A while ago, Microsoft rebranded its internal studio troupe to Xbox Game Studios, and in part, it reflects the fact the Xbox brand is moving beyond consoles. Xbox streaming via Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming will bring Microsoft’s wide range of games to audiences on mobile devices, and Microsoft has begun supporting PC gaming like never before, alongside its next-gen Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles.
To further invest in its own output, Microsoft purchased industry heavyweights like Obsidian Entertainment, inXile, Undead Labs, and many more. In 2020, Microsoft began the acquisition of ZeniMax Media, which includes studios like id Software, Bethesda Softworks, Machine Games, and many more.
Here’s a rundown of every studio and all the games (we think) we know about so far, joining our list of most anticipated upcoming Xbox games for 2021 and beyond, including games from ZeniMax since the deal is expected to close in full in early 2021.
TLDR Quick List
- 343 industries: Halo Infinite
- Compulsion Games: Unannounced project
- Double Fine: RAD, Psychonauts 2
- inXile: Unannounced RPG
- Mojang: Minecraft updates, Minecraft Dungeons updates
- Ninja Theory: Project Mara, Hellblade II
- Obsidian Entertainment: Grounded, Avowed
- Playground Games: Forza Horizon, Fable
- The Coalition: Gears of War
- Rare: Sea of Thieves updates, Everwild
- The Initiative: Perfect Dark
- Turn 10: Forza Motorsport
- Undead Labs: State of Decay 3
- World’s Edge: Age of Empires IV
- Bethesda Softworks: Starfield, Elder Scrolls VI, Fallout 76 updates
- id Software: DOOM Eternal DLC
- Arkane Studios: Dishonored sequel, Deathloop, possible Prey sequel
- Tango Gameworks: Ghostwire Toyko
- Machine Games: Indiana Jones, Wolfenstein III
- Zenimax Online: Elder Scrolls Online, unannounced projects
343 Industries (343i) is the studio behind the Halo franchise, charged with stewarding Microsoft’s flagship shooter IP following on from the work of Bungie. After the mixed reception to Halo 5’s campaign, all eyes on are on 343i to deliver a bigger, bolder vision for the next entry in the franchise, Halo Infinite, which will launch as a cross-gen title for the current Xbox consoles and the next-gen Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S in the Fall of 2021, possibly on Halo’s 20 year anniversary.
The story is will re-focus on Master Chief, following the grave events of Halo 5, which sees the galaxy caught in the grip of gigantic ancient constructs known as the Guardians, controlled by the now-rogue A.I. Cortana. The story has pivoted away from Cortana though, seemingly, and will revolve around the Banished, a rogue Brute faction from Halo Wars 2. Halo Infinite will be on Xbox Game Pass for Xbox One, Series X, and PC, with a free-to-play multiplayer component.
Compulsion Games, known recently for We Happy Few, is a bit of an enigma. The Canadian studio completed work on We Happy Few’s DLC season pass, and is undoubtedly moving on to new projects. We’ve heard Compulsion’s next game might be in the puzzle genre, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Having joined the team at E3 2019, Double Fine is known to be working on Psychonauts 2, and a colorful action game called RAD, in addition to other “secret” projects.
InXile is known recently for Wasteland 2, but the studio has a storied pedigree dating all the way back to the Interplay and Black Isle days. Led by Brian Fargo, the studio specializes in classic “CRPG”-style titles, where turn-based isometric play in Wasteland and classic dungeon-crawler style in The Bard’s Tale.
Having shipped Wasteland 3, inXile is working on a mysterious unknown RPG, which if rumors are to be believed, could be “steampunk” in style. They’re also working on DLC content for Wasteland 3.
Microsoft’s Minecraft operation is made up of Mojang as well as various teams based in the US, where Microsoft continues to build out its biggest franchise. With Minecraft Earth shut down, Mojang has put all of its focus on Minecraft itself and a separate title dubbed Minecraft Dungeons, based on classic dungeon crawlers like Diablo.
One of Microsoft’s most-promising recent acquisitions, Ninja Theory is known for the award-winning Hellblade, with some industry-leading facial motion capture and truly haunting atmospherics.
While the original game was limited in general scope, Microsoft and Ninja Theory seem keen to grow further, having expanded to a new building and hiring several new staff. Ninja Theory is also working on a title dubbed Project Mara, although little is known about it.
Ninja Theory is currently building upon Bleeding Edge, which is a 4v4 melee-oriented combat game, but also Hellblade II, revealed at The Game Awards in 2019. Bleeding Edge didn’t set the world on fire, and might have been abandoned.
Obsidian is a renowned RPG company famed for the South Park: The Stick of Truth, and the Pillars of Eternity CRPGs. The studio is also crowned with making what is arguably the best Fallout game, in Fallout: New Vegas.
Obsidian shipped the excellent The Outer Worlds, a vibrant sci-fi RPG under a contract from Take-Two. It would appear that Microsoft owns The Outer Worlds IP as a result of acquiring Obsidian, meaning that future entries in the franchise will be exclusive to Microsoft platforms. Obsidian is also working on bringing Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire to consoles, alongside Grounded, a survival multiplayer “passion project,” where you’re shrunk to the size of an ant.
Grounded racked up over a million players already since launching into early access, solidifying Obsidian’s place as one of Microsoft’s top-flight studios. Alongside Grounded, Obsidian recently revealed Avowed, which looks set to be the company’s answer to Elder Scrolls, set in the Pillars of Eternity universe.
One of Microsoft’s largest and most acclaimed studios, Playground Games is known for the incredibly popular Forza Horizon arcade racing series. The team at Playground Games has swelled enough to split into two separate divisions, one retaining work on Forza, while another is now confirmed to be working on a reboot of classic RPG Fable.
Rare is Microsoft’s most celebrated studio, known for classic Nintendo franchises like Killer Instinct, and more recently Sea of Thieves. Rare continues to work on Sea of Thieves as a live ops game, building it out with new features and systems to keep it feeling fresh, while attempting to attract newcomers.
For a time, Rare was all-in on Sea of Thieves, but recently, it was announced they’re also working on Everwild, which looks to be some form of multiplayer survival game.
Microsoft’s Gears of War all-star, The Coalition, is tasked with expanding the Gears universe beyond its corridor cover shooter roots, and Gears 5 achieved that to some degree.
The Coalition is currently working on expanding Gears 5’s multiplayer content, and presumably future installments in the Gears franchise.
The Initiative is a brand new studio set up by Microsoft, led by Darrel Gallagher of Tomb Raider fame. The studio is now known to be working on a reboot of Rare’s former spy franchise, Perfect Dark, set in the midst of an ecological crisis.
Turn 10 leads the Forza effort for Microsoft, working primarily on the Forza Motorsport series of racing simulators as well as the franchise’s engine. The studio has taken a break from Forza Motorsport’s bi-annualization, skipping a release for 2019 and 2020.
Turn 10 recently confirmed that it is working on a new Forza Motorsport, with a completely new engine built specifically for the Xbox Series X and S.
Undead Labs is known for the State of Decay franchise and has a sizable fan following who has been helping shape the zombie apocalypse survival sim. State of Decay 2 suffered a bit of a mixed reception due to its rough edges at launch, but after months of polish, it’s now in a really good place.
State of Decay 3 has now been revealed with a cinematic trailer, built specifically for the Xbox Series X. The trailer certainly suggests a bigger focus on visuals, but we’ll have to wait and see for more details.
World’s Edge is Microsoft’s newest studio, in charge of shepherding the Age of Empires franchise. The team is currently working on maintaining Age of Empires: DE and Age of Empires II: DE, while completing work on Age of Empires II: DE, and possibly even Age of Mythology: DE. Alongside that, World’s Edge is working with Relic Entertainment on Age of Empires IV.
Bethesda takes center stage as Microsoft’s most prolific internal studio once the deal closes in early 2021, for some of the most popular games of all time in the form of Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. Thus far, we know Bethesda is working on Elder Scrolls VI, but also a mysterious sci-fi game dubbed Starfield, for which there is little information.
id Software is known for legendary franchises like DOOM and QUAKE, and the studio is currently hard at work on additional story DLC for DOOM Eternal. It seems likely that id Software is also working on additional titles as well.
Arkane Studios, known for Dishonored and Prey, is currently building Deathloop as a PC and PlayStation exclusive, although it seems likely that it will come to Xbox as well at some point, given the acquisition. Beyond that, there have been some vague hints that Arkane could be working on a sequel to their reboot of the Prey franchise, as well as a new entry in the Dishonored franchise.
Tango Gameworks is known for The Evil Within horror franchise and is working on a similarly spooky action-adventure game called GhostWire Tokyo, currently set for PlayStation and PC exclusivity. Just like Deathloop, it seems likely that Ghostwire will hit Xbox in the future as well.
Machine Games is stewarding the Nazi-murdering simulator Wolfenstein, and is hard at work building the sci-fi shooter’s third installment. In addition, Machine Games is building a game based on LucasFilm’s Indiana Jones IP.
Zenimax Online Studios
ZeniMax Online Studios currently work on the Elder Scrolls Online MMO, which remains popular to this day. The studio is also working on additional “unannounced projects,” which could end up being Windows and Xbox exclusive.
A huge backlog
The central criticism of Microsoft’s current-gen Xbox has been the strength of its exclusive games, which have received mixed success. While the Forza Horizon series rocked many accolades and praise, other titles like State of Decay 2 launched in a relatively rough condition. Xbox Game Pass has helped add value to some of the lower-end titles since all Microsoft games are set to appear in the subscription service, although there’s a big appetite for true “AAA”-quality experiences that match Sony’s efforts in the space. Hellblade II certainly looks as though it fits the bill, and the size of studios like Playground certainly lends hope to Fable following suit.
When you factor in the might of ZeniMax and Bethesda, Microsoft is undeniably well-placed for a game-rich future, especially as it attempts to court subscribers to its services such as Xbox Game Pass, and Project xCloud in the future. It remains to be seen if the company can truly match Sony and Nintendo on quality in the minds of the wider audience, but it shouldn’t take long to find out.