Xbox Game Studios Spotlight: Playground Games – TrueAchievements

In our latest Xbox Game Studio Spotlight, we’re casting a keen eye on the developers of the superb Forza Horizon series and the studio that’s been trusted with the new Fable title, Playground Games.

Playground Games overview

Playground Games spotlight

Playground Games was established in 2010 by three former Codemasters employees: Gavin Raeburn, Trevor Williams, and Ralph Fulton, and it is based out of Leamington Spa in the UK. The studio is responsible for some of the finest driving games ever released, with its first game, Forza Horizon, being developed in collaboration with Microsoft’s Turn 10 Studios, launching exclusively for the Xbox 360 in 2012. Forza Horizon was a spin-off from the Forza Motorsport series, and it took a more casual approach to racing, with players taking part in multiple race types and performing different stunts. Playground Games saw huge success with Forza Horizon and would eventually produce four sequels that would equally see just as much success. In 2014, the studio launched Forza Horizon 2, which took players to Southern France and Nothern Italy, and Forza Horizon 3 had us wheel spinning around Australia in 2016. The following year, Playground announced it would be opening a second studio in Leamington Spa to focus on an open-world, non-racing project, which we now know is the Fable reboot.

During E3 2018, Microsoft announced several acquisitions during its conference as part of a huge investment in first-party video game development. Playground Games was purchased along with Ninja Theory, Undead Labs, Compulsion Games, as well as announcing the formation of a new studio called The Initiative. During the conference, Microsoft also announced that Playground’s next game, Forza Horizon 4, would launch in October that year and confirmed that the studio was working on a AAA open-world action-RPG.

Forza Horizon 4 launched on October 2nd 2018, and took players to a representation of Great Britain, which included locations such as Edinburgh, the Scottish Highlands, and the Lake District. Again, Playground Games struck gold with FH4 claiming a huge 92 Metascore from critics.

Playground Games’ previous project: Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5 box art zoomed in

It feels strange to call Forza Horizon 5 Playground Games’ previous project, considering it’s only recently released, and we know the studio is working to bring more content to the game.
Forza Horizon 5 brought the Horizon Festival to Mexico this time around, and much like every other game in the series was received extremely well. So much so, in fact, that Forza Horizon 5 is one of the top-rated games of 2021, according to Metacritic. Forza Horizon 5 was also the largest launch day for an Xbox Game Studios title, ever. With the help of Xbox Game Pass and a short early access period, Forza Horizon 5 had surpassed over 4.5 million players on the game’s full launch day.

Playground Games’ current project: Fable

Fable

A new entry into the Fable franchise was officially announced during an Xbox 20/20 event back in July 2020, with Playground Games at the helm. We were treated to a brief cinematic trailer for Fable, showing a high-fantasy setting, fairies, and a hungry toad that was narrated by the wonderful Stephen Fry. Unfortunately, practically nothing is known about Fable — all we’ve had is the announcement trailer, though in an interview with IGN, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said that he thinks Playground Games will keep Fable light-hearted and British in tone. As revealed by lead engineer Tom Gaulton on Twitter, Fable has already been in development for four years now, though we are still clueless as to when the game could release. Rumours floating around the internet suggest we could be waiting until 2023.

Playground Games in 2021

Forza Horizon 5 announcement

Playground Games has had an extremely busy 2021 with the launch of Forza Horizon 5. Now that the game is out and in the hands of racing fans, Playground will be busy beavering away on whatever plans it has for FH5’s upcoming expansions, as well as further updates and fixes. The studio is also quietly working on Fable — we haven’t really heard anything on the new game, but considering that it’s been in development for around four years now, we expect we’ll hear something soon.

How does Playground Games rank?

Playground Games has consistently produced quality racing games time and time again and is without a doubt one of Microsoft’s top studios. Each Forza Horizon game has improved on the last and are not only visual spectacles, but they make racing fun and accessible for people that aren’t necessarily into cars or racing games. It’s honestly hard to find fault with Playground — everything it has produced has been to such a high degree of quality, it would be impossible for us not to slap them with the highest of honours: an S-rank. With Fable 4 on the horizon, it will be interesting to see how Playground Games handles the beloved franchise. Only time will tell on that front!

S Tier

S

A world-class studio executing at an exceptional level

Of course, this is just our opinion! We want to know your thoughts. Do you think Playground Games should be graded higher, or maybe even lower? Vote in the poll below and give us your reasons why in the comments below.

How would you rank Playground Games?

  • S — A world-class studio executing at an exceptional level

  • A — A studio with a fantastic portfolio, and the talent to impress further

  • B — A studio capable of greatness, but has more to offer

  • C — An up-and-coming studio, or one struggling to realise its potential

We’ve had 25 responses.

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