Microsoft buys indie developer Twisted Pixel

Updated ·3 min read

After developing games exclusively for Xbox 360 and PC, it's fair to say that indie dev Twisted Pixel has been going steady with Microsoft. Today, the two have finally tied the knot as the Redmond corporation announced that it has purchased the Austin studio.

That may be terrifying news for fans of the dev, which has built games like 'Splosion Man and The Gunstringer around its scrappy DIY aesthetic. But Matt Booty, general manager of Microsoft Studios, told Joystiq it's exactly that character that the company hopes to preserve after the sale.

"Microsoft's a very big company, and you've got Twisted Pixel, a relatively smaller developer. We're very invested that they get to stay who they are, and they get to retain the magic they've got as a smaller indie developer," Booty said. "We'd like to leave the golden goose alone, so to speak."

Phil Spencer, Microsoft Studios' corporate vice president, admits there have been some rocky acquisitions in the past for the company's game publishing arm (née Microsoft Game Studios). But he says the company has learned from its missteps.

"You're going to see us be able to make bigger games and richer games going forward."

"I lived through the integration of FASA, through Bungie, the integration of Digital Anvil," Spencer said. "I can go through the list of studios we've worked with. I can honestly say we've become better at working with partners and keeping them what they are," Spencer said. "In the beginning, it was 'everybody's got to move to Redmond, kind of integrate completely into the Microsoft process,' and that doesn't always work for every culture. I think you have to keep to the core of 'What is this partnership about?'"

Analyst Michael Pachter said he believes Microsoft when it says its ready for a more hands-off approach.

"I think Twisted Pixel is the poster child for the new Microsoft Studios," he told Joystiq. "Microsoft doesn't want to screw up a good thing, and I think they are serious when they say they want to allow Twisted Pixel to keep their identity. Phil Spencer seems completely realistic about the value added by this acuisition, knows that Twisted Pixel is a supremely talented group, and doesn't want to screw up a winning formula."

Twisted Pixel CEO Mike Wilford said the main thing changing for the studio (which will keep its Austin location) is the scale of future projects.

"Ever since the very beginning we've done things our way, with our own sense of humor," he said. "I think you're going to see more of the same type of approach to our games, but with greater resources and time. You're going to see us be able to make bigger games and richer games going forward."

That doesn't mean the developer is abandoning digital distribution -- even now Wilford says that the team has ideas best suited to XBLA. But it does mean that individual games will have a bit more room to breathe during development, according to Twisted Pixel chief creative officer Josh Bear.

"Comic Jumper's a perfect example," Bear said. "We wish we had more time on that game, but being an independent studio and the things you have to go through to make sure that works ... I mean, I'm really proud of that game, but it didn't quite get the time it needed to flesh it out into what we wanted it to be."

So, what's the first title to get this greater level of Microsoft-bolstered TLC?

"We've been talking with them about this IP they have called Halo that hasn't been doing too well, we told them we could help them out with that some time," Bear joked. "Live action, Mad Dog McCree-style Halo, coming soon."