We've been wondering what the hell's going down at Microsoft's Vancouver studio since the manufacturer posted vacancies for work on an AAA multiplayer shooter in May this year. The studio's rebranding as Black Tusk Studios doesn't shed much light, but it does reaffirm that touted commitment to core games development in a fairly big way. Look at the new logo. Menacing, isn't it?
According to the blurb, "Black Tusk Studios is dedicated to creating immersive, AAA games that push the limits of Microsoft's entertainment platforms" and claims to be working on "Microsoft's next big entertainment franchise". Elsewhere on the website there's talk of "emotionally engaging AAA gaming experiences". "Emotional" and "immersive"? That's like Bioshock to the power of 10. With cherries on top. High Definition cherries.
"Being a first-party studio at Microsoft means having both the mandate and the opportunity to think and act big," reads another page, noting that "Black Tusk is able to leverage resources, technology, and experience from other first-party studios such as 343 Industries, Turn 10 Studios, Rare Ltd., Lionhead Studios, Good Science Studio, and Twisted Pixel Games" along with nearby BigPark and Microsoft Studios Victoria.
Of note: according to Twitter's top fly-on-the-wall Superannuation, Crysis 2 lead designer Sten Huebler is reportedly now working at Black Tusk Studios. The aforesaid multiplayer shooter is apparently "some big new IP space shooter thing on the scale of a Gears or Halo", and is said to be a next generation game.
Any speculations? I reckon Microsoft might have too many sci-fi franchises on the boil, myself.
Update! The Vancouver Sun has an interview with studio manager Mike Crump. He says the studio is built to work on "big games [with] big teams, big budgets, long timelines", and is looking to dominate Xbox gaming in the next few years. "What that means is we are working on Microsoft's next big entertainment franchise. We're not working on an existing franchise, we're looking to build the next Halo here in Vancouver, for example, which is really exciting. We are building something from the ground up."