With Microsoft’s latest acquisition of Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax Media, it’s made many think about which studios are left for mega-corporations to gobble up. With one big cheque—I like to imagine those comically big cardboard ones—the number of studios under Microsoft’s umbrella has gone up from 15 to 23, and the company now owns several more major gaming series such as The Elder Scrolls, Doom, Fallout and Dishonored. And it turns out, it’s still not done with scooping up studios.
Microsoft’s $7.5 billion ZeniMax haul was the second most expensive video game acquisition in history, with Tencent’s $8.6 billion purchase of Supercell sitting comfortably in the number one spot—just looking at that number makes me wheeze.
With the battle for exclusive IPs, both old and new, being a main driving force behind these hefty transactions, there have been plenty of rumours around different studio acquisitions over the years. Below is a list of studios that have been suspected of acquisition, have entered into acquisition talks, or that were once the target of acquisition but currently remain independent.
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Location: California, US
Games: Batman: Arkham, Lego series, Middle Earth series, Harry Potter RPG
WG Games have been at the centre of an acquisition rumour this year due to AT&T looking to sell parts of Warner Bros Entertainment Inc. off. CNBC claims that the gaming arm of the media giant was up for $4 billion, with potential gaming buyers including EA, Activision Blizzard, and Take-Two—with reports of Microsoft also throwing its wallet into the ring.
Since a new head of AT&T has reportedly decided to no longer sell the division, it no longer looks like a deal will go through. If a company were to snatch up WB Games, it would have access to some pretty huge projects, such as the Batman Arkham series, the Middle Earth games, and Hogwarts Legacy, the long-rumoured Harry Potter RPG.
Location: Washington, US
Games: Halo, Destiny
Bungie can’t seem to keep a partnership down. The Halo developers used to be part of Microsoft back in 2000, but the studio has since parted ways to become independent. It then signed on with Activision for a big ol’ ten-year publishing deal for Destiny in 2010, but then also split with them in 2019.
Rumours have sprouted up recently in a GamesBeat podcast about Microsoft potentially buying out the studio again, but Bungie CEO Pete Parsons squashed them. This means that Bungie is still independent, but with Microsoft’s big purchases lately and the release of the Xbox Series X, who knows what’s next for the Destiny developer.
Games: Layers of Fear, Observer, Blair Witch
The Polish studio recently entered merger and acquisition talks according to a stock market filing caught by VGC. The horror game studio is reportedly in talks with a number of different outfits, and what started out as 12 interested buyers has since been whittled down to 6. PC Games Insider reports that three of these companies from the USA, two are from Poland, and one from the UK.
Bloober Team is best known for its psychological adventures including Layers of Fear, Observer, and a videogame adaptation of the Blair Witch Project. The team are now working on a new game called The Medium for PC and the Xbox Series X.
CD Projekt Red
Games: The Witcher, Cyberpunk 2077
There aren’t any rumours directly about an acquisition for CD Projekt Red, but there has been some talk about Microsoft’s interest in a Poland-based studio. This could include the likes of Techland, CI Games, People Can Fly, the previously mentioned Bloober Team, and possibly CD Projekt Red. It’s pretty unlikely, given that the studio currently sits at an eye-watering market value of $8 billion, but if a corporation wanted to make a statement, acquiring CD Projekt Red would certainly be a way to do it.
Games: Max Payne, Alan Wake, Quantum Break, Control
Remedy Entertainment has a lot going on as a studio which makes it a potential great purchase. Thanks to Control and Alan Wake being the two main contributors to the studio’s revenue last year, Remedy has been working on three new games, one of which will be a Destiny-style live service game. We don’t know much about these upcoming releases, but one is reported to be using Remedy’s “own brands” which could mean a follow-up to something like Alan Wake.
The studio has currently signed a deal with Epic Games Publishing, with Epic explaining that Remedy would “retain 100% of all intellectual property and full creative control over their work”. There may possibly be talks of Epic progressing this deal into a full acquisition, but there have been no public announcements.
Games: Bayonetta, Nier: Automata, Vanquish
Platinum Games is a work-for-hire studio but has its own set of action-packed series, making it of interest to companies. There were rumours just this year about the Japan-based studio being a new addition to Microsoft’s game studios, which would have netted a haul of bombastic games including Bayonetta and Nier: Automata. The rumour was quickly shut down by studio head Atsushi Inaba. It was believable due to the fact that Phil Spencer has been looking for “an Asian studio, in particular, Japanese studio” to join Microsoft’s studio roster.
Even if Microsoft were to think about opening its wallet, the cancelled collaboration between the two on action-adventure Scalebound would still be looming over the partnership. The game was supposed to release on PC and Xbox, only for Microsoft to cancel the project in 2017.
Now, this is a spicy rumour. Could Microsoft have inadvertently given away their plans to acquire Sega, one of the biggest multinational video game companies in the world? Check out the tweet below for ‘indisputable’ evidence.
bringing a report from the land of gamers. a select few are convinced that microsoft is buying sega next and it’s lead to a resurgence of my absolute favourite kind of post pic.twitter.com/ng6WUmVMSNSeptember 22, 2020