Microsoft buys BigPark, working on mysterious Xbox project

8 May 2009

Microsoft has bought a games company set up by the founders of Electronic Arts (EA) and Distinctive Software that will focus exclusively on the development of a mysterious Xbox 360-only game project, which the Seattle giant has been working on for over a year.

The amount Microsoft has paid for Vancouver-based BigPark has not been disclosed.

BigPark’s founding team is composed of business leaders with over 80 years of collective experience in the video-game industry, having produced or overseen blockbuster franchises including Need for Speed, FIFA Soccer, NBA Street and SSX.

The acquisition will bring BigPark’s talented developers into Microsoft Game Studios, where the team will continue development on an exclusive Xbox 360 game.

Over the past year, Microsoft and BigPark have worked closely on this project, providing Microsoft with a clear view into the caliber of talent and innovation at BigPark.

“The team is composed of some of the most experienced and creative minds working in the industry today,” said Phil Spencer, general manager, Microsoft Game Studios.

“The combination of the BigPark and Microsoft Game Studios talent pools will be an accelerant for growth and innovation. We believe BigPark has tremendous potential to create new properties and innovative gaming experiences for our platforms, one of which we’re looking forward to showcasing at the E3 Expo in June,” Spencer added.

BigPark CEO and co-founder Hanno Lemke, who will report to Spencer post-acquisition, formerly served in executive and development positions with EA and Distinctive Software Inc, where he produced or oversaw hit games such as NHL Hockey, Need for Speedand Skate.

“Given our shared passion for breaking new ground in the online space and producing best-in-class gaming experiences, our partnership with Microsoft over the past year has been a natural fit, which we’ve thoroughly enjoyed,” Lemke said.

“This opportunity provides us with access to the unparalleled talent, resources and exciting innovation taking place within Microsoft,” said Wil Mozell, studio president and co-founder of BigPark.

“We’re looking forward to being part of the Microsoft Game Studios team, where we believe we can successfully contribute to shaping key Microsoft initiatives through fresh and engaging consumer experiences.”

By John Kennedy

Pictured: the Need for Speed blockbuster franchise, overseen by BigPark

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years