The announcement at E3 2018 that Microsoft Studios was acquiring Playground Games was probably the least surprising of the bunch, considering that the developer had been making games for the publisher since 2010. What might be a little surprising is that the acquisition took place just a few weeks prior to the announcement.
I recently got a chance to speak with creative director Ralph Fulton at a Forza Horizon 4 preview event and asked if the acquisition impacted development on the upcoming open-world racing game in any way. It hasn’t, Fulton said, and one of the main reasons it hasn’t, besides the studio’s longstanding relationship and mutual trust with the publisher, is timing.
“We became part of the Microsoft family end of May, I think it was the last day in May, right before E3,” Fulton explained. “As a development team who are just coming up to E3 and ship year, there’s not a lot of time to pick your head up and think, ‘Okay, what does this mean?’ Everyone’s just really focused. They’re focused on E3 and focused on closing the game out.”
Obviously, these kinds of acquisitions take time to develop, so the acquisition was probably in the works earlier than that, but Microsoft’s clear desire to reveal that it had acquired a number of well-respected studios to make exclusives at E3 2018 probably had something to do with the timing.
Likewise, the acquisition hasn’t disrupted the work that Playground’s second studio, which officially opened in February 2017 and is rumored to be making the next Fable game, is doing because “they’ve been working with Xbox for as long as they’ve been a team,” Fulton said.
I’ll post my (very positive) impressions of Forza Horizon 4 soon, or you can check out the game for yourself, as the demo launched today.
Forza Horizon 4 launches on October 2nd for Xbox One and PC.