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Microsoft Studios

Microsoft Studios
Industry Interactive entertainment
Computer and video games
Founded 2002 (as Microsoft Game Studios)
2011 (as Microsoft Studios)
Headquarters Redmond, Washington, U.S.
Key people
Phil Spencer
(Head of Microsoft Studios)
Larry Hryb
(Director of Programming For Xbox Live)
Products Games consoles
Xbox 360
Xbox One
Games for Windows
Games for Windows Phone
Xbox Live
Age of Empires series
Alan Wake series
Banjo-Kazooie series
Crackdown series
Fable series
Forza Motorsport series
Gears of War series
Halo series
Microsoft Flight Simulator series
Perfect Dark series
Project Gotham Racing series
Zoo Tycoon series
Parent Microsoft
Subsidiaries 343 Industries
Lift London
Lionhead Studios
Press Play
Rare Ltd.
The Coalition
Turn 10
Website .com.microsoftstudioswww

Microsoft Studios is the video game production wing for Microsoft, responsible for the development and publishing of games for the Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Games for Windows, Steam, Windows Store, and Windows Phone platforms. They were established in 2002 as Microsoft Game Studios to coincide with the already released Xbox, before being re-branded in 2011. The subsidiary had also been known as Microsoft Game Division and simply Microsoft Games before 2002. Microsoft Studios develops and publishes games in conjunction with first and third party development studios under their publishing label.


  • History 1
    • 2007 1.1
    • 2008 1.2
    • 2009 1.3
    • 2010 1.4
    • 2011 1.5
    • 2012 1.6
    • 2013 1.7
    • 2014 1.8
    • 2015 1.9
  • Software development studios 2
  • Owned franchises and properties 3
  • Game quality 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Microsoft Game Studios logo (2002–2011)


  • Microsoft Studios announces the opening of a European office in Reading, England, headed by general manager Phil Spencer.[1]
  • Microsoft Studios disbands FASA Studio, best known for their work on the MechWarrior series.
  • Former Halo developer Bungie announced that they would split from Microsoft Studios in order to become a privately held independent company.
  • Peter Moore leaves Microsoft Studios to join Electronic Arts as the head of the company's sports division on July 17, 2007.
  • Don Mattrick joins Microsoft Studios as Senior Vice President in July 2007.


  • Microsoft Studios disbands casual games studio Carbonated Games.
  • Microsoft Studios announces the formation of Xbox Live Productions to develop "high-quality digital content" for Xbox Live Arcade.[2]
  • Microsoft Studios begins recruiting for 343 Industries to take over development of the Halo franchise after the former developer, Bungie, regained independent status. 343 Industries was first officially revealed as steward of the Halo series in mid-2009 with the announcement of the animated project, Halo Legends.


  • Microsoft Studios disbands both Ensemble Studios and Aces Studio due to the effects of the late-2000s financial crisis and the restructuring of their game development studios.
  • In May, Microsoft acquires Canadian developer BigPark Inc. and integrates them into Microsoft Studios.
  • Phil Spencer is promoted to Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Studios in order to replace the retiring Shane Kim.[3]
  • Microsoft Studios forms Good Science Studio to develop software for Kinect.


  • Microsoft Studios forms a Mobile Gaming studio focused on developing gaming and entertainment multimedia for Windows Phone.[4]
  • Microsoft Studios expands Rare Ltd. to a second additional 90+ person in Digbeth, Birmingham to produce further titles.[5]
  • Microsoft Studios forms new internal studio named Microsoft Game Studios - Vancouver.[6]
  • Microsoft Studios forms new internal studio named Microsoft Flight Development Team to bring Microsoft Flight to PC.[7]
  • Don Mattrick is promoted to President of the Interactive Entertainment Business in October 2010.


  • Microsoft Studios opens new development studios in Soho London, Redmond, Washington and Victoria, British Columbia.[8][9][10]
  • Microsoft Studios acquires indie game developer Twisted Pixel Games, known for developing titles including 'Splosion Man and The Gunstringer.[11][12]


The Splatters is an Xbox Live Arcade game that was developed by a third party studio and published by Microsoft Studios in 2012
  • Phil Harrison, the former Sony worldwide studios head, joins Microsoft as head of Microsoft Studios Europe and IEB.[13]
  • Microsoft Studios recruits for new development studios in Redmond — Microsoft Studios - Playful Learning.[14]
  • Microsoft Studios recruits for new development studios in Redmond — Microsoft Studios - The Connected Experiences.[15]
  • Microsoft Studios acquires developer Press Play, known for developing Tentacles and Max & the Magic Marker.[16]
  • Microsoft Studios announces plans to expand Microsoft Studios Victoria to between 80-100 people.[17]
  • Microsoft reveals the final name of their sports entertainment development studio - Skybox Sports - in a recruitment release.[18]
  • Microsoft reveals plans to open a new games development studio in London, England to develop various free-to-play, online and social games for Xbox platforms.[19]
  • Microsoft downsizes Microsoft Studios Vancouver due to the cancellation of the Kinect family title "Project Columbia" and announces ongoing development of the free-to-play PC title Microsoft Flight has ceased due to portfolio evaluation.[20]
  • Microsoft Studios Vancouver is officially renamed Black Tusk Studios. They aim to create Microsoft Studios' next big IP to rival their most successful series, Halo.
  • Microsoft recruits for a new development studio in Los Angeles, California to develop interactive Televised Entertainment for Microsoft platforms - Microsoft Studios - LA.[21]


  • Microsoft establishes a new European studio "Lift London", a studio that would create digital cloud games for tablets, mobiles and TVs.[22]
  • Microsoft Studios officially reveals the Xbox One on May 21, 2013.
  • Microsoft recruits for Microsoft Studios - EMEA Publishing to manage relations with third party developers making Microsoft Published games in EMEA regions.[23]
  • Microsoft recruits for new "Deep Tech" team inside its Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE) unit; the new team is charged with working with top developers outside the company to build next-generation applications on top of Microsoft platforms.[24]
  • Microsoft Studios announces that they will publish 15 Xbox One exclusives within 12 months of launch, 8 of which will be new franchises.
  • Phil Harrison, Corporate vice president at Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, announces Microsoft Studios is investing over billion into exclusive Xbox One games content, twice of that of its competitors.
  • Julie Larson-Green is appointed head of the Xbox division, succeeding Don Mattrick, who leaves Microsoft Studios to join Zynga as Chief Executive Officer on July 1, 2013.
  • Jason Holtman, formerly Valve's Steam boss, joins Microsoft Studios as the head of PC Gaming Division and Strategy.
  • On December 6, Microsoft decided to close the Victoria Studio with explanation to focus on Vancouver based studio, Black Tusk. However Victoria didn't develop any games.[25]


  • On January 11, Microsoft Studios announces they have signed multi-year, multi-title publishing contract with Undead Labs, developers of State of Decay.[26]
  • On January 27, Microsoft acquired the rights to the Gears of War franchise and announced that the series will continue under Black Tusk Studios.[25]
  • On February 13, Jason Holtman left Microsoft Studios just 6 months after he joined the company.[27]
  • On March 11, a trademark for Leap Experience Pioneers (LXP) is discovered, the name of an internal Microsoft Kinect-focused Game Studio that has been operating for several years and were instrumental in the creation of Kinect.[28]
  • On March 31, Phil Spencer was appointed as the new head and boss of Microsoft Studios.[29]
  • On April 5, Phil Spencer announced that a "couple" of internal game development studios that had not been publicly revealed are currently working on exclusive titles for the Xbox One platform.[30]
  • On May 31, It was revealed that Microsoft has acquired the rights of "Rise of" IP (Rise of Nations and Legend).[31]
  • On June 20, Lionhead Studios confirmed they have a second development team working on a new intellectual property.[32]
  • On July 17, the head of Microsoft Studios, Phil Spencer, confirmed that Xbox Entertainment Studios will close in the coming months.
  • On August 15, the head of Microsoft Studios, Phil Spencer, confirmed that they have entered into an arrangement with Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix to co-publish Rise of the Tomb Raider.
  • On August 21, LXP Studios launches new website with numerous links to as yet unannounced first party studios Platform Next, Np Studios, SOTA Studios and (FUN)ction Studios.[33]
  • On September 15, Microsoft announced a deal to acquire Mojang, the developer of Minecraft as their 21st first-party studio along with the Minecraft intellectual property. The deal was closed on November 6.[34]


  • On March 4, Microsoft announced that they were merging UK based Studios, Lift London and Soho Productions for further games development. The amalgam will operate under the Lift London name [35]
  • On March 7, Microsoft announced at GDC that Microsoft Hololens games are coming to Xbox One.[35]
  • On March 9, Microsoft announced that Kudo Tsunoda's role was expanding and that he would be the new studio team leader for studios such as Press Play, Lift London and a new internal studio called Decisive Games. Decisive Games was previously mentioned in job postings, saying that they were hiring for work on a "beloved strategy game" for Xbox One/PC. This is the first public acknowledgement of the team's existence as a first party studio.[36] He also confirmed Lift London was working on Xbox titles.[37]
  • On June 3, Microsoft announced that their first party studio Black Tusk Studios was officially renamed to The Coalition and would be focused on Gears of War experiences.[38]

Software development studios

Microsoft Studios contains 29 studios worldwide, 21 for game development (343 Industries, Rare, Lionhead, Turn 10, Mojang, The Coalition, etc.) and 8 for non-game development:

First Party

United States

United Kingdom



Non Game Development

Non Game Development

  • Microsoft Studios – EMEA Publishing – Overseeing projects in conjunction with development studios based in Europe, Middle East and Asia
  • Connected Experiences – Responsible for cloud service on Xbox, servers and online features
  • Microsoft Studios – Sentient Team Working with internal and external teams and sharing new technologies[40]
  • Microsoft Studios – Skype Xbox Engineering Team Bringing Skype communication software to Xbox platforms through Xbox Live[41]
  • Microsoft Studios – Games Testing Organization Responsible for games and entertainment testing[42]
  • Microsoft Studios – Technology and Incubation Group Advancing new products and technologies[43]
  • Microsoft Studios – Xbox Core Platform team API and SDK development[44]
  • Microsoft Studios – Deep Tech Team Working with developers to build applications on Microsoft platforms.[45]
  • Microsoft Studios – MSN Games Team Manages the Microsoft Casual Games web site.[46]
Second Party Partners

United States

Europe and Africa


United Kingdom

Asia and Oceania

Former and Defunct



Owned franchises and properties

Also, despite having entered into the console gaming industry with the Xbox, they have nevertheless allowed their own franchises to appear on Nintendo's handhelds, including the Game Boy Advance and the Nintendo DS, since Microsoft has not currently entered the video game handheld industry. So far there are no games announced for the Nintendo 3DS.

Game quality

For 2010, the review aggregation site Metacritic gave the average score of Microsoft games as 73.4 (out of 100), making them the fourth highest-scoring major publisher, ahead of rival console manufacturer Sony but behind Nintendo.[47] For 2011, their average score rose to 77.2, the highest for any major publisher, including Nintendo and Sony.[48] For 2012, they had dropped to second with an average of 73.0, just behind Electronic Arts.[49] For 2013, they were ranked sixth (behind both Sony and Nintendo) largely due to their failure to publish any games scoring 90 or above for the first time in four years.[50] For 2014, they were once again ranked sixth, falling behind Nintendo, Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, Sony, and Square Enix. Microsoft once again failed to release any games scoring 90 or above in 2014.[51]

See also


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External links

  • Microsoft Studios official website
  • Microsoft Studios at DMOZ
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