Last week’s announcement of Turtle Rock Studios being acquired by Tencent got me thinking. Are we someday soon going to be looking at a world where all gaming studios outside of smaller independents are owned by the big three? The big three being Microsoft, Tencent, and Sony of course.
Microsoft has led the way with acquisitions in recent years bringing Bethesda, Id, Arkane, and MachineGames among others under the Xbox Game Studios banner. For a complete list of studios owned by Microsoft you can see one here.
Sony also has been on a bit of a buying spree. Bringing Firesprite Games, Blue Point Games, and Valkyrie Entertainment to its already impressive lineup under PlayStation Studios. For a list of Sony’s acquisitions look here.
Tencent has been very aggressive in building its already large portfolio of game studios. According to a report by Niko Partners Tencent invested in over one hundred gaming relating companies in 2021. Nearly thirty percent of which were outside of China. Tencent already owns or has stakes in some very big names in the industry. Including Riot Games, Supercell, Funcom, Epic Games, Activision Blizzard, and Ubisoft. Tencent has been steadily buying and investing in gaming studios in recent years. They are very quickly becoming a gaming global superpower.
This brings me back to my original thought. Will we someday soon be looking at a gaming landscape where all the notable studios are owned by these three giants? Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?
Let’s look at the positives first. Studios owned by the big three would have the resources to create amazing games one would think. Which would be great for gamers. They would also hopefully have the resources to hire as many employees as needed or outsource work to a sister studio. Which would avoid the horrific stories of crunch time we’ve all read about. With people having to work long hours to meet deadlines. Being owned by one of these three giants could also bring some much-needed human resources oversight. We have all read the terrible accounts of how employees have been harassed, discriminated against, and abused. Having an ownership entities HR department to go to could hopefully prevent or at least halt those things from happening.
Now, what are some negatives to these studios being owned by either Microsoft, Sony, or Tencent? Possible loss of autonomy for one. Being owned and financially backed by a larger company could mean having to get new projects or marketing campaigns approved. This could mean that some great ideas that the studio could have just run with before now may never see the light of day. If the ownership doesn’t approve, they could squash them. I know we’ve all read he rosy promises that these studios will be allowed to operate just as they have been etc. However, let’s be realistic. A triple A title is a huge investment to develop, publish, and market. Do you honestly believe that the executives at the big three will be completely hands off when it comes time to fork over big money?
Projects that are currently in production are most likely safe from any interference oversight. So, we may not see the long-term effects that this plethora of gaming studio acquisitions has for many years to come. My fear is that with possibly less freedom to create as they wish. We, as gamers won’t see as many new innovations in games being released. Competition breeds new ideas and causes people to push the envelope. If we end up with just three corporate giants owning all the major studios. That could mean instead of dozens of studios creating and competing against each other. We end up with just what amounts to three gargantuan studios. In my opinion that would be bad for the industry, and ultimately bad for gamers.