The console arms race only heightens by the day. Over the past couple of years, Xbox and PlayStation have done everything to gobble up as many first-party studios in an effort to outdo the other.
While in generations past it may have seemed like Sony and company had been winning the exclusive game; however, the team at Microsoft has assembled quite the stable of in-house studios themselves. Acquisitions like Double Fine, Obsidian, and of course all of Bethesda’s amalgam of development teams have headlined an age of big spending from the Washington-based console giant.
Sure, the fruits of Xbox Game Studios’ recent efforts are only just starting to show, but the future is bright for games rocking a Series X/S in their entertainment centre. So without further ado, here is everything we know about what each first-party Xbox team is currently working on:
Location: Redmond, Washington
Last game: Halo Wars 2
One of Microsoft’s crown jewels, 343 Industries is a pretty easy studio to guess when it comes to the type of projects it is currently working on. The Redmond-based team was initially assembled to take the torch on the Halo franchise from Bungie after it broke away from Xbox, and it’s followed Master Cheif and co. ever since.
As for what the team is currently working on, it’s Halo Infinite, of course! Infinite is set to launch on December 8th and will mark just the beginning of this title. 343 has made it known that Halo Infinite is going to be a living organism of a game, with series staples like co-op campaign and forge mode coming sometime in the new year.
Master Chief’s latest adventure is sure to keep 343 Industries busy for a long time with the potential for expansions and new modes (like a battle royale, perhaps?), so predicting what comes after is a moot point. Yes, it would be nice to nice to see the team venture away from the world of Spartans and Elites, but at this point, that seems highly unlikely.
Alpha Dog Games
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Last Game: Mighty Doom (mobile)
Alpha Dog Games is one of the lesser-known studios at Xbox. The team was a part of the Bethesda/Microsoft deal and focuses entirely on mobile experiences. The studio’s last project, Mighty DOOM, launched earlier this year on iOS and Android, offering a top-down touch screen take on the iconic id Software shooter.
Being such a small studio, nothing has leaked from or been said about Alpha Dog’s next game. However, having been brought into the ZeniMax family in 2019 to bring Bethesda IP to smartphones, the team’s next project will likely be related to a name we already know.
Location: Lyon, France
Last game: Deathloop
Arkane is currently coming off the high of putting out one of the best games of the year in Deathloop. However, with its most recent outing being a timed PS5 exclusive, Microsoft is sure to make sure the French team puts it in the rearview as fast as they can.
Arkane’s stock is on the rise. Over the past decade and change, the studio has put out hit after hit, perfecting a style of gameplay known as the “immersive-sim.” And earlier this year, we got a tease of what the Dishonored studio has coming down the pipeline.
Announced as a part of the Xbox/Bethesda E3 showcase this past June, Redfall is next in Arkane’s sights. Not much has been said about the urban vampire action game other than to expect it next summer, but judging from its brief reveal trailer, it has Arkane’s signature blend of stealth, combat, and player agency written all over it.
Bethesda Game Studios
Location: Rockville, Maryland (main location, also has three other wings, including one in Montreal)
Last game: The Elder Scrolls: Blades (mobile)
While there are plenty of prize pumpkins among the Bethesda/Zenimax group of studios that Xbox purchased back in fall 2020, Bethesda Game Studios (BGS) would be considered by many to be the cream of the crop. BGS is the team that the majority of people think of when they hear Bethesda. These are the folks behind mega-hits like Skyrim and Fallout 3. To put it bluntly: when Bethesda Game Studios puts out a new game, heads turn.
And 2022 will be one of those head-turning years, as the team steps away from familiar names like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout and puts out something completely new. Interplanetary RPG Starfield is set to launch on November 11th, 2022 and will usher in a new era for BGS, running on a new engine, and being the first from the studio to come out exclusively on Xbox.
It doesn’t stop there. After the luster of Starfield has worn off and gamers move on to play whatever comes next, Bethesda has another card up their sleeve in The Elder Scrolls VI. However, according to Todd Howard, the game’s director Todd Howard, it’s still “a very long way off” and is “something that’s going to take a lot of time.”
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
Last game: Gears 5
While The Coalition has been mostly known for recent entries in the Gears of War series, something new could be on the horizon for the Canadian studio. The Vancouver-based development house most recently put out the stellar Gears 5 back in 2019, but in the time since has been very quiet about what’s up next.
Other than helping support 343 on Halo Infinite, The Coalition’s two other teams are apparently hard at work on something Gears-related, as well as something brand new. If this new Gears of War title is in fact in development, fans could expect to see it as soon as next year. A three-year development pattern has emerged since The Coalition took over the Gears franchise, so it would only make sense that a sixth game in the mainline series launch in 2022.
Taking a look at the potential brand-new project being worked on by the studio’s third team, it really could be anything. Back in May, known gaming insider Jeff Grubb revealed the team could be tackling a galaxy far, far away, saying “it could be a Star Wars thing.. but [he hasn’t] been able to confirm that.” However, mere days later when chatting about the studio’s move to Unreal Engine 5, Coalition senior community manager TC Shauny took to Reddit, clarifying the team is “not working on any such title” and that it has “nothing else to announce at this time.”
Yes, the above remark is coming right from the mouth of the developer, saying it has nothing to do with a digital dive into the Lucasian lore; but if a Coalition Star Wars project were to be announced, it would not be the first time a studio has lied about what it’s working on. It’s also worth noting that EA is losing its exclusive hold on the Star Wars gaming license in 2023, which would open it up to studios like The Coalition.
Location: Montreal, Quebec
Last game: We Happy Few
Compulsion Games is one of the lesser-known studios in the fold at Xbox, but there is no reason to think that it couldn’t achieve great things in the near future. The French-Canadian team was acquired by Microsoft back in 2018 and has been pretty much radio silent since. Other than a few remarks praising Xbox Game Pass, the We Happy Few developer has kept things pretty quiet.
Earlier this year, rumours were swirling that a new Compulsion game announcement was imminent; however, nothing has happened yet. The team has been seen hiring for a Brand Manager responsible for “all… marketing initiatives in the studio and liaise with [the] Microsoft marketing team.” Could that mean a marketing plan is coming together for as a We Happy Few follow-up? It’s entirely possible.
In a September 2021 interview with French site XboxSquad, it was mentioned that the studio’s next title would be third-person, utilize Unreal Engine, and is about halfway done. So, a first tease and reveal is likely just around the corner.
Double Fine Productions
Location: San Francisco, California
Last game: Psychonauts 2
Of course Double Fine is going to be difficult to dissect in an article such as this simply because it just released a long-awaited title in Psychonauts 2. Founder Tim Schafer’s development house has become one of the most beloved in gaming. Double Fine has honed this out-there, yet very emotionally real brand of storytelling, all wrapped in some incredibly colourful and bombastic packages.
Though it has barely been two months since their last game shipped, the team is already looking on the horizon at what is next. When speaking to GamesIndustry while promoting the Psychonauts sequel, Double Fine founder Tim Schafer let slip that their next endeavour would be “something new and original and surprising.”
In most cases, it’s hard to glean anything from nebulous adjectives like “new,” “original,” and “surprising.” That effort becomes herculean when dealing with the enigma that is Tim Schafer. With a studio that has tackled everything from platforming through people’s psyches to Jack Black-led adventures into the world of heavy metal, this next Double Fine game could be anything.
Location: Richardson, Texas
Last game: Doom Eternal
Another of the megatons that came in the Bethesda/Xbox deal was id Software. The studio that practically invented the first-person shooter has not stopped churning out pulse-pounding action games for more than twenty years. id has recently been on a roll, reviving the Doom franchise with Doom (2016) and Doom Eternal.
As for where the team goes next, it might not be where you expect. According to rumours, the team is currently hard at work on a revival of another groundbreaking FPS, Quake. The Quake reboot supposedly will feature a new female protagonist and will offer both multiplayer and single-player modes.
Nothing of this potential Quake title has been confirmed; however, Xbox’s Phil Spencer has mentioned that he has seen id’s three-year road map and it looks “fun.” Does this mean the Quake revival — if real — could be seen in the next 36 months? That looks to be the case. For now, though, all fans can do is wait with bated breath for another white-knuckled adventure from the id Software team.
Location: Santa Monica, California
Last game: N/A
The Initiative has been one of the biggest news stories in the gaming world for quite some time. Announced as the first-ever “AAAA” studio, the Santa Monica team was assembled by Microsoft with the sole purpose of taking on the likes of Naughty Dog and Guerilla at Sony. This studio has been the beacon of hope for Xbox gamers, as it will potentially offer the big-budget, prestige exclusives that Microsoft’s console competition has seemingly had on lock in recent years.
Back in December 2020, nearly three years after its inception, it was announced that the team would be reviving the Perfect Dark franchise. Now, not too much is known about the upcoming return of Joanna Dark, but it has been described as a “reinvention of the series” with an “eco sci-fi” backdrop.
Perfect Dark has been fairly quiet since its unveiling back at last year’s Game Awards. The Initiative team has let out a tidbit here and a nugget there about the project. Most recently, it was announced that Crystal Dynamics (known for its work on the Tomb Raider reboot and Marvel’s Avengers) would be brought on to help with the project, but other than that, news on The Initiative has been lacking as of late.
Location: Tustin, California
Last game: Wasteland 3
inXile joins the likes of Obsidian and Bethesda Game Studios as the RPG music makers of the Xbox first-party. For some reason in Microsoft’s acquisition spree, the tech giant has leaned into picking up some of the best role-playing-based studios out there, and inXile is no exception.
Taking a peek at what the team is working on, inXile is coming hot off the heels of launching the classic Fallout spiritual sequel Wasteland 3 in the latter half of 2020. Just because the studio has only recently put something out, though, does not mean that it’s not working hard on its next title for Microsoft.
Speaking on a podcast in August 2021, Windows Central’s Jez Corden said the Wasteland studio is currently plunking away on a “steampunk RPG” known as “Project Cobalt.” The game is rumoured to be coming out sometime in 2023 and if a pair of recent job listings are to be believed, it could be first-person instead of the classic isometric view the studio’s titles are known for.
Location: Uppsala, Sweden
Last game: Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot
Another of the development houses acquired in the blockbuster Zenimax/Xbox deal, MachineGames has garnered quite the reputation for its FPS titles. Similar to sister studio id Software, MachineGames has spent recent years breathing life into a classic shooter franchise. Where it was Doom with id, here it is Wolfenstein. Both of the mainline games in the MachineGames Wolfenstein reboot have received mostly positive reviews. Though some of the subsequent spin-offs have not fared as well, the Swedish studio does not look like it’s going to slow down.
The next announced project for MachineGames is Indiana Jones, though not much has come out on Indy’s next adventure. Fans have seen a brief teaser trailer and heard confirmation from Zenimax that it will be an “original, standalone tale set at the height of the career of the famed adventurer.” As for when gamers can expect to see Indiana Jones, Bethesda’s Pete Hines said at E3 2021 that the title is still in the “very, very, very early stages of development,” so it will likely be years before it sees the light of day.
And a look at Harrison Ford’s famed adventurer is not the only thing MachineGames has cooking up. It has been more than four years since the conclusion of the team’s Wolfenstein trilogy was teased by the studio. Though no concrete details are known and no trailer has been released, Bethesda’s Pete Hines has mentioned that Wolfenstein 3 is “absolutely” something they would want to release. Hines also commented that “You can put [him] at the head of the list of people who want to see another Wolfenstein game.” So a Wolfenstein 3 is bound to happen, it’s just a matter of when.
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Last game: Minecraft Dungeons
Monetarily speaking, Mojang may be the biggest studio at Xbox Game Studios. Minecraft continues to be a monster hit for the developer, transcending video games and becoming one of the biggest brands in pop culture. Since Minecraft launched in 2011, the team has released plenty of updates to the title, a couple of standalone digital card/strategy games, and last year debuted the Diablo-esque Minecraft Dungeons.
Now, “Minecraft 2” is probably not coming for a while longer, but that doesn’t mean the Stolkholm-based team is not working on something new and exciting. According to Windows Central, “two all-new projects that aren’t Minecraft or Minecraft Dungeons” are on the way from Mojang.
As of late, teases of a 2D Terraria-looking project have surfaced on the official Minecraft Instagram. This could simply be the studio’s social team showcasing art inspired by its digital block-building empire, or it could be hinting that an announcement may be imminent.
Location: Cambridge, England
Last game: Bleeding Edge
Ninja Theory is primed and ready to break through into the mainstream with its next project. The team released Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice in 2017 to rave reviews, with many critics praising the game’s harrowing first-hand account of someone dealing with severe mental illness. Since then, the studio stumbled a bit with multiplayer brawler Bleeding Edge. The team’s first Xbox-exclusive title failed to capture the audience needed to sustain an online game like that and was shut down less than a year after release.
But Bleeding Edge is in the rearview and the future looks bright for Ninja Theory. Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is the most imminent project for the English developer. Though no release date has been announced for the title, it is rumoured to be coming sometime in 2022.
Aside from the Hellblade sequel, Ninja Theory is also working away at two more things. The first, Project: Mara, has received a brief proof-of-concept video and looks to be some sort of modern sci-fi horror game. The second, known as The Insight Project, doesn’t look to be a game at all and has been described by the studio as ‘an ambitious combination of technology, game design, and clinical neuroscience brought together with the aim of treating mental suffering.” It’s unclear when either might release.
Location: Irvine, California
Last game: Grounded
Acquired back in 2018 and kicking off this era of acquisitions for Xbox, Obsidian Entertainment has specialized in the western RPG for decades. The team behind hits such as Pillars of Eternity, South Park: The Stick of Truth, and Fallout: New Vegas has already put out a couple of games since being purchased by the ‘Big M.’
The studio’s first Xbox exclusive, Grounded, has been in early access on console and PC for over a year with constant updates to keep players enticed. The team has said that an official 1.0 release of the game is coming in 2021, but sitting here in mid-October with no news of a full Grounded release, that 2021 window seems more and more unlikely.
Other than Obsidian’s shrunken survival early access adventure, the Irvine, California-based team has already unveiled its next two projects. Revealed back at the Xbox Games Showcase in July 2020, Avowed looks to be a classic Obsidian RPG set in a fantastical fantasy world. Also, the studio is also hard at work on the follow-up to 2019’s The Outer Worlds. Other than brief teasers for both games not much is known about either project. However, according to a recent tweet from Obsidian design director Josh Sawyer both are currently in some sort of playable state. A recent report from Windows Central offered some more details while noting that the game is still in the “early” phases of development.
It has been made known that that studio is not stopping with its two currently announced projects and that it’s working on some sort of third unannounced secret game. For years, fans have been clamoring for a new Fallout from Obsidian, and this very well could be that. One of the people working on said “secret” project is the previously mentioned Josh Sawyer, who directed Fallout: New Vegas. Now, Sawyer has worked his way up the ladder since New Vegas launched in 2010, but if the studio were to be taking on Fallout again, his expertise would be helpful.
Location: Leamington Spa, England
Last game: Forza Horizon 4
Playground Games is about to make a statement here in 2021. In a matter of weeks, the studio will launch the fifth entry in the Forza Horizon series, offering players the opportunity to take in another massive open world full of racing, stunts, and fun to be had. The UK team has become known for their more arcadey take on the Forza name, having done it to critical acclaim. And judging from everything we have seen thus far of Horizon 5, it’s going to be another hit for Playground.
Now what’s next for Playground will be an opportunity to leave the engine blocks and asphalt in the rearview for a bit, and flex their muscles. Fable was announced at the 2020 Xbox Games Showcase, serving as a soft reboot for the famed Xbox RPG franchise. Other than that initial CG trailer, nothing has been shown off from the Playground Fable project, but judging from that debut tease, it will blend the series’ signature humour with an expansive fairy tale world.
As for when gamers can expect Fable to release is anyone’s guess. However, on a recent IGN podcast, Phil Spencer did drop that fans can expect it sooner rather than later, saying it would see the light of day before Elder Scrolls VI, and VentureBeat’s Jeff Grubb has mentioned that the goal is to have Fable launch in 2023.
Location: Twycross, England
Last game: Sea of Thieves
Rare is one of the most beloved names in gaming. While it hasn’t captured gamers quite the same way it did before being purchased by Microsoft in 2002, the studio’s legacy is one that cannot be taken lightly. Despite a string of lackluster titles within the Microsoft stable, Rare has found its footing a bit as of late with projects like Rare Replay and Sea of Thieves. The latter title has garnered quite the fanbase and has seen various updates and big-name crossovers since its 2018 debut.
Next on the docket for the English studio is Everwild. Dubbed by many as one of the biggest question marks on the Xbox slate of upcoming titles, details on this game are sparse. The project was first announced back in 2019, having been in development for nearly three years at the time. Since then, though, sailing has been less than smooth for Everwild. The title has supposedly been rebooted completely within the studio and now is targeting a 2024 release date.
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Last game: Rune 2 (PC)
While Roundhouse is a relatively new studio, the team is anything but. Formerly known as Human Head Studios, this development team has been working as a unit since the turn of the millennium. The studio most known for 2006’s Prey had to shut its doors in 2019 but was almost immediately purchased by Bethesda and reopened under the name Roundhouse.
Nothing is currently known about the team’s current project, but it’s working on something. As a part of the acquisition announcement in 2019, Bethesda stated that the studio would “immediately begin work on unannounced projects at Bethesda.” So they rather than working as a support studio they are currently fiddling around with something. Games will just have to wait to see what it possibly could be.
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Last game: The Evil Within 2
The funny thing about this next member of the Xbox family is that its most imminent project is a PS5 timed console exclusive. Having been a part of the Bethesda/Microsoft deal, Tango Gameworks’ Ghostwire: Tokyo is one of the remnants of a time before ZeniMax’s teams were a part of Xbox. The team has said it will honour the deal it had in place with Sony and will launch the game on PlayStation 5, but after that, it will likely only be Xbox and PC for the Japanese development house.
After initially being given a 2021 release date, Ghostwire is now set to debut sometime in 2022. This delay was likely due to the departure of the project’s creative director in March of this year, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has surely not made development run as smoothly as the team had thought when initially pitching this super-powered horror title.
Aside from Ghostwire: Tokyo, though, Tango has made it clear that they are already working away on what will be their first Xbox exclusive. At Tokyo Game Show 2021, studio head Shinji Mikami revealed that another new game is happening and is being worked on by The Evil Within 2 director John Johanas. When probed on the project, he said that “right now John is in the middle of working energetically on a new game,” but did not make mention as to whether it will be The Evil Within 3.
Turn 10 Studios
Location: Redmond, Washington
Last game: Forza Motorsport 7
Similar to Gran Turismo developer Polyphony on the Sony side, Turn 10 is the racing sim specialist over at Microsoft. The team prides itself on pushing Xbox hardware to the brink, creating a stellar simulation driving experience with photorealistic graphics. The Redmond-based studio has only ever worked on the Forza Motorsport series, so it is easy to predict where they will go next.
Forza Motorsport 8 has been the worst kept secret for a number of years. Turn 10 has made it very clear that the next Forza game is well on its way. And gamers may not have to wait long to get their hands on Forza 8.
Earlier this year, Turn 10 started playtesting for its next project so that could mean that the game is coming sooner than later. If anything is to be gleaned from the last couple releases of Forza Motorsport, they come either a year after or before a new Forza Horizon. With Forza Horizon 5 coming out this Fall, a 2022 release for Forza Motorsport 8 would not be all that surprising.
Location: Seattle, Washington
Last game: State of Decay 2
Undead Labs was founded back in 2009 with the sole purpose of tackling digital dives into the world of the undead. The studio’s State of Decay series, while never blowing critics away, has cultivated quite the cult following. Though the team has only released two games up to this point, the jump from State of Decay 1 to 2 was a welcome one. Undead Labs has continued to innovate on its projects and that trend is showing no signs of slowing.
After allegedly canceling an MMO based in the State of Decay world, Undead Labs has announced its next game will be State of Decay 3. The game has been shown off a couple of times since its debut, yet no release date has been given. If a recent job listing is to be believed, it could still be a while until Undead’s next title hits store shelves. The listing is for a sound designer specializing in work in Unreal Engine 5, meaning the title is still in active development with release still a number of steps down the pipeline.
ZeniMax Online Studios
Location: Hunt Valley, Maryland
Last game: The Elder Scrolls Online
For the better part of a decade, ZeniMax Online Studios has been solely focused on The Elder Scrolls Online. The Elder Scrolls MMO has received a number of expansions and updates since its initial 2014 release and still has an active player population filling its servers.
For a long time, it’s felt like ZeniMax Online wasn’t even thinking about what is coming next. They had helped with games like Fallout 76 and Doom (2016), but spoken very little when it came to a new game from the studio itself. Well, turns out that while catering to the ESO audience and aiding on other Bethesda projects the team has been working on something after all.
It’s been out there for quite a while that ZeniMax Online is working on another MMO based on a new IP. Late last year, the studio was seen going on quite the hiring spree and is growing in numbers again as we speak. Now, nothing has been spoken of regarding this brand new IP, but it’s seemingly running on Unreal Engine. It’s exciting to know another game is coming from the Maryland studio; however, do not expect to be playing it any time in the near future.