Internal Xbox sports team axed

Microsoft Games Studios sheds employees as third parties fill sports game pipeline.

In an apparent concession to the strength of EA Sports' muscle, Microsoft has permanently benched much of its internal sports-game studio. In news first released to the local Seattle press, Microsoft has confirmed that 76 employees previously attached to the NFL Fever, NHL Rivals, and Inside Drive teams are to be terminated.

The reduction in staff brings head count on the pan-Xbox team to around 1,000, off from a high of 1,200. In March, Microsoft put its XSN sports lineup of games of hiatus, stating it was "sitting out" the usual fall release schedule. Then in May, a partnership with Electronic Arts was announced that saw a number of high-profile EA Sports titles optimized for Xbox Live. That deal has spawned over a dozen EA sports titles now slated for Xbox Live gamers, including best-selling NCAA Football 2005 and Madden NFL 2005.

News source: GameSpot

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