Playground Games is perhaps Microsoft's most respected first-party studio after the E3 announcement that brought it into the Microsoft Game Studios fold.
Speaking with Eurogamer, Studio Head Ralph Fulton talked about the decision made by Playground to accept Microsoft's offer. They wanted to go beyond what was accomplished with Forza Horizon 3 and believed going first-party would help them achieve that goal.
We were independent for a long time. And we love being independent. When you think we were acquired earlier this year, it came from a place where we love being independent, ew loved what we were doing with Microsoft. A couple of things - one thing that changed between Horizon 3 and now, when we shipped Horizon 3 we were a one-team studio.
That's a very simple business to think about and manage. Obviously since then we've branched out and have a new team that we're tantalisingly close to and you'll never see what they do. I like teasing that! They're two very different games, two different genres, both with Xbox - and suddenly when your business is growing like that and your staff is growing, it changes the way you think about what the future looks like.
The other thing is we achieved an enormous amount as an independent. Forza Horizon 3 exceeded expectations in pretty much every respect and felt like as well as an independent studio could do. Our MO is we grow and we improve and we do better than we've done before in everything we do, and it felt like the capacity to do that in a Forza Horizon world would only be possible if we became part of the family.
We had a curious not quite first-party not quite third-party - okay, second party - status. We were an independent studio whose client was Microsoft, but also we worked on a first-party franchise, they're first-party games effectively and were treated as such. So we were probably right at the front of the queue when it comes to technology - we had the first Xbox One S devkit in the UK, we were the first game on Xbox cross-play. HDR was another one - I think we were the second game to launch with HDR. We knew about these things and were probably clued in before others were. But there was still that partition that's not there when you're one of the family.
It would appear that Playground Games succeeded, given what Chris wrote about Forza Horizon 4, out now on Windows 10 PC and Xbox One.
Forza Horizon 4 is nothing short of fantastic. With a host of content, backed by a fantastic roster of cars that tread the fine line between arcade and simulation perfectly. While the amalgamated UK may be a little too pristine, not completely reflecting reality, it's such a stunning and enjoyable place to race around that any issues are washed away in the utter fun you're having. Forza Horizon 4 is, without a shadow of a doubt, the pinnacle of the series and arguably the best racing game you can buy.