Microsoft acquisition of ZeniMax, Bethesda Softwork’s parent company, shocked the video game industry last month. But it seems the company won’t stop there. In an interview with Game Reactor, Xbox head Phil Spencer admits that they are looking to acquire more developers in an attempt to expand Game Pass and the overall Xbox IP. Especially in the E-rated or casual genres.
He said that during the last two console generations, the company was not building enough creative titles and suffered years later as a result. Xbox definitely lacked broader genres for first-party titles if you compared it to Sony who had Astro Bot, Horizon, Bloodborne, The Last of Us, Ghost of Tsushima, Knack (even if the series was met with a lukewarm reception), and leveraged their connection with Marvel to make Spider-Man. As soon as he became Microsoft’s head executive of the Xbox division, Spencer decided that the team need to invest in partners that eventually leads up to the Zenimax buy-out:
I had this feeling or belief that we were underinvesting and I was head of first-party, so I felt it directly. I wanted to invest more, and we weren’t able to. So when I got into this job, I needed to put the business in a good space while getting the support of the company. And then we built a business model that prioritised investing in content knowing that we would have to invest early and wait a while for those investments to pay off. […] It just took us a little time to get into a position to find the right partners and get the support from the company. But I’m incredibly excited. Now with ZeniMax we’re coming up on 23 first-party studios and an amazing line-up.”
However, even with 23 studios, Spencer added that their current line-up for both Xbox Series X and Game Pass is missing casual titles with “a broad appeal”. And along with Game Pass’ growth, he expects that they will bring in more creators into the Xbox family as well:
If we look at what people are playing on Xbox, what Game Pass subscribers are playing, I think what is missing from our portfolio is casual content with a broad appeal. E-rated content (to use an ESRB rating) is not a strength for us. We obviously have Minecraft and we have some other franchises. But when I think about expanding the creative palette that our teams have, I think that is critically important. […] And frankly, as Game Pass continues to grow, we need to continue to feed that subscription. So, with the growth that we are seeing, I expect we will constantly be in this mode of bringing more creators into the fold.”
Microsoft’s decision to buy Mojang for Minecraft is obviously still their best move to appeal to younger gamers, but Spencer definitely acknowledges that Microsoft has other E-rated franchises as well. Considering just a while ago they revived Battletoads to a decent success and let Nintendo add Banjo and Kazooie to Smash Bros., which title do you think will get a revival soon? And which developer should remake them? A new Banjo-Kazooie from Playtonic Games, maybe? Tell me what you think in the comments below.