Three is a trend, or so the saying goes among journalists. So what are we to make of the steady exodus of highly acclaimed developers from the warm embrace of Microsoft Game Studios into the arms of others? Last Thursday's news that Electronic Arts had acquired BioWare Pandemic from Elevation Partners for nearly $800 million marked the third time in just three weeks that a top developer of multiple Xbox games has jumped ship.
First, on September 26th, Activision announced that it would be purchasing the previously-independent U.K. studio Bizarre Creations, which made four Project Gotham Racing games for MGS between 2001 and 2006. A week later, rumors began to mount that Bungie-the brightest light in the MGS firmament by virtue of its three best-selling Halo games and the only one of the three Killer B's actually owned by Microsoft-had repurchased its independence from the Redmond giant. The rumors proved true, and by the end of the week, both parties released statements attesting to that fact.
When EA made its announcement not even a week later, that BioWare-makers of the MGS titles Jade Empire and the forthcoming Mass Effect-and Pandemic would be joining its Murderer's Row, much of the focus was on whether or not EA overpaid (we'll tackle that in a subsequent post) and was it good or bad that EA's already formidable power was spreading unchecked throughout the industry like the baleful Eye of Sauron.
Left relatively unexamined, with the exception of a few message boards, fansites and podcasts, was this: what does it say about Microsoft Game Studios that three of the industry's most renowned developers have slipped through its fingers in less than a month's time?