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Microsoft: First-Party, Next Generation

In preparation of the next Xbox's big unveiling, we take a look at Microsoft's stable of first-party developers and what each studio is likely working on.

While Microsoft hasn't released a lot of internally developed games this generation, the company has been quietly opening new studios over the past few years, including Microsoft Studios Victoria, Kids and Lifestyle Entertainment, Connected Experiences, and Soho Productions. The focus of many of these developers remains unclear; they might be creating games for the next Xbox console, mobile and Windows 8 games, or Kinect-based software such as the interactive television programming that Microsoft's new Los Angeles-based studio is working on.

While we're expecting at least a few next-gen surprises from Microsoft's new wave of studios, the company's established first-party developers are a little more predictable. Below we've outlined the history of each studio, the games they're known for, and what they're likely working on now.

Company: 343 Industries
Known For: Halo 4
Last Game: Halo 4
343 Industries had the unenviable task of continuing Microsoft's flagship series after Bungie moved on to Destiny, but last year's release of Halo 4 proved the series is in good hands. Considering 343 Industries was created specifically to work on Halo, it's safe to assume the studio is working on a new game related to the IP. 343 has stated that Halo 4 is the first game in a new Halo trilogy. However, executive producer Kiki Wolfkill has also expressed interest in expanding the IP to other genres. Even if that's the case, we expect 343 will kick off Microsoft's next console with a traditional sequel.

Company: Lionhead Studios
Known For: Fable, Black & White, The Movies
Last Game: Fable: The Journey
Lionhead has gone through a number of changes this generation, with co-founder Peter Molyneux leaving to form 22 Cans and former Cryptic CEO John Needham stepping in as the new head of the studio. Back in 2011, Lionhead was rumored to be working on Fable IV, in addition to the Kinect-based spinoff, Fable: The Journey, which ultimately released to poor reviews. Despite its recent on-rails detour, Fable remains one of Microsoft's strongest franchises; launching its next console with a new installment of the series seems like a smart bet, though Lionhead may have a completely new IP up its sleeve as well.

Company: Turn 10 Studios
Known For: Forza Motorsport
Last Game: Forza Horizon
This generation, Turn 10's Forza series overtook Project Gotham Racing as Microsoft's principal racing franchise. Forza Horizon took the series in a slightly new direction, with an open-world format that was well-received, though not quite as beloved as Forza Motorsport 4. In any case, racing games tend to make good launch titles, aptly showing off the visual advancements new hardware provides. We expect Turn 10 is hard at work creating the next installment of the series.

Company: Rare Ltd.
Known For: Donkey Kong Country, Killer Instinct, GoldenEye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Viva Piñata
Last Game: Kinect Sports: Season Two
Despite its accomplished history of creating blockbuster franchises for Nintendo, Rare has created few standout series for Microsoft after being purchased by the company in 2002. Kameo: Elements of Power, Perfect Dark Zero, and Viva Piñata were met with generally positive reviews, but in recent years the developer has been focused on Kinect titles. While we'd love to see a next-gen sequel to Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, we're guessing a new Kinect Sports installment the likelier scenario.

Coming Up Next: Microsoft's first-party developers that specialize in downloadable and Kinect titles, plus a new studio that's focused on triple-A game development...

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