Microsoft plans to expand first-party Xbox One game offerings

With the Xbox One X ready to make an impressive debut this week, Microsoft is doing some self-reflection on how it runs its games division. The resulting analysis could mean more first-party games coming from the Redmond-based company, either in the way of developer acquisitions or in-house creations.

“We need to grow, and I look forward to doing that,” Xbox boss Phil Spencer said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Our ability to go create content has to be one of our strengths. We haven’t always invested at the same level. We’ve gone through ups and downs in the investment.”

Right now, Microsoft's biggest franchises developed internally are Forza, Halo, and Gears of War. Forza Motosport 7 came out early last month, while neither of the latter two made an appearance this year, unless you count Halo Wars 2, an RTS spinoff of the wildly successful FPS series. Microsoft also owns Sea of Thieves developer Rare, and Minecraft developer Mojang.

Spencer's comments come after Xbox's head of first-party development, Shannon Loftis, went out of her way to defend offerings for the Xbox One this year.

"I think our offering is good and it is solid. I definitely hear that gamers want more. Would we love to have two-dozen more super-strong, absolutely exclusives? You bet," Loftis told GameSpot. "We do have more coming; more that are in the works that we're not talking about now. But I feel good about what we have to offer for the launch [of Xbox One X]."

For the last couple of years, Microsoft has been content to let other major publishers shoulder the load of creating games for the various Xbox consoles, but Spencer said he has been successful in getting the ear of Microsoft boss Satya Nadella, convincing him that gaming is here to stay and needs to be better supported by the company. In turn, Nadella has added Spencer to Microsoft's senior leadership team in September.

The Xbox One has lagged behind rival PlayStation 4 and now the Nintendo Switch since it launched, and Microsoft has renewed its emphasis on trying to turn that around. Nadella said as much when he told analysts last month during a conference call that the company was "fundamentally rethinking how we measure progress in gaming.”

As for how Microsoft plans to expand its first-party offerings, Spencer said Microsoft plans to either start its own new studios or acquire existing ones. The company did cut into its development options when it shuttered developers Lionhead and Press Play last year.

Microsoft has solid offerings both in hardware and software, and the company made a more impressive showing at E3 this year than it did with its tone-deaf 2016 presentation. Xbox console exclusives such as Cuphead and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds have helped, and a successful showing by Rare's upcoming Sea of Thieves would also provide a boost. The renewed emphasis on in-house development can do nothing but strengthen Microsoft's position, supported by Spencer's experience and the general loyalty of its Xbox fanbase.

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