Reports are circulating that Microsoft is very close to obtaining video game developer studio Obsidian Entertainment. Obsidian has been independent studio since it was founded in 2003. The developer is primarily known for its RPG games and have quite a few big titles under their belt, including fan favorite and acclaimed titles such as Fallout: New Vegas, Knights of the Old Republic II, and most recently, Pillars of Eternity.
Meanwhile, even though Microsoft led the last console race with the Xbox 360 they’ve fallen behind with the Xbox One largely due to a poor start on the marketing front in 2013 and since, a lack of quality exclusive games for the platform. The Xbox One lags substantially behind rival PlayStation 4 in sales sand exclusivity deals, and is even being surpassed by the more recent Nintendo Switch. This is why Xbox has been making so many pro-consumer choices in recent years, from supporting backward compatibility, cross-play, and Play Anywhere, and why at E3 this summer, announced the acquisition of multiple developers to secure their position for the next generation of consoles.
The rumors of Microsoft acquiring Obsidian come from Jason Schreier at Kotaku. According to the online publication the deal is about “90%” finished and, “It’s a matter of when, not if.” A spokesperson for Microsoft refused to comment on the potential deal publicly but nonetheless it sounds as if Obsidian could fall under the Microsoft umbrella very soon.
The deal would make sense for both companies. Microsoft, as mentioned, desperately needs some first-party hits for the Xbox One to compete with the likes of PS4’s Spider-Man, God of War, Uncharted 4, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Likewise Obsidian has gone through some financial issues of their own. The developer nearly fell apart completely before the release of Pillars of Eternity and had to turn to Kickstarter to receive the rest of the funding. Obsidian has been able to avoid bankruptcy but it likely isn't on the strongest footing.
Currently, Obsidian is working on an unnamed RPG project that is set to be published by a division of 2K games. No platform has been announced yet for this game so it’s possible that Microsoft will buy out the contract and just publish the game on their own for Xbox and Windows 10.
If completed, the acquisition would add Obsdian Entertainment to fellow recent game developers including Ninja Theory, the creator of the very acclaimed and one-time PS4 exclusive Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, and Undead Labs (State of Decay), Playground Games (Forza Horizon), Compulsion Games (We Happy Few), and The Initiative. Obsidian brings with it a lot of community love, brand recognition, and certainly an impressive pedigree that would presumably only get better with the resources and stability provided by Microsoft.
It’ll be several years before Microsoft and gamers see the fruit of all Microsoft’s acquisitions, including Obsidian. Yet it’s clear that Xbox isn’t content on playing for second place against PlayStation for much longer. The new exclusives might not arrive until the next generation of consoles but Microsoft is playing to win.