We have had a few years now since Microsoft bought Playground, Ninja Theory, Obsiden, Inxile, Compulsion, Double Fine, and Undead Labs.
I thought it might be worth seeing how these studios have changed or grown since their aquisitions.
When they were purchased in 2018 they had around 190-200 employees and were working on one game in the Forza Horizon series.
Since they were bought out they are building the studio to around 400 employees and now have three teams. One working on Forza Horizon, one working on Fable, and a rumoured third team working on a new IP.
That is quite the increase in resources and output.
Obsidian were purchased in 2018 and were just finishing The Outer Worlds and had released Pillars of Eternity prior to that.
To all knowedge they had two internal teams. Their employee numbers in 2018 were around 180 employees.
As it stands today Obsidian has around 240 and has four teams. One working on The Outer Worlds 2, one on Avowed, one on Grounded, and a fourth working on a new unannounced IP.
This ia a major step up since aquisition.
Prior to being bought out, Ninja Theory had released Hellblade and were most of the way through Bleeding Edge. They had around 100 employees and as well as working on Hellblade and Bleeding Edge, they were doing outsourcing work to keep their head above water.
As an example of just how efficient and talented Ninja Theory are, Hellblade was made by a team of just 20 and was made in three years.
As it stands today, Ninja Theory have two teams, one working on Hellblade 2 and the other on Project Mara. They have around 140 employees and are still advertising.
If Ninja Theory could make Hellblade with 20 devs in three years, imagine what they will be able to with Hellblade 2 with over 100 employees and more than 4 years in development.
A serious improvement in resources has gone into Ninja Theory.
Undead Labs were pretty indie, and were working solely on the State of Decay series.
At the time.of aquisition, Undead had around 60 employees.
As it stands now, Undead Labs have over 100 employees and are still hiring.
They are still only working on the one IP as we can be aware of, but a doubling of employees and all access to Microsofts game making Intel and tools, and I fully expect State of Decay 3 to be closer to the CGI trailer than it is to DOD 2.
Again, a massive uptick in resources since aquisition.
Inxile had 70 employees at time of sale, and were working on the one known IP in Wasteland.
Inxile has two studios, one in California and the other in
Today Inxile have around 110 employees and are still hiring.
Previous Inxile developed AA games as an indie studio, and the next game after Wasteland is a AAA Steam Punk RPG.
In line with the other studios, there has been a substantial increase in Inxiles resources, not to mention the bump from a AA to a AAA studio.
Double Fine had around 65 employees when they were purchased, and were working on the one IP in Psychonauts 2.
Today Double Fine has around 80 employees now, and are still only working on the one known IP.
Double Fine have grown in the 18 months since aquisition, but it appears they may remain one of the smaller studios at Microsoft.
Compulsion were purchased in 2018 and only had 40 employees working on the one IP, We Happy Few.
Today they sit around 70 employees and are still actively employing more as they ramp up their next IP.
Similar to Double Fine, Complusion has shown an increase in resources since aquisition, but will remain a smaller studio. Not sure at this point if Compulsion, like Doubel fine, will become a AAA studio.
And while we are rounding out Microsofts new studios, it might be worth mentioning that The Inititive has grown to around 80 employees and are still actively employing more people.
I have heard that The Inititive will be structured a bit different in that they will have a lower internal staff level and will outsource alot more of the game than traditional.
Only working on the one game at the moment, and are said to be a AAAA studio.
So as we can see, after the initial buyouts, Microsoft has injected more resources into these companies, to the extent where some of them are close to doubling in size.
I agree, Hellblade 2 doesn’t really need 100-200+ people working on it.
I just don’t see Hellblade 2 being some crazy God of War type action game. some people are highly overhyping it like its going to be the next big action game from Microsoft, the system seller masterpiece for the casual audience. The magic of hellblade is not in its combat, its the storytelling and way you experience the voices in your head. Ninja Theory was touting themselves for a long time as being free from the traditional AAA game development tropes and cycles. They want to make creative experimental games with a budget and that’s a good thing.
I think Hellblade 2 will be a huge improvement on 1 and it could get raving reviews, but its not going to be some crazy 40 hour long sad dad game made for a general audience.
Honestly I’m very doubtful on both fronts. Ninja Theory will grow but it sounds like they’re (judging from their first dev diary of 2020) going all in on the type of dev cycle Hellblade had. Which is to say pretty small dev teams, with the studio as a whole working on several projects.
If they expand to more members I imagine that’ll probably translate moreso into more games being in development than the number of teams growing.
Also, I might very well be wrong, so only time will tell, but I feel that 2022 is probably when we see Hellblade 2 drop. when in 2022 is another question, but feels like we’ve known about the game for so long and I’m sure it was in some form of development before it was announced. It has to be well into development and coming out relatively soon at this point.
I could see covid maybe delaying it from a first half 2022 title to a second half 2022, but I definitely think it’ll be in 2022. I think we see gameplay this year too.
I just don’t see how that’s possible.
You would expect Hellblade 2 to be bigger in scope than the first, we expect the graphics to be on another level, it’s using UE 5 as well, so how will they be able to do all that with 40 people, while companies like 343 have 500 and are working on the one game.
It would also seem that Project Mara would have the same or even more resources than HB 2.
Maybe they are working on another IP as well, but if they can pull off what we think Hellblade 2 will be, with only 40 devs, they are God tier.
I mean, I think if you told any person after they finished hellblade that “this game was made by 20 people” their minds would be blown away too.
I don’t expect the scope of Hellblade 2 to get bigger. I expect Hellblade 2 to be around the same length as the 1st game, maybe a bit longer. I think between all the dev diaries for Hellblade which go into a good amount of detail as to how they managed to pull of what they did with such a small team there, alongside some of the tech they’re developing for their next set of games (see their latest dev diary), we have a decent idea as to how they can pull off hellblade 2 with a team of that size.
it’s a challenge, but just like with Hellblade 1, it sounds like a challenge Ninja Theory is welcoming with open arms. Their entire mantra now feels like one that revolves around working on triple A narrative experiences with smallish teams.