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Analysis First party studios |OT| Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo

Jubenhimer

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Mod edit: As this post generally crosses platforms and publishers, it will be subject to strricter moderation in terms of derails or inciting console wars. It's a genuine attempt to have opinions from all sides of the coin. While there will be points of contention we expect these to be in good faith. Personal insults, or subtle attempts to derail the thread will earn a reply ban.

In the run-up to next generation, one trend is becoming increasingly clear. Each of the big three, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft are preparing to double down on their own First Party Development empires. As development costs increase and third party exclusives become more non-existant on most systems, it's up to the platform holders to deliver unique, and groundbreaking software in order to bring attention to why you should care about them and their box. So let's examine the state of each of the Big 3's Software divisions, and what their plans are as we head into Gen 9

XBOX GAME STUDIOS:



President - Matt Booty

Microsoft has fallen from grace with first party support on the Xbox One. While there were a few stand outs like Sunset Overdrive and Ori and the Blind Forest, the company simply just hasn't been publishing enough games in recent years to keep up with the others. With Scarlett on the way, and Xbox Game Pass needing content to reel in subscribers, Microsoft has rebuilt the now renamed Xbox Game Studios with a flurry of new acquisitions. In addition, these new studios are promised a large degree of creative autonomy and a bottom-less budget to go with it.

Studios:

343 Industries
* Studio Head - Bonnie Ross
* Recent Game - Halo Infinite

World's Edge
* Studio Head - Shannon Loftis
* Recent game - AoE Definitive Edition

The Coalition
* Studio Head - Rod Ferguson
* Recent Game - Gears 5

Compulsion Games
* Studio Head -Guillaume Provost
* Recent Game - We Happy Few

Double Fine
* Studio Head - Tim Schaffer
* Recent Game - Psychonauts 2

The Initiative
* Studio Head - Darrell Gallagher
* Recent Game - TBA

inXile
* Studio Head - Chris Keenan
* Recent Game - Wasteland 3

Mojang
* Studio Head - Jonas Mårtensson
* Recent Game - Minecraft Dungeons

Ninja Theory
* Studio Head - Nina Kristensen
* Recent Game - Bleeding Edge

Obsidian Entertainment
* Studio Head - Feargus Urquhart
* Recent Game - The Outer Worlds, Grounded

Playground Games
* Studio Head - Gavin Raeburn
* Recent Game - Forza Horizon 4

Rare
* Studio Head - Craig Duncan
* Recent Game - Sea of Thieves, EVERWILD

Turn 10
* Studio Head - Alan Heartman
* Recent Game - Forza Street

Undead Labs
* Studio Head - Ted Woolsey
* Recent Game - State of Decay 2

Xbox Game Studios Publishing
* A department specializing in producing games from independent studios
* Recent Games - Crackdown 3, Tell Me Why

So Far, Microsoft has a pretty promising stable of talent, with well known developers now under their belt. Of course, how they use this talent will have to be seen. But they at least have a much healthier stable now than they did for most of the Xbox One.

SONY INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT WORLDWIDE STUDIOS:



President - Hermen Hulst

Sony Interactive has done some house cleaning on Management of Worldwide Studios. Shawn Layden is out as Chairman, Shuei Yoshida left to head a new Indie initiative, and co-founder of Guerrilla Games, Hermen Hulst, was put in charge of the entire show. Sony also finally made the move to acquire its longtime ally, Insomniac Games, developers of the Ratchet & Clank series, as well as the recent Spider-Man PS4 game. WWS is split up between 13 main studios, and 5 support studios which help them out.

Main Studios:

SIE London Studio
* Studio Head - Stuart Whyte
* Recent Game - Erica, Blood & Truth

Guerrilla Games
* Studio Head -Angie Smets
* Recent Game - Horizon: Zero Dawn, Death Stranding (With Kojima Productions)

Media Molecule
* Studio Head - Mark Healey
* Recent Game - Dreams

Naughty Dog
* Studio Head - Evan Wells
* Recent Game - The Last of Us Part 2

SIE Santa Monica Studio
* Studio Head - Shannon Studstill
* Recent Game - God of War (2018)

SIE San Diego Studio
* Studio Head - Christian Phillips
* Recent Game - MLB The Show 2020

SIE Bend Studio
* Studio Head - Christopher Reese
* Recent Game - Days Gone

Sucker Punch
* Studio Head - Brain Flemming, Chris Zimmerman
* Recent Game - Ghosts of Tsushima

PixelOpus
* Studio Head - Unknown
* Recent Game - Concrete Genie

Polyphony Digital
* Studio Head - Kazunori Yamauchi
* Recent Game - Gran Turismo Sport

SIE Japan Studio
* Studio Head - Allan Becker
* Recent Game - Astro Bot: Rescue Mission

SIE Manchester Studio
* Studio Head - Unknown
* Recent Game - PS VR titles

Insomniac Games
* Studio Head - Ted Price
* Recent Game - Spider-Man (2018)

Support Studios:

XDEV
Visual Arts
Wwise
SIE San Mateo Studio
SIE Malaysia Studio

Sony has been leading the pack so far for most of the generation. Producing hit after hit for the PS4. It's likely that trend will continue in the hands of Hulst for the PS5.

NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT (EPD):



President - Shinya Takahashi

Nintendo is known for its award-winning first party software. Of the big 3, they're the only ones who can carry a console solely on the sheer quantity and quality of the games they publish and develop. At the center of it, is the Entertainment Planning and Development division (EPD) led by Shinya Takahashi, formed after the merger of the Shigeru Miyamoto-Led Entertainment Analysis and Development (EAD), and Takahashi's Software Planning and Development Division (SPD). EPD is structured differently from Sony and Microsoft's divisions. Rather than studios, EPD is instead comprised a few key departments. The "Production & Planning Department" which consists of of 11 "Production Groups", and the "Software Development Department", the flagship internal studio with teams in both Kyoto and Tokyo that develop most of Nintendo's in-house games. Each Production Group not only manages internally developed creations, but each also has direct oversight of all Nintendo games made by outside studios.

Planning & Production Department:

Production Group No. 1
* Group Head - Hitoshi Yamagami
* Recent Games - Astral Chain, Super Kirby Clash, Pokemon Sword & Shield

Production Group No. 2
* Group Head - Toshiharu Izuno
* Recent Games - BoxBoy + BoxGirl, The Stretchers

Production Group No. 3
* Group Head - Eji Aounuma
* Recent Games - The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (2019), Breath of the Wild Sequel

Production Group No. 4
* Group Head - Koichi Kawamoto
* Recent Games - Ring Fit Adventure, Brain Age for Nintendo Switch

Production Group No. 5
* Group Head - Aya Kyogoku
* Recent Games - Splatoon 2, Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Production Group No. 6
* Group Head - Yoshihito Ikebata
* Recent Games - WarioWare Gold, Luigi's Mansion 3

Production Group No. 7
* Group Head - Katsuya Yamano
* Recent Games - Metroid: Samus Returns, Famicom Detective Club Remakes

Production Group No. 8
* Group Head - Koichi Hayashida
* Recent Games - Super Mario Odyssey, Captain Toad Treasure Tracker (Switch & 3DS)

Production Group No. 9
* Group Head - Kosuke Yabuki
* Recent Games - ARMS, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Production Group No. 10
* Group Head - Hiroyuki Kimura
* Recent Games - New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, Super Mario Maker 2

Smart Device Production Group
* Group Head - Hideki Konno
* Recent Games - Mario Kart Tour, Dr. Mario World

Subsidiary Studios:

Nintendo EPD Software Development Department
Monolith Soft
NDCube
Retro Studios
Creatures
1-UP Studio
Nintendo Software Technology

Exclusive Partner Studios:

Intelligent Systems
HAL Laboratory
Grezzo
Good Feel
Indieszero
Camelot Software Planning
Skip Ltd.
Arzest
Vanpool
Next Level Games
Genius Sorority
Ambrella
Jupiter Corporation

What else is there to say? It's Nintendo. Between their partner studios, and in-house creations, they've shown they're able to carry the Switch on the backs of their strong IPs and original games.
 
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dottme

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Astral Chain was directly from Nintendo? I was under the impression that it was mainly driven by Platinum Game.
 
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Jubenhimer

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Astral Chain was directly from Nintendo? I was under the impression that it was mainly driven by Platinum Game.
It's a Platinum Games Creation. But it was developed under the Production jurisdiction of EPD Production Group No. 1. Regardless of if Platinum made it, the dev team ultimately answers to Nintendo. As I said that's how Nintendo handles all of its externally developed games. One of their production groups has direct oversight of the studio working on it, be it internal or external.
 
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God Enel

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Awesome thread. I never knew the structure of Nintendo so it’s nice to see. Was looking for retro studios/donkey Kong and you listed them as subsidiary.
👍🏼👍🏼
 

dottme

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It's a Platinum Games Creation. But it was developed under the Production jurisdiction of EPD Production Group No. 1. Regardless of if Platinum made it, the dev team ultimately answers to Nintendo. As I said that's how Nintendo handles all of its externally developed games. One of their production groups has direct oversight of the studio working on it, be it internal or external.
Thank you for the details.
 

Jubenhimer

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Rumors are floating around that X019 (Basically Xbox's PSX) will be presenting new IPs from both Rare and Obsidian tomorrow. Check it out if you're interested.
 

Jubenhimer

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A new IP from Rare is coming. It's called EVERWILD.


There's also Grounded from Obsidian.

 
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Ryu Kaiba

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Nintendo should rename their first party studios. Everyone else has such cool names and gets recognition for their output. It might be a bit more motivating knowing your a part of "Naughty Dog!" "The Initiative!" "Sony Santa Monica!" "Guerrilla Games!"

and not just... "Product group no.5"
 
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Jubenhimer

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Nintendo should rename their first party studios. Everyone else has such cool names and gets recognition for their output. It might be a bit more motivating knowing your a part of "Naughty Dog!" "The Initiative!" "Sony Santa Monica!" "Guerrilla Games!"

and not just... "Product group no.5"
Nintendo structures its production a bit differently from Sony and Microsoft. Nintendo has studios with cool names like the other two, "Intelligent Systems", "Monolith Soft", "indieszero", "NDcube". The Production Groups simply just oversee and manage the development of games, be it from the internal software department, or outside studios like the ones listed above. Each group actually works with multiple studios at a time, and from my knowledge, get to pick and choose which developers they want to work with.
 
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Jubenhimer

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Phill Spencer said a while ago that Xbox would like to have an Asian studio to add to their studios. I think it'd be a good idea to have at least one Japanese developer under their belt.
 
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Ar¢tos

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I never realized that MS doesn't have support studios. Even with support studios Sony outsources a lot. MS could have smaller production costs by creating a few support studios.
 

whitereport

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I never realized that MS doesn't have support studios. Even with support studios Sony outsources a lot. MS could have smaller production costs by creating a few support studios.
The thing is Microsoft does have support teams. I don't know them all, there are probably more, but here are a few:
- Xbox Advanced Technology Group
- The Gaming Experiences and Platform team
- Xbox Game Studios Support

Not only those, but first party studios also have full availability of all the tools, platforms and services provided in Microsoft Game Stack, which are:
- PlayFab
- Xbox Live (obviously)
- Mixer
- DirectX
- Simplygon
- Havok
- Power BI
- Windows
- Azure
- Visual Studio
- Visual Studio AppCenter

And of course they can collaborate with other Microsoft subsidiaries. An example of this is the collaboration between The Coalition (Gears of War) and Microsoft Research to develop the wave physics and acoustics systems used in the sound of Gears of War 4.
 
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Ar¢tos

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The thing is Microsoft does have support teams. I don't know them all, there are probably more, but here are a few:
- Xbox Advanced Technology Group
- The Gaming Experiences and Platform team
- Xbox Game Studios Support

Not only those, but first party studios also have full availability of all the tools, platforms and services provided in Microsoft Game Stack, which are:
- PlayFab
- Xbox Live (obviously)
- Mixer
- DirectX
- Simplygon
- Havok
- Power BI
- Windows
- Azure
- Visual Studio
- Visual Studio AppCenter

And of course they can collaborate with other Microsoft subsidiaries. An example of this is the collaboration between The Coalition (Gears of War) and Microsoft Research to develop the wave physics and acoustics systems used in the sound of Gears of War 4.
I was thinking of support as in asset creation, which is the most common outsourced work, not tech/programming support.
 

Jubenhimer

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And of course they can collaborate with other Microsoft subsidiaries. An example of this is the collaboration between The Coalition (Gears of War) and Microsoft Research to develop the wave physics and acoustics systems used in the sound of Gears of War 4.
I think this is one advantage Microsoft, and even Nintendo have over Sony. Synergy. Xbox Game Studios as you mentioned, are able to work with other parts of Microsoft to help make their games. Meanwhile Sony's Worldwide Studios are limited strictly to the bounds of Sony Interactive Entertainment, instead of the Broader Sony Corporation empire. Sony's divisions are more siloed off than Microsoft's, which makes communication between divisions difficult.
 
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whitereport

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I was thinking of support as in asset creation, which is the most common outsourced work, not tech/programming support.
I can't imagine them not having that, they probably do. I don't know, however.

They also have partner studios that they outsource some of that to, of course, but like I said, I don't know if there is an internal team for that.
 

whitereport

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I think this is one advantage Microsoft, and even Nintendo have over Sony. Synergy. Xbox Game Studios as you mentioned, are able to work with other parts of Microsoft to help make their games. Meanwhile Sony's Worldwide Studios are limited strictly to the bounds of Sony Interactive Entertainment, instead of the Broader Sony Corporation empire. Sony's divisions are more siloed off than Microsoft's, which makes communication between divisions difficult.
Yeah, that is really great to have. Definitely an advantage like you mentioned.
 

Jigsaah

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Nintendo always gotta be doing things backwards and upside down? How am I supposed to know which studio I like if its just defined by a number. :messenger_unamused:
 
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Jubenhimer

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Nintendo always gotta be doing things backwards and upside down? How am I supposed to know which studio I like if its just defined by a number. :messenger_unamused:
The Production Groups aren't the Studios. They're just the teams that work with the studios on games. Bellow the Groups, you can see all the subsidiaries and exclusive partners Nintendo has such as MonolithSoft and Intelligent Systems. Nintendo's set-up is sort of a hybrid of the "Studio" structure of Sony and Microsoft, and the "Department" structure of Japanese companies like Square Enix and Sega.
 
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Jigsaah

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The Production Groups aren't the Studios. They're just the teams that work with the studios on games. Bellow the Groups, you can see all the subsidiaries and exclusive partners Nintendo has such as MonolithSoft and Intelligent Systems. Nintendo's set-up is sort of a hybrid of the "Studio" structure of Sony and Microsoft, and the "Department" structure of Japanese companies like Square Enix and Sega.
The Answer is Yes.......?
 
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Jubenhimer

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Microsoft says they want to publish a first party XGS game every 3-4 months. While I still find that a bit too low compared to the others, it'd still be an improvement over the Xbox One, where you'd be lucky to get maybe 3 first party games a year.
 

Shaqazooloo

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Great thread. I had a vague idea of Nintendo's structure but this cleaned up a few things I was wondering.

I guess theirs probably little hope of Nintendo buying new studios since they seem to prefer Exclusive game studio partnerships.
 

Jubenhimer

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I guess theirs probably little hope of Nintendo buying new studios since they seem to prefer Exclusive game studio partnerships.
Studio acquisitions have never really been Nintendo's thing. Too much risk and uncertainty in their eyes. They prefer the Japanese Keiretsu model. Where, even though they don't own companies like Intelligent Systems, there's still a strong alliance between them.
 
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