The end of sports game development at Microsoft Game Studios is one that can now be viewed as having two last gasps. The first was the one felt when Microsoft laid off 76 employees attached to the NFL Fever, NHL Rivals, and Inside Drive teams in early August. The second came sometime within the last three months when the ink dried on a contract that saw Microsoft sell its Salt Lake City-based studio responsible for the Amped and Links sports franchises to Take-Two Interactive. The sale was revealed today during Take-Two's earnings call.
The studio also oversaw development of Top Spin by Paris-based studio Power and Magic Developments.
During today's call, Take-Two president Paul Eibeler confirmed that sometime during the August-September quarter, it purchased the Utah studio from Microsoft. He referred to the studio by its current name, Indie Built, and did not mention which of Take-Two's three subsidiaries--Rockstar Games, Gathering, or Global Star--would manage the studio.
Microsoft Game Studios Group PR manager Genevieve Waldman confirmed that the sale signified the end of internal sports-game development at Microsoft. However, she said the transaction has an upside for all parties, including Indie Built employees. "The reaction at Indie Built is positive," Waldman said. "They all became Take-Two employees."
As for the future direction on the studio, which numbered around 70 employees at the time of the sale, Waldman said, "We are well aware they may make games for other platforms [besides Xbox], but it was the right thing for us both." For Microsoft, Waldman said, that means "positioning the Xbox for success and profitability."
With Take-Two's sports lineup sporting a hole in the area of football, questions surrounding how Indie Built talent might contribute to the company's sports lineup remain unclear. However, Eibeler did clarify during the earnings call that sports would have a meaningful presence in the future publishing plans of the company.
When asked, a Take-Two representative declined to comment on games in development at the studio. However, since the company has approximately 100 products in the production pipeline, it can safely be assumed it's tapping all available studios, including Indie Built, to those ends.