Xbox president Sarah Bond says Bethesda studio closures were ‘extraordinarily hard’

After the closure of three Bethesda-owned game studios and the absorption of another earlier this week, Xbox president Sarah Bond has partly blamed the rising cost of making “beautiful triple-A blockbuster games” as a factor in the decision.

Speaking at the Bloomberg Tech Summit, Bond was immediately questioned about the layoffs and studio shutdowns that have plagued Microsoft since early this year. The tech giant cut 1,900 jobs in its gaming department in January. This week’s closures include Tango Gameworks, developers of the award-winning Hi-Fi Rush, and Arkane Austin, who made classic immersive sims such as Prey and Dishonoured. Further reports indicate there could be more trouble ahead for Xbox with price rises planned for Game Pass.

“You know, the last year or so in video games, largely the industry’s been flat. And even in 2023, we saw just some tremendous releases, tremendously groundbreaking games. But still, the growth didn’t follow all of that. A lot of that’s related to our need to bring new players in and make gaming more accessible. But all of that has been happening at the same time that the cost associated with making these beautiful triple-A blockbuster games is going up, and the time it takes to make them is going up.

“And so, so much of our focus as Xbox is about how we do things to help the industry all up, while also ensuring that our brand, everything that we do, is there through this moment of transition.”

Why did Microsoft close Bethesda studios?

Bond was questioned specifically about the studio closures this week, as many people are seeking to understand the decision-making process.

“You know, it’s always extraordinarily hard when you have to make decisions like that,” Bond said. “I’ll go back to what I was saying about the industry. And when we looked at those fundamental trends, we feel a deep responsibility to ensure that the games we make, the devices we build, the services that we offer are there through moments, even when the industry isn’t growing and when you’re through a time of transition. And the news we announced earlier this week is an outcome of that, and our commitment to make sure that the business is healthy for the long term.

“But that said, our commitment to having our own studios and working with partners to have games large and small, we’re a platform where you can play GTA, but you can also play Palworld, where you can play Call of Duty and you can also play Pentiment, that doesn’t change. And frankly, our commitment to Bethesda and the role that it plays is part of Xbox and everything we do.”

Unsatisfied, the interviewer specifically mentioned Tango Gameworks and the unexpected success of Hi-Fi Rush, particularly in light of Matt Booty’s comments at a town hall meeting this week.

She responded, “You know, one of the things I really love about the games industry is it’s a creative art form. And it means that the situation and what successes for each game in the studio is also really unique.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all to it for us. And so we look at each studio, each game team, and we look at a whole variety of factors when we’re faced with making decisions and tradeoffs like that. But it all comes back to our long-term commitment to the games we create, the devices we build, the services, and ensuring that we’re setting ourselves up to be able to deliver on those promises.”

Judging by the comments on the YouTube video of the interview, consumers are not satisfied with that response. Many are saying that she dodges the question and fails to account for Microsoft’s actions.

People are already mad enough to nuke Phil Spencer (in Fallout 76), so Sarah Bond should build a wall around any virtual real estate she has, just to be on the safe side.

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