"We have been really pleased." Microsoft Gaming studios head Matt Booty talks shipping Sea of Thieves on PlayStation 5, Xbox exclusives, and more.

 Xbox Games Showcase 2024 Matt Booty .
Matt Booty made an appearance during the Xbox Games Showcase in June 2024. | Credit: Microsoft

What you need to know

  • Matt Booty, president of game content and studios at Microsoft Gaming, spoke with Variety in a new interview.

  • Booty touched on a number of topics, including reactions to the recent Xbox Games Showcase, the closure of Tango Gameworks, and bringing Sea of Thieves to PlayStation 5.

  • Speaking on the latter point, Booty says that "We have been really pleased," while noting games are continuing to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

A new interview is providing a bit more insight into the Xbox business.

Matt Booty, president of game content and studios at Microsoft Gaming, spoke with Variety for the "Strictly Business" podcast on Thursday. Booty touched on a large number of topics, including reactions to the recent Xbox Games Showcase, bringing some Xbox games to PlayStation 5, and the closure of some studios.

“We are beginning to hit the rhythm that we’ve always aspired for, and that really is our commitment to our players, of being able to deliver a much more steady cadence of games on a more predictable rhythm,” Booty said, noting that fan and press reaction to the showcase has been extremely positive, with praise of the number and variety of first-party games shown and slated for the next couple of years.

During the showcase, first-party titles DOOM: The Dark Ages, Fable, and South of Midnight were all slated for 2025, while Gears of War: E-Day, Perfect Dark, and State of Decay 3 were not given release years at all. Per Booty, this is due to wanting to find the exact right time to launch a game, while making sure it doesn't conflict with another first-party or third-party title, namedropping Grand Theft Auto 6 as a game the entire industry wants to avoid.

"We certainly want to make sure every game is given space and has got an opportunity to shine and we don't end up overshadowing a game by launching it too close to another," Booty explains, adding that the portfolio planning revolves around ensuring the teams don't conflict with other companies' titles, but also "so that we're not getting in our own way."

Booty also notes that there is interest across the teams at different studios in sharing ideas and technology, and there are some early discussions happening as Microsoft figures out what facilitating that looks like.

Will Microsoft chase games and TV or movie synergy, like with Fallout?

Fallout TV series The Ghoul sitting
Fallout TV series The Ghoul sitting

When asked about gaming synergy with other mediums like TV and movies, such as with the recent Fallout resurgence happening largely due to the success of the Fallout Prime show, Booty praises the series, but indicates Microsoft isn't explicitly trying to make that kind of success happen by forcing it.

Booty points to the vastly different production schedules of games, movies, and TV shows, and notes that trying to sync those up years in advance can be extraordinarily difficult and risky, and that it's better to simply produce that kind of "linear media" and have it benefit an existing franchise.

Why did Microsoft close Bethesda studios like Tango Gameworks?

Hi-Fi Rush
Hi-Fi Rush

Earlier in the year, the shocking news broke that Microsoft was closing Bethesda's Arkane Austin, Alpha Dog Games, and Tango Gameworks. The latter came as a particular shock, as the now-shuttered first-party Japanese developer had shipped Hi-Fi Rush in 2023 to critical acclaim.

"Those decisions are never made lightly, they're never made quickly, and there are a lot of people and processes and oversight to make sure we're making a good decision," Booty says when asked about the closures, adding that he didn't want to share "nitty-gritty" details, but mentions that Microsoft looks across leadership at studios and if the teams are set up for success in the future, not just if they were successful in the past.

Booty also points out that Microsoft has been open to allowing teams to go independent in the past if it's clear things weren't a good fit, including recently with former Activision subsidiary Toys for Bob, which is now an independent studio, though the team's first game is a project being published by Xbox.

Sea of Thieves on PlayStation 5 and future Xbox exclusives

Sea of Thieves Flameheart's Burning Blade
Sea of Thieves Flameheart's Burning Blade

Top Xbox recommendations

Xbox Series X
Xbox Series X

- Best Xbox headsets to get in 2024
Best upcoming Xbox games
Best gaming laptops in 2024
Best Xbox controller deals
Best Xbox hard drives
Best Xbox SSDs

2024 saw Microsoft ship four Xbox console exclusive titles across other consoles. Touching on all of the games, Booty notes that Microsoft's main focus and success has been with Sea of Thieves, a shared world pirate adventure developed by Rare.

"We have been really pleased," Booty says, noting that when Sea of Thieves launched across PlayStation 5, the teams saw uptick in Xbox and PC player engagement as well, while also sharing that a large number of PlayStation players were enjoying the game in cross-play. This success grows the franchise overall, per Booty, allowing the teams at Rare and Xbox to continue to invest in the game.

When asked about what this means for future Xbox exclusives, Booty reiterates that the teams are evaluating games hitting other consoles on a "case-by-case basis," adding that Xbox players can absolutely continue to expect many games to launch as exclusives, and that the "Xbox promise" that all Xbox first-party games come to Xbox Game Pass will continue to be true.

Analysis: Some interesting insight

This was a very good interview to listen to, and I broadly think Booty's answers make a lot of sense. I'm particularly happy that Microsoft isn't seeing the success of the Fallout TV series (which has been renewed for a second season) and immediately chasing that success elsewhere or trying to force some kind of synergy.

I'm also glad to hear that teams at Xbox are interested in sharing technology and ideas. While that already happens within the individual publishers, sharing it across divisions could lead to some wild stuff. If an Xbox Game Studios or Activision team wants to use id Tech or Creation Kit, what does that look like?

While I know hearing "case-by-case" doesn't make hardcore Xbox fans happy, I continue to see the logical behind careful evaluation for each title. The next DOOM is going to be multiplatform at launch, and I certainly think that makes a lot of sense, as did Sea of Thieves. On the flip side, having games like Gears of War: E-Day and Perfect Dark being targeted to Xbox hardware and PC also makes a fair bit of sense.

The continued non-answers regarding the closure of Tango Gameworks continue to leave a sour taste in my mouth however. I'm fully aware that teams change over time, but with a ludicrously successful parent company and profitable business, Microsoft could easily have afforded to take some miniscule hit in allowing those teams to build or rebuild so they'd be positioned for success in the future.