Xbox Game Studios boss Booty reiterates Microsoft's interest in mid-tier projects

Xbox Game Studios boss Booty reiterates Microsoft's interest in mid-tier projects

Microsoft corporate vice president and head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty has once again said that the Big M is interested in publishing. 

Speaking to Game Informer, the exec was asked about how much its acquisition of Ninja Theory in 2018 was down to the success of Hellblade. Booty points to that project - one of the big early successes from the emerging mid-tier - as an example of the sort of game it wants to be publishing.

This is in line with what Booty told last year following the Big M's acquisition of four studios at E3 2018. Hellblade has sold over one million copies since its 2017 release

"Hellblade is... a great example of the kind of game that we're looking for from the studios that we've acquired recently," he said.

"They're not going to be 90-hour triple-A games, but what they are going to be are things that are super well crafted, will have as close to triple-A production values as we get but we're going to scope them so that they can be done well by a smaller studio. To me, the magic of Hellblade is how well it was built, how compelling its story was but it is a masterful bit of design constraint and scoping so that what it does, it does really well. It's not a 100-hour game, but then the ten-to-15 hours of gameplay is really, really well done.

"For us, it was more of a test case of: 'Hey, if we were to acquire Ninja Theory and they were to continue shipping games of the quality and scope of Hellblade, would we consider that a success?' And the answer is yes. Where that helps our strategy is when you think about something like Game Pass, where people are subscribing and they really want to know what's next, those kinds of games are great and they're things that fit perfectly in between our bigger triple-A releases. I don't know that Hellblade was the pivot point, but it certainly was a great example or test case to prove out what we were looking for."

Booty also discussed the process by which Microsoft is acquiring developers to join Xbox Game Studios, saying that the Big M doesn't want to change company culture or accidentally create an organisation that is too big to manage.

"There is the reality that we want to make sure that the studios we acquire are a healthy part of Xbox Game Studios, that we give them time to get connected," he said.

"We don't want to go in and change their culture, we don't want to change how they do things. But it is our responsibility to support them to succeed. It's our responsibility to make sure they've got the resources they need. There is some rhythm and some cadence that I don't want to get too far ahead of things where we wake up one morning and we've just built and organisation that's not sustainable. That kind of gates it a little bit."

He continued: "There's a combination of things that have to come together. Is it a studio that fits what we're after right now? Is it a studio where, in their journey and their path, does it make sense for them to be acquired? We don't want to go in and be heavy-handed about it. All the studios we've acquired, all those have happened because they happened to be at a point in their lifecycle and journey as they grow that it made sense that we could enable that next step."

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.