Xbox Game Studios has been shifting strategy on many fronts over the last couple of years, from bringing more of its games to PC to venturing into the subscription service space with Xbox Game Pass. It's also been making multiple acquisitions, which included Bethesda parent company Zenimax Media.
Its clear efforts to diversify its portfolio may not stop with acquiring developers and, going forward, we may end up seeing more features which support user-created content.
Some Xbox Games Studios titles like Forza Horizon 5 and Microsoft Flight Simulator already encourage user-created content, to varying extents, and their ranks may be bolstered significantly over the coming years.
"I think we will see a lot of games start to include things that are based around scripting and the ability to add to the game,” Head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty told The Guardian. "With Forza Horizon 5, we added the ability to design challenges and obstacle courses. We’ve had Halo Forge, which lets you design your own multiplayer levels. In Flight Simulator, that activity is a lot more sophisticated."
"So I think we’ll see that going forward, where people just have an expectation that they can do more through scripting and mods. And certainly, with the addition of Bethesda to the Xbox family, they’ve got a long history of understanding how mods work – we’ve seen that with Skyrim." Booty explained.
Executive Vice President of Gaming Phil Spencer echoed this by saying that Microsoft "has been a creator-led company from the beginning.
"I mean, on DOS, anybody could build an app – you were a game publisher if you had a compiler and a floppy drive. You just built your game, copied it over to a floppy, put it in a Ziploc and you’re selling; you’re a game publisher. I like that access and I want to get back to that as an industry.”
User-created content can be quite beneficial, extending the lifespan of a game even in the absence of mods. With the advent of live service games, territory to which Xbox Game Studios is no stranger, things may look disheartening at first glance. That's largely due to the increased need for developer control over the content that goes into the game, monetized or not, which leaves little room for players to add their own creations.
Booty, however, notes that the publisher does not have "any direction or mandate that says every game has to be an ongoing, sustained game."
"Sea of Thieves has longevity and we’re going to have Halo multiplayer start to be based around seasons, but Compulsion Games, our studio in Montreal, weren’t told to go build something that’s going to have seasons or six pieces of DLC or something."
We'll have to wait and see how this will materialize over the next couple of years, but it certainly sounds like a welcome shift in direction, at least from a player's perspective.
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