Rewind back a few years and Microsoft’s collection of first-party studios was pretty underwhelming. They had a couple of in-house developers that focused on tentpole franchises (e.g. Halo, Gears and Forza) and that was pretty much it. It all looked especially meagre compared to Sony’s vast and muscular collection of first-party devs pumping out game-of-the-year calibre exclusives.
It hadn’t helped either that Microsoft Studios gained a reputation for being not very developer-friendly. Fortunately, in 2017, a regime switch occurred as Phil Spencer took the position as Vice President of the Gaming Division. He was keen to mend bridges, creating a fresh environment where developers would receive funding and operate with hands-off freedom from the publisher.
Since then, the tides have changed with Microsoft buying up many enticing companies, especially over the last couple of months. It will admittedly take a few years before the dividends of this power-play pay off though, with it likely coinciding with their next-generation console.
Still, there's no denying these are exciting times, and it's worth sifting through their new and improved first-party slate to assess the kind of future fans can look forward to.