A Microsoft Studios Website Cleanup Turned Into Unfounded Rumors Of Impending Layoffs

by Mike Futter on Mar 08, 2016 at 09:21 AM

Yesterday, Microsoft announced that it will be closing Press Play and proposing the closure of Fable developer Lionhead. Changes to the Microsoft Studios website led some to believe the cuts were deeper than originally thought. That isn’t the case.

The rumors spun out of changes that removed a number of logos, primarily of teams working on Kinect projects, from the Microsoft Studios website. Here’s how it looked on March 4 (as identified by Videogamer):

Click to enlarge.

And here’s what it looks like right now:

Click to enlarge.

This has led some to believe that yesterday’s announced cuts are more severe than Microsoft led on. In fact, the publisher points to consolidation and project shifts as the reason for the website cleanup.

“On Monday we announced changes to Microsoft Studios including Lionhead and Press Play,” a Microsoft representative told us via email. “As part of these changes, we did a site refresh and removed several logos for older studios and projects that have been consolidated during the past several years into other Microsoft Studios and teams. As games launch and new projects come online, we routinely make these kinds of moves to ensure we have the right development support on the right games.”

There is also speculation that a current Project Spark outage spells trouble for that game. Microsoft says it has nothing new to announce about the creation suite. We understand that the publisher is working on fixing those issues, and this is simply a matter of coincidence. "We are aware of the current service outage and are working as quickly as possible on a solution," we were told via email.

The teams that are now absent from the site, including SOTA, LXP, [Fun]tion, Bigpark, and Good Science, had either worked on Kinect games, were on incubating projects, or were working on HoloLens. There is no evidence that layoffs occurred, just that these teams’ logos no longer appear on Microsoft’s website.

[Source: Microsoft Studios, Microsoft Studios (cache), Project Spark]


Our Take
Especially with Kinect uncoupled from the Xbox One, it didn’t make sense to have so many teams working on software for the device. With HoloLens coming and other teams growing and in need of support, this seems like a typical reorganization, especially as these were not high-profile groups.

Sure, the website looks slimmed down, but it appears that only two of those studios released a game. Good Science was behind Kinect Adventures. Bigpark handled Kinect Joy Ride. Neither of these teams released a game since 2012.