Xbox Game Studios rebranding signals big changes for Microsoft's focus on gaming

Microsoft Studios, the umbrella game development organization that includes 343 Industries, The Coalition, Compulsion Games, The Initiative, inXile Entertainment, Minecraft, Ninja Theory, Obsidian Entertainment, Playground Games, Rare, Turn 10 Studios, and Unlead Labs, is being renamed to Xbox Game Studios.

"As we’ve expanded our focus beyond the console, the Xbox brand has also evolved from its original roots," Xbox Game Studios corporate vice president Matt Booty said. "Today, Xbox is our gaming brand across all devices, no matter how or where you want to play, or who you want to play with." 

The change reflects Microsoft's desire to spread its Xbox wings, and if we're reading between the lines, seems to indicate a dedication to expanding its gaming business beyond the Xbox console. In the past two years Microsoft has committed to putting all its first party games on PC, and its plans seem to be pointing towards even bigger things: making Xbox Live a platform that extends to all sorts of hardware. Conceivably, Xbox games could follow, too.

Microsoft is expected to discuss this at the Game Developer's Conference in March, where it will reveal a new cross-platform development platform that will extend Xbox Live support to Android and iOS mobile devices, as well as the Nintendo Switch. The GDC scheduling page says only that the Microsoft presentation will provide "a first look at the SDK to enable game developers to connect players across platforms," but according to Windows Central it previously contained a more detailed rundown of what Microsoft has in mind. 

"Now Xbox Live is about to get MUCH bigger. Xbox Live is expanding from 400M gaming devices and a reach to over 68M active players to over 2B devices with the release of our new cross-platform XDK," it said. 

"Xbox Live players are highly engaged and active on Xbox and PC, but now they can take their gaming achievement history, their friends list, their clubs, and more with them to almost every screen. This will break down barriers for developers that want their communities to mingle more freely across platforms. Combined with PlayFab gaming services, this means less work for game developers and more time to focus on making games fun."

Hopefully the launch of this new Xbox Live platform will coincide with new Windows Store and Xbox apps for PC, with better user interfaces for downloading and managing games and partying up with friends.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.