Microsoft Acquire Indie Developer Twisted Pixel… Can They Retain Their Indie Charm?

Microsoft Game Studios recently acquired Twisted Pixel, an indie developer renowned for their high quality downloadable games. But can they retain their exceptional charm?

Twisted Pixel

Microsoft Studios, one of the current industry giants announced that they had acquired relatively small indie company Twisted Pixel on the 12th of October, adding another well regarded developer to their already strong roster. Although, MS haven’t always been this strong, their earlier attempts at studio acquisition and collaboration haven’t always turned out well. And so the question to be asked is: will the already successful Twisted Pixel remain so under Microsoft’s rule, or will their corporate influence negatively impact their beautifully rustic style?

Developing well known, and well received games including: Comic Jumper, and ‘Splosion Man, Twisted Pixel have always developed exclusively for Xbox 360 and PC, and so Microsoft would’ve been almost stupid not to make sure that continues. All of their titles have also been downloadable, excluding their most recent crusade: ‘The Gunstringer’, a retail Kinect release. Although The Gunstringer was still a budget retail release, a good way for TP to soften the transition. Now with this partnership, their inevitably going to have a larger budget, allowing their creations to be much more expansive. In the words of TP CEO Mike Wilford: “You’re going to see us be able to make bigger games going forward”.

The Gunstringer

Could these “bigger games” still be as impactful as TP’s smaller, witty titles? The problem I can see for the company is that Microsoft are profit-oriented, and so TP’s “bigger games” could sacrifice creativity in order to reduce risk, and produce guaranteed sales. However, creativity is why Twisted Pixel’s games are loved by so many. Each and every title has been delightfully unique: from a failed experiment ‘sploding his way out of a laboratory, to a smiley faced superhero jumping through various comic universes. If that uniqueness was removed, and TP began releasing lifeless, linear titles that blended in with the current market, great potential would be wasted.

However, Phil Spencer, MS’ corporate vice president vows that he can: “honestly say we’ve become better at working with partners and keeping them what they are”. Great to hear. MS’ first action to do this was allowing the Twisted Pixel studio to remain in Austin, Texas. Whereas with previous acquisitions Microsoft had forced the company to move to their base of operations in Redmond, Washington. These forced moves left staff with no choice but to move or leave, which resulted in many losses from the studios staff. Ultimately, the losses contributed the company losing its style, with little of the original staff remaining to produce what it did before.

Phil Spencer

So MS’ first step could be the key to keeping Twisted Pixel as they are, no necessary moves means no forced loss of staff, allowing TP to carry on what they were already doing, only under a different name.

I sincerely hope that Twisted Pixel don’t change what they’re doing, that they don’t let the power and money go to their head, and that their new corporate rule doesn’t negatively influence their incredible titles. They are one of my favourite developers, offering some of the most innovative, different, and yet still affordable titles on the market. They have earned, and deserve this ‘upgrade’, and I wish them the best of luck in their future partnership.