Forward-looking: With their E3 showcase right around the corner, rumors are flying that Microsoft has acquired five more game developers for their Xbox Game Studios lineup, giving them a growing roster of first-party output they can leverage for their Game Pass-focused strategy for this console generation.
Microsoft made waves last year with the purchase of ZeniMax, parent of Bethesda Softworks, bringing its collection of game IP and development teams into the Xbox Game Studios brand. It was a dramatic move aimed to strengthen the assortment of first-party exclusives that the Xbox Series X|S would have in the future, an area where Xbox lost big time to Sony's PlayStation last generation.
Now Microsoft is rumored to be bringing another five studios in-house. Colteastwood of the Xbox News Cast podcast stated cryptically that "26 is the new 23" on Thursday, before adding that "28 is better" a day later – seemingly referring to the number of studios working under the Xbox umbrella. While reporter Jeff Grubb added to the speculation by claiming to have heard IO Interactive, Avalanche, and Crytek mentioned in relation to the acquisitions, with mention of NetherRealm and Rocksteady picked up after that.
IO Interactive is best known for the Hitman series, and was part of Square Enix until a management buyout brought them independence in mid-2017; Avalanche, currently owned by Nordisk Film, have Mad Max and the Just Cause series under their belt, as well as having worked with id Software on Rage 2.
Crytek put themselves on the map with the first Far Cry title, and of course, the Crysis trilogy, while NetherRealm and Rocksteady have found success with DC Comics' IP, producing the Injustice and Batman Arkham games, respectively.
Microsoft's strategy for the current generation is heavily focused on Game Pass, quickly snapping up third-party games like Outriders and aiming to cover console, PC, and even TVs via xCloud game streaming.
But getting more developers working under the Xbox Game Studios umbrella means more exclusives in the future, and Microsoft's pledge to bring them to Game Pass immediately on release makes the subscription ever more enticing to gamers that simply might not have the stomach (or wallet!) for waves of $70 new releases.