How much bad news can Xbox take?

There have been few good reasons to be an Xbox gamer over the past year, but Microsoft doesn't seem interested in creating positivity around the brand...

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For years, Phil Spencer has talked about Microsoft not being done with acquisitions, saying several times that he would specifically like a Japanese studio. And three years ago it happened. Microsoft bought Bethesda in 2021 and in the process got Tango Gameworks, a developer led by Capcom legend Shinji Mikami.

However, they were tied to Sony with their first game this generation and only after a year did Xbox gamers get the chance to enjoy the entertaining Ghostwire: Tokyo, but last year the hit Hi-Fi Rush was released, raising hopes that an expanded Tango Gameworks could become a solid Japanese studio for Microsoft.

How much bad news can Xbox take?
There has been no end to the negative news surrounding the Xbox, and more and more heavy hitters are now abandoning the console. Microsoft must make sure to please its community.

But... you can see where I'm going with this, right? As of yesterday, Microsoft once again has zero Japanese developers, as Tango Gameworks, along with Arkane Austin and two other studios, was shut down in a heartbeat. An unprecedented move, as far as I know. Studios being closed down is unfortunately nothing unusual, but in a lump like this I have not seen before, especially not when Tango Gameworks in particular should have so much potential.

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Of course, I don't know what happened behind the scenes, and there's probably a good explanation (I'm guessing that when Shinji Mikami left the studio, he took the biggest names with him, and all that was left was the building and the name) - but it's still very sad, especially when combined with the others. No matter how you slice it, I know Redfall flopped big time, the fact remains that Microsoft bought Bethesda and shut down four of the studios involved just three years later, one of them releasing a smash hit in Hi-Fi Rush just last year - all while it's often argued that the company releases too few games.

Microsoft has famously bought up many developers and even publishers in recent years, with arguments for these frequent purchases being smaller studios have ended up with a cash-rich company that secures employment and encourages creative freedom. How secure do they feel now? Insecurity, and at this point even anger doesn't feel like a good foundation for developing successful and appreciated games.

In an IGN interview with Xbox Game Studios boss Matt Booty, he explains the thinking behind this and says the aim is to focus on bigger projects:

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"Today I'm sharing changes we are making to our Bethesda and ZeniMax teams. These changes are grounded in prioritizing high-impact titles and further investing in Bethesda's portfolio of blockbuster games and beloved worlds which you have nurtured over many decades.

To double down on these franchises and invest to build new ones requires us to look across the business to identify the opportunities that are best positioned for success. This reprioritization of titles and resources means a few teams will be realigned to others and that some of our colleagues will be leaving us."

How much bad news can Xbox take?
Tim Schafer and his Double Fine make incredible games, but how much interest is there from Microsoft in his narrower projects?

Now, this is specific to Bethesda, but does it mean that the Xbox team in general believes in smaller games? How does Psychonauts 2 developer Double Fine feel after this? Do their projects fit into Xbox's broader, bigger vision? What about Compulsion Games' upcoming South of Midnight, is it big enough? Can even Inxile be sure that a project like Clockwork Revolution is something Microsoft wants to get involved with?

It's extremely difficult to get a good idea of what Microsoft's strategy is at the moment. We know for sure that they have a lot of games in the pipeline, but the question is whether that's enough when they seem to continuously want to deliver negative surprises to their community. There is no shortage of Xbox gamers who say they feel that enough is enough, and wonder when they will be able to feel like priority customers worth taking care of.

How much bad news can Xbox take?How much bad news can Xbox take?How much bad news can Xbox take?How much bad news can Xbox take?
Award-winning Hi-Fi Rush, Sea of Thieves, Grounded and Pentiment are released for Nintendo and Sony formats. Microsoft has had plenty of good news. Just not for Xbox gamers.

Here Microsoft has a huge job to do. They say there's a new Xbox console on the horizon that's supposed to be brutally powerful, and there also seems to be a portable Xbox in the works. But if people are going to buy them, they need to get the community feeling back that video games are fun and that investing in the Xbox ecosystem isn't just going to end up with more shuttered studios. But in recent months, PlayStation and Switch gamers have received more good news from Microsoft than those who have invested in their consoles, creating an unsustainable and unreasonable situation.

Now, it feels like more and more people are starting to see Microsoft as Activision or EA, which for many gamers have not been role models when it comes to creating exciting titles and taking care of their developers. And the image of a giant buying up smaller developers and shutting them down almost immediately after is one of the worst we have in the gaming world today.

How much bad news can Xbox take?
Microsoft is rumoured to be working on a portable gaming device, but if people are to be excited, they need to start creating some positive buzz around the brand.

Clearly, Microsoft wanted these closures out of the way so people will have forgotten about them by the time the Xbox Games Showcase kicks off in June (had they come after, it would have taken all the attention), and now it's really up to them to convince their fans. For many Xbox gamers, as I said, enough is enough, and now it's time to have not just one year, but several, where positive news about Xbox and the games for it dominate. I'm not usually a negative person, but if Microsoft fails to do that, I find it hard to see any Xbox console ever being successful again.

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