Microsoft has officially called time on Microsoft Studios, its in-house family of game studios, but only to give it a rebrand to better show off its most well-known creation: Xbox Game Studios.

Originally founded as Microsoft Games in 2000, following the expansion of the company's games division ahead of the launch of the original Xbox console a year later, Microsoft Games would last a whole year before becoming Microsoft Game Studios to highlight its acquired subsidiary studios. That branding would last a whole decade before becoming Microsoft Studios in 2011, a refreshed name which telegraphed a desire to expand beyond gaming and into 'experiences'.

Today, the division boasts a wealth of subsidiaries including Mojang, Rare, Obsidian Entertainment, 343 Industries - which took over the Halo franchise when creator Bungie parted ways with Microsoft to make Destiny - and Ninja Theory, along with the rights to games from cancelled space-sim 0x10c to Zoo Tycoon. There have been a few notable casualties along the way, too: Digital Anvil of Freelancer fame, Ensemble Studios best known for Age of Empires and Age of Mythology, MechWarrior and Shadowrun expert FASA Studio, and Peter Molyneux' Lionhead are among the companies acquired then shuttered by Microsoft Games Studios over the years.

Now, the division is closing the door on its own name in favour of a rebrand to better focus on Microsoft's most well-known gaming brand: Microsoft Studios is now Xbox Game Studios - suggesting a shift away from 'experiences' and back to games.

'At Xbox, we believe when everyone plays, we all win. It’s why we’re passionate about building a portfolio of games for players across console, PC and mobile,' claims vice president Matt Booty in the announcement. 'As we’ve expanded our focus beyond the console, the Xbox brand has also evolved from its original roots. Today, Xbox is our gaming brand across all devices, no matter how or where you want to play, or who you want to play with. In that spirit, I’m pleased to share that we are changing the name of our game development organisation from Microsoft Studios to Xbox Game Studios.

'2019 is going to be a great year for Xbox gamers everywhere. Exclusive games including Crackdown 3, Gears 5 and Ori and the Will of the Wisps will be available to Xbox Game Pass members on the same day they launch worldwide. We’re also working to deliver big content updates for games like Sea of Thieves, Forza Horizon 4 and Minecraft that players are going to love. We’re also excited to see how the seven new game development studios we added to our team last year maximise their creative potential as part of Xbox Game Studios. As a gaming organisation, we have never been in a better position to deliver a diverse line-up of exclusive games for Xbox fans now, and in the future.'

The new branding comes as Microsoft schedules a talk on a new Xbox Development Kit (XDK) release which will bring Xbox Live support to third-party platforms including Android, iOS, and the Nintendo Switch.

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October 14 2021 | 15:04