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Microsoft Game Studios opens new London studio, lays off all staff in Vancouver

As one era ends for Microsoft’s internal game development, another begins. In the past 24 hours, Microsoft has confirmed the cancellation of myriad projects at its studio in Vancouver, British Columbia. It has also confirmed that it is opening a brand new studio half a world away in London. As the Xbox 360 fades from prominence in the company’s long term plans for the Xbox brand, with Windows 8 and the Xbox 720 looming on the horizon, this is just the beginning of tumultuous times for the company.

After receiving tips from a reader pointing to a Facebook page within the Vancouver game development community, Kotaku reported on Wednesday that all 35 employees the Vancouver-based Microsoft Game Studios were laid off. Former employees and other Vancouver-based developers seemingly confirmed the news via subsequent posts on Twitter. Microsoft later officially confirmed that it had indeed cancelled projects at the studio. The first was Project Columbia, a Kinect game created for children, while the second was Microsoft Flight. Microsoft Flight, released earlier this year, was the continuation of the company’s long running Microsoft Flight Simulator series.

“Microsoft Studios is always evaluating its portfolio of products to determine what is best for gamers, families, and the company, and this decision was the result of the natural ebb and flow of portfolio management,” reads Microsoft’s official statement, “[Vancouver has] more projects in the pipeline.”

Small comfort for the 35 former employees now looking for work.

Provided they’re willing to relocate though, Microsoft does have new opportunities in London. The company told MCV on Thursday morning that it is opening a new Xbox development studio in London focusing on the African, European, and Middle Eastern markets. “EMEA is a key market for us and we continue to cultivate the best talent and focus on growing our business, with this role focused on the continued expansion of Microsoft Studios business in the region,” said a Microsoft statement. Job listings for the studio indicate that the London group will be working on more casual experiences as sought after employees include those with skill in cloud, mobile, and online gaming.

Microsoft’s internal game development is increasingly based in the UK. The London studio joins Rare (Kinect Sports), Soho Studios (Kinect Sesame Street TV), and Lionhead (Fable) as part of the company’s UK-based developers.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft to find out more about who will be working at the London studio and what platforms specifically the group will work on. 

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