Microsoft is planning to hire a principal program manager to staff and run an unannounced studio in Santa Monica, Calif., according to a public job posting at the console manufacturer.
Though the posting is light on project details, the qualifications listed — which include “a knowledge and understanding of the process of building new IP,” and “experience shipping high quality titles at AAAA standards” — suggests that this new branch would be responsible for producing a new first-party blockbuster franchise to bolster the Xbox brand.
The listing also calls for “10+ years of experience in the gaming industry,” and “4+ years of experience as a lead/executive producer level-or-above,” as well as “live ops and multiplayer experience,” suggesting that the project is still in nascent stages, and still requires staffing on all levels.
Over the past year, the Xbox brand has received criticism for the perceived inadequacy of its first-party console line-up, especially compared to recent offerings from perennial rival PlayStation, such as the much-acclaimed “God of War,” which was developed by Sony’s Santa Monica studio.
Though staffers at this new venture have yet to be announced, Microsoft’s recent hiring of former Crystal Dynamics head of studio Darrell Gallagher points to a possible role for 2013’s “Tomb Raider” lead. With the industry-defining E3 coming up in June, there’s a fair chance more about this new studio will be announced sooner than later, but it’ll likely be a matter of years before any of their efforts actually land on store shelves.
While it’s been about three and a half years since Microsoft released official Xbox One sales figures, it’s most recent numbers put it well behind the PlayStation 4 and potentially just above the sales of the Nintendo Switch, which just launched last year.
In November 2014, Microsoft said it sold 10 million Xbox Ones. A bit more insight was gained in January 2016 when Electronic Arts noted in an earnings call that about 18 million to 19 million of the console have been sold. As of March 31, PlayStation said, it has sold 79.8 million PS4. That puts it essentially even with the 80 million lifetime sales of the PlayStation 3. Nintendo, which launched its Switch just last year, recently said it has sold 17.8 million as of March 31.
Microsoft has not responded to Variety’s request for comment.