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Looking Back At Microsoft's 13 Years of First Party

QaaQer

Member
Jun 13, 2012
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Hope Drek is ok with me making this post a thread, if not sorry.

Sure you don't build a first party stable overnight, but in MS' case when they hell are they going to start?

Lets recap:
Started Turn 10, who went on to make Forza, the one truly original IP from Microsoft to ever succeed.

Bought Bungie when Halo was months from release, had them port it to Xbox, cancelling a much hyped PC version which did later arrive, not to mention the Mac version Bungie had been promising.

Purchased FASA as part of another acquisition in 1999. After doing very little with the Shadowrun and MechWarrior IPs on the Xbox family of consoles closes FASA in 2007, licences out all their worthwhile IPs to small studios.

Bought Rare in 2002, since they have mined the Perfect Dark, Banjo, and Conker IPs with zero success, made one new mascot IP for Xbox 360's launch that never got a follow up despite being a pretty solid (kid friendly) game (Kameo, FYI). Have since been largely relegated to Kinect titles, weren't even the ones who made the Killer Instinct reboot.

Purchased Lionhead in 2006. Proceeded to have them make nothing but Fable games, including a crappy Kinect Fable game. Stopped making PC versions entirely, games progressively got further and further away from the original concept for Fable. A large number of staff has been laid off over the past two years, another large group up and left with Molyneaux, which if it was anything like his departure from Bullfrog to found Lionhead constituted his core staff he's had everywhere (i.e. the real talent in the studio). Making yet another Fable game that is even further removed from the original premise.

Started up 343 studios as a replacement for Bungie when Bungie wanted out as opposed to eternally making nothing but Halo. Now 343 makes nothing but Halo, only not as well as Bungie. The game they wouldn't let Bungie make, Destiny, is now the most pre-ordered game yet. Winning?

Disbanded Ensemble Studios, Aces Studio, MS Flight Team, MS Victoria Studio (never released anything) and Carbonated Games. Have in the last several years purchased BigPark (absorbed into MS Game Studios), Twisted Pixel (who's next game was a full blown stinker), Press Play (nothing of note, so basically shuffling deck chairs with this and closing Carbonated).

Also, Black Tusk isn't new. It's Microsoft Vancouver. They just cleaned house and renamed it after Vancouver went years without finishing anything. Black Tusk is doing an admirable job keeping that history alive.

This is just a quick sample of how MS has handled their first parties. Forza is the only new IP they've generated and maintained worth a shit in their entire time as a console first party. Everything else was bought, mismanaged, and typically shuttered.

Buying their way into the industry with the Xbox with Bungie, Lionhead, etc. is one thing. Sure, you need meaningful exclusives and that was the fastest way to get them. They've been in the console business for nearly 13 years now though. The proof is in the pudding. Microsoft has never shown a commitment to developing their own legitimate first party stable. They closed much of what they did start with the Xbox during the X360 generation because Sony's failure to deliver with PS3 allowed them to pick off former exclusives and have a comparable 3rd party library at a lower price, so they weren't needed. The only significant reinvestment they've ever shown in software development was for Kinect, which they've now pulled back on nearly completely as well.

Microsoft brings nothing to this industry other than dump trucks of money. They're in the video game industry for all the wrong reasons. Making and selling video games is a secondary part of the business model and that has been the case from day one. Originally it was a Sony denial tactic. As Sony fell on hard times and the X360 emerged as a successful product they used XBL to turn it into a marketing push where their real customers were advertisers and games were just the gateway to get people in the door looking at all the ads. The XB1's original concept took this to the next level planning to have Kinect effectively mining data from within our homes while we lived around the system. Obviously the blow back was too great to continue that little project, but that was the original intent and Microsoft stated as much during a conference for their advertising partners.

Instead of this (which probably cost them $50M or better), Titanfall (which also likely cost them $50M or better) the stated NFL deal at $400M, and buying the Gears IP from Epic (likely a solid $50-$100M price tag) Microsoft could have funded over a half dozen of the biggest, most expensive AAA exclusives EVER. They gave the NFL more money for a fantasy football app than Take 2/Rockstar spent on Grand Theft Auto 5. Let that sink into your head when you excuse their lack of first party studios as "taking time".
 

benny_a

extra source of jiggaflops
Apr 25, 2009
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I think the context of the thread and the post it appeared around is important.
 

JaggedSac

Member
Jan 14, 2010
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That NFL deal was mostly for advertising and was certainly not limited to XBox. Case in point, Surfaces are now being used by coaches.
 

Percy

Banned
Apr 29, 2014
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Bungie basically was MS first party. Once they went the whole show just seemed to turn to shit and they closed out last gen on the worst Fable, Halo and Gears (Technically third party at the time I guess) games by a mile.

Their first party situation is a shambles.

So you are because now ms buys games and developers?
Thanks, Yoda.
 

Xando

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May 2, 2014
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That NFL deal was mostly for advertising and was certainly not limited to XBox. Case in point, Surfaces are now being used by coaches.
Gonna be lazy and copy my post from the other thread about this:

GTA V was rumored to have budget of 200 million if they made 2 GTA selling games for 400 million ( i dont think they could but thats another topic ) it would have made them more money than some stupid ad deal.
 

JaggedSac

Member
Jan 14, 2010
17,476
2
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Gonna be lazy and copy my post from the other thread about this:

GTA V was rumored to have budget of 200 million if they made 2 GTA selling games for 400 million ( i dont think they could but thats another topic ) it would have made them more money than some stupid ad deal.
Companies spend insane amounts of money on marketing. The thing they don't usually do, is discuss the amount publicly.


If only game making were so easy that everyone making 200 million dollar games got back all their money and more. World would be a nice rainbow filled place with lollipops everywhere.
 
May 22, 2011
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NFL is a strong brand in the US. microsoft spending money to be associated with it isnt as wrong as some of yall think. This aint so much about console war stuff as people wanna think.
 

BriGuy

Member
Jan 20, 2014
4,350
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I don't think I've ever seen a thread started with a large quote from a completely different user from a completely different thread with no original content of their own. Congrats?

Anyway, I miss the early days of Xbox. There were a ton of new IPs as they tried to establish themselves in the industry, but those were largely abandoned for the "sure things" like Halo, Gears of War, Forza, Fable, rinse and repeat. Their new strategy of "buying and denying" others of third-party, previously multi-console games isn't exactly endearing them to me either.
 

A.D. Skinner

Member
Jan 25, 2014
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I feel like the 2nd half of Xbox 360 life and the start of Xbox One was all done wrong (the latter was clear to everyone). I think in a year or two Microsoft will ha d a much better looking first party lineup as they're probably very early in their "repairs" at the moment and wouldn't be worth showing anything.
 

twobear

sputum-flecked apoplexy
Oct 25, 2011
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The thread title is misleading, because MS only really had 9 years of proper first party output.

Good summary though, the first line pretty much sums up the whole debacle:

Sure you don't build a first party stable overnight, but in MS' case when they hell are they going to start?
 

badb0y

Member
May 20, 2013
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This isn't anything new from Microsoft, they've been utilizing anti-consumer tactics since the 90s. Look up the history of the company lol.
 

bidguy

Banned
Feb 5, 2013
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what makes you think ms would have used the nfl money to make games ? they dont promote xbox with the nfl deal they promote windows, surface and their phones.

they throw cash around like its nothing. its ms get a grip
 

Coin Return

Loose Slot
Jun 6, 2004
5,399
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Everyone is so bitter toward MS these past couple days. I feel like I'm drowning in a sea of tears every time I come here.
 

Impeccable

Member
Feb 18, 2010
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Honestly, the only thing the Tomb Raider announcement did to me personally was prove that Phil Spencer isn't as great or revolutionary for the brand as a lot of people, including me, thought after a good start to his reign.
 
Aug 27, 2009
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Not every company is obliged to do things in the exact same way. It seems to have worked for Microsoft so far, and it certainly works for me as an Xbox gamer.
 

twobear

sputum-flecked apoplexy
Oct 25, 2011
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Honestly, the only thing the Tomb Raider announcement did to me personally was prove that Phil Spencer isn't as great or revolutionary for the brand as a lot of people, including me, thought after a good start to his reign.
Same. New dog, old tricks.

Everyone is so bitter toward MS these past couple days. I feel like I'm drowning in a sea of tears every time I come here.
Gee, if only there was a comprehensive list of reasons to feel aggrieved towards Microsoft in the OP or something. Something that might give you a window into why people are becoming totally fed up with their business strategy in the console space. If only.
 

bidguy

Banned
Feb 5, 2013
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this was in the tomb raider thread wasnt it ?

yall tomb raider dudes should relax. you will get to play it in 2016 according to insiders so stop cluttering the forums with your crybaby posts
 

Winterfang

Banned
Oct 21, 2012
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I just see a big variety of cool games. Halo, Forza, I'm one of the few people that likes fable, crackdown was also cool, killer instic looks great. Seems like the guy went out of his way to paint a bad picture. Doesn't say anything about the quality of the titles itself.

Also both Microsoft and Sony mishandled some of their first party, last gen had a lot of lay off and studios shutting down.
 

Mman235

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Jun 28, 2013
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I've always found it lacking in recent years but this really put into perspective how shit MS' handling of it's gaming properties has been, goddamn.
 

wienke

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Sep 2, 2007
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This is a depressing thread. Microsoft used to make/fund awesome games. There were quite a few stinkers but there are some franchises I miss.
 

Deussano

Banned
Mar 23, 2013
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Imagine if Smilebit was around making games for the 360 and the XONE as a First Party developer?

MS done goofed.
 

twobear

sputum-flecked apoplexy
Oct 25, 2011
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Also both Microsoft and Sony mishandled some of their first party, last gen had a lot of lay off and studios shutting down.
The difference is that after Sony shuttered their studios they still had a lot left and started building new ones. MS haven't. When they shuttered their studios all they were left with is their workhouse studios that just churn out sequels (T10, 343, Lionhead) and Rare, the poor Kinect mule.
 
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That list is a bit oversimplified and unfair in some regards (i.e. Press Play's Max game was supposed to be very good, besides LocoCycle Twisted Pixel have a very decent catalogue) but yeah, it's alarming how they've been in the industry for 13 years and are yet to really lay solid foundations for their first party output. Buying exclusives like Titanfall and Tomb Raider only accentuates that perception; that money should be invested in their own studios and brands, not paid to keep games out of their competitors' hands.

Sony started to really invest in their own line-up of studios during the PS2 era, and that's now really paying dividends for them. They've been through a tough time in the last couple of years with Kaz really cutting away the fat, but I think the plan is what they've ended up with is a more streamlined and effective line-up. MS needs to spend a couple of years remodelling their teams in a similar way and then maybe by the time the next gen rolls around they'll be fighting fit and able to slug it out with Nintendo and Sony's first-party output effectively.
 

Zalman

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Aug 5, 2013
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It's so weird. I look back at Microsoft's catalogue of exclusives and I barely see anything that interests me. Both Nintendo and Sony have had a ton. When MS DO have a big exclusive, it's usually bought from a third party and eventually ends up everywhere else. I wish they would spend that money in their internal studios instead of something that would've happened anyway (like Tomb Raider).
 

Dragon

Banned
Jul 7, 2007
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this was in the tomb raider thread wasnt it ?

yall tomb raider dudes should relax. you will get to play it in 2016 according to insiders so stop cluttering the forums with your crybaby posts
Perhaps if you actually read into it a bit more it's not really just about TR. It's about the business practices of a company that cannot get its first party stable in order and has to resort to these type of agreements with other companies.
 

JaggedSac

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Jan 14, 2010
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The difference is that after Sony shuttered their studios they still had a lot left and started building new ones. MS haven't. When they shuttered their studios all they were left with is their workhouse studios that just churn out sequels (T10, 343, Lionhead) and Rare, the poor Kinect mule.
They have onboarded many studios over the past few years.
 

Amentallica

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Mar 17, 2012
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I just see a big variety of cool games. Halo, Forza, I'm one of the few people that likes fable, crackdown was also cool, killer instic looks great. Seems like the guy went out of his way to paint a bad picture. Doesn't say anything about the quality of the titles itself.

Also both Microsoft and Sony mishandled some of their first party, last gen had a lot of lay off and studios shutting down.
Sony's first party is greater and more reinforced. You get the feeling they care about their studios. Much like the current sales figures between the two consoles, Microsoft's first party studios are no competition.
*hyperbole*
 

twobear

sputum-flecked apoplexy
Oct 25, 2011
28,719
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They have onboarded many studios over the past few years.
I know about the small studios for making social and mobile games, but what major studios have they opened? The last one I can think of was 343i, which was set up to churn out Halo games (yawn).
 

Kater

Banned
Jun 3, 2013
9,201
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They really are in desperate need for new big first party IPs. The last big one was Forza, right?

Also, I'm still mad at them for shutting down Ensemble Studio. Can't say that much to the rest of the OP, haven't followed MS Xbox division that much.
 

Stare-Bear

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Jan 31, 2014
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They should've spent the tomb raider money on a new ip.

And just look at how they abandoned the Kinect. They didn't even try to make it look cool.
 

PJV3

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Jan 26, 2009
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MS have got more money than sense, that isn't likely to change any time soon. If they really went for it they could blow Sony out of the water but they don't seem really committed to consoles outside of their ecosystem.
 

Dragon

Banned
Jul 7, 2007
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Amen.

Let's not forget Microsoft entered a market that was very difficult to get a foot hold in.
They have a foot hold now. They sold over 40 million consoles in the US alone last gen. This is the third generation they've been involved in. There simply is no excuse for it anymore.

The NFL stuff is damning, just imagine if they had spent that money on new IP. They could have come up with some really great interesting games.
 

Pie and Beans

Look for me on the local news, I'll be the guy arrested for trying to burn down a Nintendo exec's house.
Apr 23, 2010
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As I said in the other thread, you can also add in those foolish enough on the japanese side of the industry to indulge the Microsoft 'tease then delete' routine.

Sega brought plenty of exclusives early on to Xbox, but once Microsoft hit it big with Halo they realised they didnt need them as much and essentially pushed them away. Lure Shenmue 2 to your platform exclusively (in NA!) then observe the end. Chromehounds and Condemned also rounded out the 360's early days, but then as usual, no deals to be made.

Mistwalker made two great RPG games for 360 when Microsoft wanted to try tackling Japan, but once it seemed like a lost cause, they of course cut and run and left the Gooch to the wolves rather than try and build on anything. I remember being mad hyped for Cry-On. Oh well, disconnect all ties and flush repeatedly!

Then things get even stickier when the Kinect money was thrown out to anyone with cupped hands. The particularly telling example of recent times is SWERY and D4. Like other devs, went all in on Kinect, only now that focus is gone-zo, they probably wont trot this game out much at all. Maybe at TGS?

Yukio Futatsugi in particular seems like some sort of ragdoll when it comes to MS Japan. Phantom Dust never even made it as far as Europe and that was about as far as his tenure went with MS directly other than overseeing. He's quoted on Wiki with:
After two years at Microsoft he said he was "getting sick of it" and so in 2007 co-founded development company Grounding Inc.
before then adding himself to the Kinect dogpile and the bizarre delay Crimson Dragon 'enjoyed'. Now I'm not even sure if he's attached to this Phantom Dust re-do or if its just been handed to a western dev to create.

The long list of casualties may now of course include Kamiya with Scalebound. Think MS is planning on supporting Platinum and giving real marketing exposure? History thinks otherwise!

MS sure does offer money, but its never in line with commitment and longterm plans. Its always a pick-me up quick boost out of a situation, and who cares what bodies hit the floor once they cut those lifelines. Sure gaming business isn't a charity, but goddam if Microsoft's list of victims isn't more than a little displeasing.
 

j0hnny_385

Member
Feb 3, 2012
4,362
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Great OP.

I really wish MS had some sort of Sony WWDS-equivalent setup.
Talented, well-funded 1st party studios with freedom to do what they want.
If anyone, Phil Spencer can do it now that he's the boss, but will he, that's another question. :|
 

BibiMaghoo

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Jan 20, 2012
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They should've spent the tomb raider money on a new ip.

And just look at how they abandoned the Kinect. They didn't even try to make it look cool.
To be fair to them, they put money into new IP's. Historically they do at start of new gen. It's 4 years down the line they don't, and gamers are as much to blame for that as MS. People want sequels, so they get them.
 

JaggedSac

Member
Jan 14, 2010
17,476
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The OP covers that. They've made a big deal about Black Tusk, I didn't realize it was just a rebranding of an existing studio.
When did Vancouver get created?

Regardless, they also acquired PressPlay, Twisted Pixel, and Good Science(I believe). Created Lift London, LXP, and Team Dakota.
 

Kresnik258

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Jan 25, 2014
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I feel like Microsoft just got complacent last generation when they were stomping Sony through reasons that weren't first-party (i.e. better quality third party releases; better online; better price). They seemed to have a pretty good start to the generation.

Sony started off on the same footing (buying out Psygnosis for more than they were worth), but did slowly build up a roster over time and now has a fantastic network of studios. MS just seem to be taking longer to get there and were heading in the right direction before taking a few steps backwards last gen.
 

Niven

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Apr 1, 2014
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I know about the small studios for making social and mobile games, but what major studios have they opened? The last one I can think of was 343i, which was set up to churn out Halo games (yawn).
So because you don't like what 343i are doing it's bad for everyone? What would you have preferred them to do when bungie left just stop making halo?