The State of Xbox's First Party Studios - 2020 Edition
Features Opinion

The State of Xbox’s First Party Studios – 2020 Edition

The State of Xbox’s First Party Studios – 2020 Edition

It has been a few years since we’ve done a deep dive into the first-party studios and the slate of games that they’re bringing to their respective systems, but it’s 2020, there’s been a lot of change across the board over the last few years, and new consoles are on the horizon. So with that in mind, it’s time we looked at what each of Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo are bringing to the big dance in 2020. We’ll begin by looking at each of Xbox’s first-party studios and what they’re up to.


343 Industries

What’ve They Done

The House of Halo has been busy since they picked up the reins from Bungie close to a decade ago. With two core entries in the form of Halo 4 and Halo 5, as well as the Halo Master Chief Collection, which is now complete and fully functional, 343 Industries seem to have finally gained their sea legs. 

What Are They Doing in 2020?

We’ve seen Halo Infinite in trailer form at each of the last two E3s, and with a confirmed launch of Holiday 2020 alongside the release of the Xbox Series X, development has most certainly hit its stride. Expect to be seeing and hearing a lot from 343 Industries in 2020.

The State of Xbox's First Party Studios - 2020 Edition

The Coalition

What’ve They Done

Built specifically to work on the Gears franchise after Microsoft purchased it from Epic Games following the release of Gears of War Judgment, The Coalition, helmed by Rod Ferguson has been on nothing short of a tear with releases of Gears of War 4 and Gears 5 in the years since taking on the IP. Throw in a remaster of the original game and we’re looking at Xbox’s most prolific studio of the last few years

What Are They Doing in 2020?

Gears 5 is still getting support in 2020 so expect that to be the primary focus, and with Gears Tactics only a few months off as well (though The Coalition aren’t the primary developers) you can expect to be seeing a lot of Gears throughout the year.

The State of Xbox's First Party Studios - 2020 Edition

Compulsion Games

What’ve They Done

Compulsion first burst onto the scene with the release of Contrast for the PS4 at the launch of the console in 2013, and were busy working on We Happy Few for Gearbox when Xbox swooped in and brought them into the fold. We Happy Few divided players and critics alike, but Compulsion and the stylish titles they create, serve as a great point of difference for Xbox Game Studios.

What Are They Doing in 2020?

We Happy Few was fairly well supported even into 2019 so it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be seeing the release of anything new in this calendar year. With full pockets from Microsoft though, it could be possible that the team’s next project is deep enough into development that they might reveal what their next work is but don’t go expecting anything more than that.

The State of Xbox's First Party Studios - 2020 Edition

Double Fine

What’ve They Done

Double Fine had been a prolific indie studio for 19 years until this year when, in a surprise to practically everyone, Tim Schafer and his team joined the Xbox Game Studios family. 2019 was a year of clearing the decks of old deals, RAD released in partnership with Bandai Namco, and Psychonauts 2, while to be published by Xbox will still be coming to PS4 due to the intial funding sourced from Fig. 

What Are They Doing in 2020?

Presumably, hopefully, 2020 is the year where we finally see the release of Psychonauts 2, it has been 15 years coming at this point, but beyond that who knows? Double Fine are an incredibly creative studio who develop far more new IP than sequels so it stands to reason that following Psychonauts 2 that we see something new. Regardless, it won’t be long before we see what’s next.

The State of Xbox's First Party Studios - 2020 Edition

The Initiative

What’ve They Done

Nothing! The Initiative was formed in 2018 with the task of developing a AAAA (Yep, that’s A times four!) for the Xbox family. Word is that being based in Santa Monica they’ve been stealing some talent from the pool that usually finds its way to Sony’s Santa Monica Studio, but they’re helmed by Crystal Dynamics alum Darrell Gallagher, so the news looks good for the fledgling studio. 

What Are They Doing in 2020?

We’re about due to hear what the team might be up to. There won’t be any need to release their first work, (not that it would be ready), in time for the Xbox Series X given that Halo Infinite is serving as the flag carrier there, but it is possible that we get a reveal this year so that Xbox can further tease what’s coming further down the road. A chance for either E3 or X020 later this year perhaps?

The State of Xbox's First Party Studios - 2020 Edition

inXile Entertainment

What’ve They Done

inXile have really begun to establish themselves as a force in the CRPG space thanks to their work on Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera. They’ve been in constant need of support from crowdfunding over the last few years so the weight of Microsoft behind them should be an enormous boon for the studio.

What Are They Doing in 2020?

Wasteland 3 is deep in production and, like Psychonauts 2 for Double Fine will be releasing on the PlayStation platforms due to prior commitments, but beyond that it is heads down on whatever is next. With Microsoft’s deep pockets you can assume that there are already a few folk shifting to whatever that project is, but we may need to wait a while to learn more about it. 

The State of Xbox's First Party Studios - 2020 Edition

Mojang

What’ve They Done

Just this little thing called Minecraft. Though they’re not the most experienced of the Microsoft studios, and they’ve released among the fewest titles, they’re probably also the biggest bread-winner with arguably the biggest game on the globe.

What Are They Doing in 2020?

Minecraft continues to be their bread and butter and with Minecraft Dungeons on the way you can’t expect things to slow down. There’s continued speculation from fans that we’ll one day see a Minecraft 2, but with all the iterations that we see hitting the current game, and constant reinvention, it’s hard to see when or if this would even happen.

The State of Xbox's First Party Studios - 2020 Edition

Ninja Theory

What’ve They Done

The incredibly talented team at Ninja Theory have found several secure wings to live under for many years, PlayStation, Capcom, Bandai-Namco, but it was the acquisition by Xbox in 2018 that gave them the financial solidarity they’d been so desperately craving for many years. The team behind Hellblade, Heavenly Sword, DmC and Enslaved is bursting with talent and serves as one of Microsoft’s premier purchases of the last few years.

What Are They Doing in 2020?

We thought we knew Ninja Theory’s 2020 quite well with the impending launch of Bleeding Edge, a competitive side project coming this March, and then they dropped a bomb at The Game Awards revealing Hellblade II. Don’t expect a release in 2020, but expect to learn more about what is now one of everyone’s most anticipated Xbox Series X exclusives.

The State of Xbox's First Party Studios - 2020 Edition

Obsidian

What’ve They Done

Another massive pick-up for Xbox in the last couple of years, Obsidian are running hot at the moment following the launch of The Outer Worlds and Microsoft hopes they can bring that form to their next works. The team has worked on South Park: The Stick of Truth, Fallout: New Vegas, Alpha Protocol, Pillars of Eternity and a host of other excellent games, so their pedigree speaks for itself

What Are They Doing in 2020?

At X019 Obsidian announced new game, a very different title to what we’ve come to associate with the team. Grounded is a co-op survival game that stands in contrast to what we’ve seen previously from the studio. As well as Grounded, a team within Obsidian continues to work on the Switch version of The Outer Worlds. Hopefully, a pocket have moved onto whatever is next for the studio.

The State of Xbox's First Party Studios - 2020 Edition

Playground Games

What’ve They Done

Up until this point Playground has been known for the Forza Horizon sub-series. They’ve released one every other year beginning in 2012 and with each title their profile as a studio has grown. They were officially brought into the fold this year guaranteeing their long term future.

What Are They Doing in 2020?

Though it doesn’t take a genius to assume that there’s a Forza Horizon 5 title somewhere in the works, we also know that they’ve formed a second team, a team charged with the development of an RPG. Many presume that RPG to be a Fable title, and with it being Xbox’s premiere RPG franchise, with British tendencies, and Playground being a British developer… it checks out! This year will likely be the year we learn about whatever it is that that team has been working on

The State of Xbox's First Party Studios - 2020 Edition

Rare

What’ve They Done

What haven’t they done? Rare is one of the oldest still operating studios in the business and when they joined Xbox in the early 2000s magic was in the air. It didn’t really work out early days but with the release of Sea of Thieves, the continued improvement of that title and now the recently revealed Everwild, it seems they’re continuing their trajectory back to stardom.

What Are They Doing in 2020?

Word is that as well as developing Everwild, and continuing on Sea of Thieves, that they’re also consulting on Dlala Studios’ reboot of Battletoads, so they’re pretty hard at work in all corners. Expect to hear more about Everwild throughout the year.

The State of Xbox's First Party Studios - 2020 Edition

Turn 10

What’ve They Done

One of the very first studios to be built as a first party studio for Xbox, Turn 10 have been solely responsible for the birth and nurturing of the Forza franchise, only to be joined by Playground 7 year after the launch of the first Forza Motorsport. To date, they created seven core entries in the franchise but have been silent over the last couple of years.

What Are They Doing in 2020?

Outside of Halo because it’s already official, there’s almost no surer thing coming to the Xbox Series X this year than Forza Motorsport 8. Expect a reveal by E3 at the latest ahead of a launch alongside the new console.

The State of Xbox's First Party Studios - 2020 Edition

Undead Labs

What’ve They Done

Undead Labs have only ever produced 2 games, State of Decay and its sequel, State of Decay 2 in 2018. They were picked up by Microsoft to join the family in 2018, and have continued their support of State of Decay 2 in the months and years since that point.

What Are They Doing in 2020?

Though State of Decay 2 is likely to continue receiving some love from the team throughout 2020, it’s fair to assume that the bulk of the team have pivoted their focus to a third title, whether that’s a State of Decay 3 or other. It’s possible we might learn more this year, but it also seems like a second-wave game making it more likely that we won’t hear anything until 2021.

The State of Xbox's First Party Studios - 2020 Edition

World’s Edge

What’ve They Done

Born to become the stewards of the Age of Empires IP. Microsoft announced the existence of World’s Edge at X019 this past year

What Are They Doing in 2020?

With the recent Age of Empires 2 Remaster and the fact that Age of Empires 4 is well into development, World’s Edge is going to be fairly busy in 2020. Though playing Age of Empires 4 seems unlikely, there should be plenty for opportunities to see the game in action throughout the year to come.

The State of Xbox's First Party Studios - 2020 Edition

So there you have it, the state of each of Xbox’s internal, first-party studios? Which is your favourite? What do you think each will be getting up to in 2020? Be sure to let us know via our social channels!