Closing Tango Gameworks Is Xbox's Worst Decision in Years

Why should anyone feel confident about Xbox's future right now?

This morning, it was revealed that Xbox will be closing Tango Gameworks, the studio behind The Evil Within and Hi-Fi Rush. In a year where the future of the Xbox brand has been a huge question among fans, this might be the worst decision the company has made in a very long time. The development studio was a small one and relatively new, having only existed since 2010, but it presented a great opportunity for Xbox to expand its audience. However, Tango Gameworks has now been closed, alongside Arkane Austin, Alpha Dog Games, and Roundhouse Games. As a result, that opportunity has been squandered, as Xbox continues to chase short-term profitability while sacrificing any long-term prospects for the brand's future. 

Since the Xbox brand first made its debut, one of the company's biggest struggles has been with audiences in Japan. In the region, Nintendo and PlayStation dominate, and Microsoft has struggled to make any kind of headway. When Microsoft purchased Bethesda and ZeniMax Media in 2021, Tango Gameworks was one of several studios that came under the Xbox umbrella. The studio had previously worked on The Evil Within games, which were highly praised by horror fans. Xbox does not own a lot of studios based in Japan, making this a rare exception. Founded by original Resident Evil director Shinji Mikami, the studio could have finally helped Xbox get the kind of first-party titles that would appeal to Japanese audiences.

Why Tango Gameworks Was a Perfect Fit for Xbox

(Photo: Xbox)

Less than two years after the ZeniMax/Bethesda purchase, Tango Gameworks delivered Hi-Fi Rush. Surprise released during an Xbox Showcase event, the game immediately saw critical praise, and went on to receive several award nominations later that year. There were reports that sales for Hi-Fi Rush weren't what Xbox was expecting, but it takes time for a new franchise to find an audience. Xbox seemed to be well-aware of that fact, and Hi-Fi Rush was one of several games that the company decided to bring to PS5 earlier this year. While some Xbox fans worried that removing the exclusive nature of these games would make people less likely to buy an Xbox console, the move seemed to make it more likely that Hi-Fi Rush could get a sequel. Those hopes were dashed this morning. 

It's not just frustrating that today's move will ensure that The Evil Within and Hi-Fi Rush go away; it's everything else Tango Gameworks could have delivered for Xbox. Right now, Xbox is lacking an identity. Outside of Xbox Game Pass, there's nothing truly positive that people associate with the brand. The best days of Halo seem to be in the past, and some of Xbox's most exciting future exclusives are Marvel's Blade and Indiana Jones and the Great Circle; two franchises that are owned by Disney. 

This whole decision is incredibly short-sighted, and even people are Xbox are questioning it. Over the last year, there have been countless studio closures and lay-offs throughout the video game industry; at this point, gamers, pundits, and developers are almost growing numb to it. But the Tango Gameworks closure exemplifies a problem where short-term profits for the industry are being greatly prioritized over long-term growth. Tango Gameworks is the type of studio that Xbox should not only have kept around, but also invested in. For Tango Gameworks, Hi-Fi Rush was an attempt to show that the studio could produce something that wasn't horror-related like its previous titles had been. Not only did the studio accomplish just that, it gave Xbox a rare must-own game that actually belonged to Xbox. 

A Foreboding Future for Xbox

(Photo: Tango Gameworks)

It's very hard to be optimistic about the future of Xbox right now. The constant lay-offs, studio closures, and lack of significant exclusives have made this console generation a bleak one. The problem is, it shouldn't be! Between the purchases of Bethesda and Activision Blizzard, Xbox now owns a ludicrous amount of industry talent in addition to popular franchises like Fallout and Call of Duty. And yet none of the company's fans feel any kind of positivity about Xbox. Everything feels chaotic, and no one seems to be planning for the years ahead. Tango Gameworks could have been -- should have been -- a vital part of Xbox's future; a multi-talented studio creating games that appeal to audiences in both Japan and the west. Unfortunately, Microsoft snuffed out that hope. 

At the end of the day, every company cares about the bottom line. Cash is king, and everyone is looking to show their shareholders a little bit more with each report. This is hardly just an Xbox problem, as so many other publishers have been doing this exact same thing over the last few years. But these short-term gains are truly killing the future of Xbox, while also leaving talented developers out of work. In the coming days, we'll likely learn more about Microsoft's rationale; the company will try to put some kind of positive spin on today's events, and pretend that Xbox fans have nothing to worry about when it comes to the future. But it's getting harder and harder to feel any kind of optimism towards this company. 

Are you upset over the closure of Tango Gameworks? Do you feel any kind of optimism about Xbox? Share your thoughts with me directly on Twitter at @Marcdachamp or on Instagram at @Dachampgaming!