Ever since Microsoft purchased Bethesda in September, there has been speculation on who it might purchase next. In the past week, that speculation has been brought back to the attention of many people.
We do know that Microsoft is interested in buying another studio, so let’s speculate on which studio will join the Xbox family next.
Based in Austria, Deep Silver is best known for publishing games in the Metro franchise as well as Saints Row from 2013 onward. If Microsoft were to acquire this studio, they would be expanding on critical genres where they need more games representing them, as well as replacing a franchise whose future seems dark.
Despite their best efforts, Xbox is lacking when it comes to certain genre representation. For instance, Halo is their sole exclusive first-person shooter series with any degree of widespread popularity, while Crackdown is the closest to a standout open-world action-adventure franchise in their possession. Adding Metro and Saints Row to their portfolio would help expand these key categories where they barely have a foothold at present.
Deep Silver is currently working on Dead Island 2, which has been in development since 2014. Xbox does have the similarly zombie-focused Dead Rising as one of their key franchises, but since the studio behind Dead Rising 4 was shut down, we haven’t heard any news surrounding the future of that franchise. Taking in Dead Island 2 and making it an Xbox exclusive can help sate the hunger of those Dead Rising fans yearning for the next great zombie adventure.
During an Inside Xbox conference last year, Deep Silver announced their brand new game Chorus, which will be multiplatform but is also intended to be enhanced for the Xbox Series X. It wasn’t revealed if the title will be a part of Game Pass, but we wouldn’t put it past Xbox to try and team up with Deep Silver on this game in some way. Certainly, it would make sense to have a high-profile new title serve as the public introduction of a new studio purchase.
Out of all the buyout rumours featured here, this one has had the most traction in the past few months. Xbox has made it clear that they would love to buy a Japanese studio in order to bring more of their titles to the West.
One of the studios said to be on Xbox’s mind for a while is Sega. In operation since 1960, Sega has a storied history as the creators of Sonic the Hedgehog, Bayonetta, Shenmue, Streets of Rage, and Yakuza among others. More pertinent than Sega’s background, however, is how it and Xbox have crossed paths in the past.
Years ago, Microsoft almost went through with a buyout of Sega. While the two companies had been working together to make Microsoft Windows compatible with the Sega Dreamcast system, Sega had been experiencing financial troubles over the Dreamcast’s limited sales. Microsoft considered purchasing Sega partially to aid their fellow company, but in the end declined over concerns that the buy out wouldn’t be enough to boost efforts against the Sony PlayStation 2. However, the lack of a deal didn’t exactly ruin the two companies’ relationship.
Indeed, Sega has proved more than willing to work with Xbox in delivering an eclectic range of titles. Sega released 11 exclusives for the original Xbox including Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller, Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, and Sonic Heroes. More recently, players saw the release of several Yakuza games for Xbox systems, after a decade of exclusivity to Sony consoles. While perhaps not as close with Microsoft today, Sega has created many fantastic games past and present that would bolster Xbox’s first-party studio lineup.
However, what has most fueled these rumors are actual teases from both Xbox and Sega. This includes Microsoft’s decision to release a blue controller that was the same color as Sonic, Aaron Greenberg of Xbox posting a picture of a hedgehog on his Instagram story, and a mysterious photo featuring Sonic alongside black and white straws symbolizing the Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S. While just hints at the moment, they have served to keep the rumor mill running for the foreseeable future.
Following Sega is another Japanese studio with a lot of heavy hitters in its IP backlog. Koei Tecmo is a standout publisher whose subsidiaries, including the likes of Omega Force and Team Ninja, boast decades of hit titles under their belt.
Consider that this is the company behind Ninja Gaiden, Dynasty Warriors, Dead or Alive, and Nioh. Nioh was a critical darling when it released back in 2017, with its sequel Nioh 2 released to similar fanfare. Meanwhile, though Ninja Gaiden hasn’t seen a mainline release since 2014, its previous success at delivering brutal and challenging action leaves the door open for development on a brand new entry. At any rate, having those franchises would help Microsoft in their efforts to bring more Japanese games to their consoles.
Team Ninja in particular once enjoyed an exclusive partnership with Xbox. Microsoft reached out to Koei Tecmo after the success of Dead or Alive 2 with an offer to help develop the sequel, needing high profile games that were exclusive to the upcoming Xbox system. Thus, from 2001 until 2006, all Dead or Alive titles were released solely for the Xbox. Given that Team Ninja once helped define what the Xbox could be, an acquisition of the company by way of Koei Tecmo could help Microsoft do the same for the Series X.
One of the more pressing reasons for why Xbox wants to bring more Japanese developers to the console is due to the console not being popular in Japan. Being able to purchase Koei Tecmo, or even making a deal to have some of their titles be exclusive to Xbox, has the potential to convince Japanese gamers to purchase the console and help Xbox make a name for itself in the country.
One of the more recent rumors is that the purchase Xbox plans to make will be the same level as the Bethesda deal. A lot of speculation has indicated that Ubisoft might be the studio in question.
Discussion about this potential deal emerged when Ubisoft+ was rumored to be coming as part of the Game Pass subscription. As of right now, Ubisoft+ is not available on Game Pass, but Ubisoft did put Rainbow Six Siege on the service for its subscribers to play. Bringing Ubisoft+ to Game Pass, then, seems like a move that could further push the Xbox/Ubisoft relationship forward and ignite the talks for an acquisition.
Buying Ubisoft would also allow Xbox to be the home of massive franchises such as Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs, The Division, and Far Cry. This would be a huge acquisition for Xbox, bolstering their exclusive titles and making it hard for players not to choose Xbox as their main console on which to play.
All that said, a major hurdle for this development is the fact that Ubisoft has been fighting against bigger companies trying to acquire them outright. However, it’s also possible that Ubisoft may be open to being purchased by Microsoft after seeing how Microsoft is handling the Bethesda acquisition.
Ideally, Ubisoft wouldn’t have to change their ways if it was purchased by Microsoft. It could continue to work on the amazing franchises it already owns, with even the possibility of first-party exclusivity not guaranteed to stick given Microsoft’s willingness to let certain titles exist on other platforms.
PlatinumGames is a fantastic example of a studio that could fit in the Xbox ecosystem perfectly. It has made games in various genres and has created some original properties that they could bring to Xbox. There also happens to be an existing relationship between them, thanks to a cancelled project called Scalebound that PlatinumGames was developing for Xbox One and Windows.
It helps that PlatinumGames has mostly worked with other publishers to create their games. Whether it is working with Square Enix for Nier: Automata, Nintendo for Astral Chain or Activision for The Legend of Korra, PlatinumGames has worked on every platform and collaborated with various studios to make incredible projects. Having PlatinumGames join the Xbox team and be able to work on both existing and forthcoming Xbox properties, such as those owned by Bethesda, will allow us to see incredible games based on franchises we already love.
Then again, it’s worth considering that in the past few years PlatinumGames has been more interested in independent self-publishing than in making deals with an outside company. That harsh reality may make PlatinumGames the most unlikely of the developers on this list to be bought.
If hope endures for such a deal, it rests with Xbox head Phil Spencer and his push to have the Xbox become more accepted in Japan. Spencer has repeatedly indicated that he would love to have Xbox release games that appeal to that audience instead of pushing the hardware itself.
In the event that a purchase of PlatinumGames isn’t possible for Microsoft, we would still love to see them work together to at least bring back Scalebound, or perhaps collaborate on another exclusive that would help the Xbox brand gain traction in Japan. It would be a small comfort, but we’ll take what we can get.