As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic wears on, those who are fortunate enough to not be sick and whose jobs now entail working from home likely face a harsh learning curve, especially in fields as demanding and team-oriented as game development. Matt Booty, Microsoft's head of Xbox Game Studios, has released a new statement on the status of its first-party developers-while there are no delays to be announced at this time, Booty acknowledges that studio leaders will need to make difficult decisions regarding their teams and games.
Booty oversees all 15 developers under the Xbox Game Studios umbrella, from Halo's 343 Industries to Obsidian and Double Fine. While many of Microsoft's first-party developers are based in the US, overseas studios including Rare, Mojang, and Ninja Theory—which just launched Bleeding Edge—are operating under different national response measures to the crisis. In his statement, Booty emphasizes that how each studio responds to the crisis will differ depending on where it is located:
We know that gaming connects people during times of social distancing, and we are committed to delivering the highest quality Xbox Game Studios games for our global community of players. At the same time, the health and safety of our XGS development teams is our top priority. Each studio is facing unique challenges and constraints depending on its particular location, and many of our external development partners around the world are similarly affected. We are supporting our studio leaders to make the right decisions for their teams and their individual games during this challenging time.
All aspects of Microsoft's wide-reaching, multifaceted business have been impacted by the coronavirus, with Xbox being no exception. Xbox Live has experienced some stability issues due to surges in users likely related to folks instructed to stay at home, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer acknowledged. Microsoft's remote-work oriented Teams software has also seen an uptick in users, no doubt in part due to Microsoft moving much of its own operations (and game developers) to the service. There's also matters like reworking E3 plans for an all-digital event and quickly moving to make Minecraft: Education Edition free until the end of June.
With the Xbox Series X still targeting a Holiday 2020 launch, Halo Infinite and any unannounced first-party titles planned to launch alongside the new console face potential delays and other setbacks due to the abrupt transition to remote work. 343 Industries is based in Redmond, Washington near Microsoft's main campus. A bordering city, Kirkland, was one of the first in the US to report a coronavirus outbreak affecting dozens of individuals. Earlier this month, Microsoft instructed all of its employees in the region to work from home, and has since extended the remote work period into April.
A Sony spokesperson recently said the company does not see the pandemic impacting the planned end of 2020 launch for the PS5 either, though the company does say in a new statement that is is "carefully monitoring the risk of delays in production schedules for game software titles at both its first-party studios and partner studios, primarily in Europe and the US."