money. But they’ll still hold it against the studio.

    • Carra says:

      Yeah, I’m still not over M$ closing Ensemble Studios.

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        Ninja Dodo says:

        I was always really puzzled by that studio getting closed when it seemed so consistently successful, but then I read Schreier’s “Blood Sweat & Pixels” book which among other things covers the final days of Ensemble (around Halo Wars) and it sounds like such a mess that I’m not sure you can blame Microsoft on that one. Honestly that book should have been called “A Series of Trainwrecks”, because accurate or not, that’s how it reads for the most part.

  3. -Alligator- says:

    I’m so sad about this. RIP Ninja Theory.

  4. StAUG says:

    Please don’t lock a Hellblade sequel behind the Windows store :(

    • cpt_freakout says:

      That’s exactly what is going to happen, isn’t it.

      • mitrovarr says:

        I suspect the Windows store will be dead or so unpopular by the time any sequel comes out that it might escape. What worries me is that they’ll be blandified and filled with microtransactions like all big company games seem to be lately. And then they’ll be unpopular and the studio will die off.

        • Mokinokaro says:

          Microsoft has been pretty good about avoiding microtransactions.

          I think the only thing they’ve published with them in the last yearish is Forza?

          • Janichsan says:

            You haven’t looked very hard: Halo 5, Halo Wars 2, GoW 4, Minecraft (Windows 10/Mobile Edition), and Killer Instict all were full with microtransactions. And Sea of Thieves will be getting them in the near future (if it hasn’t already).

          • mattevansc3 says:

            Killer Instincts is a bit harsh seeing as that’s a F2P game.

      • DanMan says:

        Probably. They already said in the video that they fill be “focused on MS’ platforms”. So XBox and Win10, just like Remedy (Max Payne, Alan Wake).

        Farewell, Ninja Theory. Nice knowing ya. I hope you enjoy your creative freedom.

    • Pulstar says:

      Hellblade never needed a sequel though.

  5. Kurokawa says:



  6. Hyperion says:

    classic microsoft. They all got github’d cause someone complained the xbone doesn’t have very much exclusives.

  7. Ejia says:

    I suppose they’re intent on matching EA’s bodycount of beloved, but dead studios.

  8. pookie191 says:

    Sorry Microsoft but buying the awesome Ninja Theory still wont convince me to use your store for the sequel to hellblade

  9. grimdanfango says:

    Yeesh, so apparently succeeding in breaking new ground in small independant triple-A-quality production is just a great way to get swallowed up and spat out by the very publishing system you were demonstrating an alternative to.

    And I genuinely excited to see what Ninja Theory did next too. Scratch ’em off the list I guess…

    • agentghost says:

      oh damn, big fat corporation bought up smaller studios ala Sony & nintendo. But they are Eastern companies and therefore blameless

    • BooleanBob says:

      Bit weird that just a few months ago they were still crowing about the ‘indie AAA’ model, and receiving obliging thinkpieces everywhere about how they were forging a path for medium-sized studios, that soon the rivers would flow freely with fiercely independent games that blended creative vision with technical fidelity and etc etc etc.

      It kind of reminds me of Sin Episodes and the similarly short-lived hype that episodic games were going to liberate the industry. Although, to be fair, there were a few studios who managed to make that model work.

    • DanMan says:

      Yeah, I’m a bit disappointed, too, TBH. They were all like “please help us to carve out this niche between AAA and Indie so we can be free to make great games on our own without a major publisher” and then it was nothing but a ploy to increase their market value and sell out? Nice…

      Now it looks like they never really wanted to be independent in the first place. Only that no publisher was interested in them.

  10. Evan_ says:

    Well, we -bound- to have some really impressive WinStore exclusive titles we can ignore before even MS realizes how utter failure of a concept that is.

  11. ZenArcade says:

    What happened to the semi-triple A indie games Ninja Theory wanted to make? What a load of bull.

    Can’t blame them for wanting stable employment in this economy, and in this industry especially, but now it makes their premise to make AAA quality indie games look like a load of bullshit.

  12. Mezelf says:

    God fucking damnit, Ninja Theory

  13. cardigait says:

    Nice choice, now sell those games on Steam or at least on Gog and i’ll gladly play them.

  14. Jernau Gurgeh says:

    Will Ninja Theory be put to work on the next versions of Bubble Witch and Candy Crush Saga that repeatedly infest themselves onto Windows 10 no matter how many hacks and registry edits you make to burn them with fire?

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