search slide
search slide
pages bottom

Microsoft shuts down Project Spark in continued effort to clean house

It’s been over two years since Microsoft’s Project Spark was launched publicly, but this free creation suite is already being shut down. We’ve already seen numerous Microsoft-owned studios shuttered earlier this year, and this latest move reiterates that Redmond isn’t interested in keeping struggling games and teams on life support.

When Project Spark launched in 2014, it was a free-to-play game that was built around micro-transactions. Different set pieces and tools could be used to make your own levels that could be shared with other Xbox One and PC gamers, but all of that changed last September. All of the existing content was made completely free, previous purchases were refunded, and plans for future updates were halted.

While that was a short-term boon for frugal enthusiasts, it spelled doom for the long-term prospects of the game. Without any way to make money, it was only a matter of time before the other shoe dropped. Last week, Microsoft removed Project Spark from the Windows Store and Xbox Marketplace. Existing users still have access to the game, but all of the online functionality is scheduled to end on August 12th.

Microsoft TeamsBack in March, Microsoft announced that it was cancelling Fable Legends. Sadly, that news also came along with the closure of both Lionhead Studios (Fable, Black & White) and Press Play (Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, Kalimba). It seems that many of the employees from Project Spark’s development team (Team Dakota) have been shuffled to different parts of Microsoft Studios instead of being terminated, but this is yet another example of Phil Spencer and company trimming the fat.

In its relatively short lifespan, Project Spark never quite seemed to catch on in the way Microsoft hoped it would. It was ambitious from the beginning, but it never lived up to its full potential. Creating levels in Project Spark was significantly more complicated than the likes of LittleBigPlanet and Super Mario Maker, and the end results were typically underwhelming.

In some ways, it reminds me of the toy box mode in the recently canceled Disney Infinity. It’s impressive in scope and scale, certainly worth exploring for free, but there’s not very much high-quality content to keep average users coming back for more. It found an audience, but it just wasn’t big enough to keep the game afloat.

Keep in mind, Project Spark began development long before Microsoft acquired Minecraft in September of 2014. The two games aren’t identical by any means, but there’s clearly a fair bit of crossover between the two. And from a business perspective, it doesn’t make much sense to keep throwing resources toward this struggling project when you already have an incredibly successful game with a similar target audience.

It’s not all bad news for Microsoft’s first-party games though. Killer Instinct has been so successful as a free-to-play product that Microsoft has been willing to invest in two major content updates, and a port to Windows 10. Similarly, Forza Motorsport 6 is being ported and released as the free-to-play Forza Motorsport 6: Apex on Windows 10. Even better, Rare is creating its first new intellectual property in years with Sea of Thieves. There’s plenty of upheaval going around at Microsoft and its subsidiaries, but first-party development is far from dead.

Leave a Reply

Captcha image