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Xbox will be less hands-off with Bethesda amid major reorganisation

Xbox will be less hands-off with Bethesda amid major reorganisation
A memo from Phil Spencer shares some insight into Microsoft’s future strategy (Picture: Microsoft)

Microsoft seems to have decided its hands-off approach with developers isn’t working, as it takes more direct control of the Xbox studios.

In the wake of its acquisition of Activision Blizzard , Microsoft is undergoing some internal changes in how it runs its Xbox division, according to a memo sent to staff by Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer.

As such, some people are being moved into new positions, but the most interesting reshuffle is the promotion of Matt Booty from head of Xbox Game Studios to the entirely new role of president of Game Content and Studios.

It doesn’t sound that different to Booty’s previous role but one detail that stands out is that he’ll be overseeing ZeniMax Media and thus Bethesda and all its studios, like Arkane and MachineGames.

‘Great games are fundamental to everything we do,’ reads Spencer’s memo as shared by The Verge .

‘We believe that an expanded gaming content organisation – one that enables Xbox Game Studios and ZeniMax’s development studios to collaborate effectively together – will empower those world-class studios to do their best work in growing our portfolio of games players love.’

ZeniMax president and CEO Jamie Leder is retaining his position and all ZeniMax studios will continue reporting to him. From now on, though, Leder will need to report to Booty.

Spencer’s memo adds: ‘To deepen our partnership and accelerate mutual learning, a number of ZeniMax leaders will now report to those Microsoft leaders with whom their work most closely aligns.’

Is Redfall responsible for the stricter observations? (Picture: Microsoft)

All this essentially sounds like Microsoft wants to be more involved with whatever Bethesda is working on, which is the opposite of the hands-off approach the company’s typically taken with its other studios.

Then again, that hands-off approach has proved detrimental in a number of instances. It’s been blamed as a contributing factor to the development woes at The Initiative and the toxic work conditions at Undead Labs . Ironically, it arose out of Microsoft overcompensating for previously being too heavy handed with its studios.

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Microsoft’s closer eye on ZeniMax and Bethesda could also be a response to the launch of Arkane’s Redfall . The vampire co-op shooter was billed as one of Xbox’s big exclusives of 2023, but proved to be very underwhelming, both critically and commercially.

Even during development, Arkane’s staff weren’t all that invested in making it and had hoped Microsoft would just cancel the project once it bought them out. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

There’s a balance needed in terms of how much oversight a publisher has over its studios and now that Microsoft has tried the two extremes hopefully it can find the sweet spot somewhere in the middle.

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