Studio bosses at Ninja Theory have shed some light on the company's decision to join the Microsoft Studios roster, saying it's an opportunity "to aim higher than we've ever dared to".
In perhaps the most surprising announcement of E3 so far, Microsoft added Cambridge-based studio Ninja Theory to its line-up of exclusive developers, along with Playground Games, Undead Labs, and Compulsion Games.
Following the announcement, Ninja Theory released a video explaining the move which, as commercial director Dominic Matthews conceded, is likely to disappoint many of the developer's fans.
"When Microsoft approached us, it was totally unexpected and not something we were really looking to do," said creative lead Tameem Antoniades.
"Nevertheless, they asked us what our goals and ambitions were as a studio in an ideal world, and so we said we wanted to free from the AAA machine and make games focused on the experience not around monetisation.
"We want to take bigger creative risks, and creative genre defining games without constant threat of annihilation.
"We want to make our own games our own way, and not be told what to make and how to make it, and above all we want to protect our team, our culture, and our identity because that in essence is Ninja Theory."
Around four years ago, Ninja Theory was on the brink of closure but a refocus on work-for-hire kept it alive long enough to develop Hellblade with an "independent AAA" model on skeleton crew of around 20 people.
Following the success of the game, Ninja Theory began to lay out plans to grant creative independence to each of its small teams over the course of five to eight years; the acquisition by Microsoft changed this drastically however.
"I'm now convinced this is an opportunity for us to jump years ahead, to aim higher than we've ever dared to, to really fly, without the threat of falling down that has held us back so much in the past," said Antondeias.
Microsoft has reportedly offered the studio complete creative control plus full access to the platform's marketing, research, support, and tech teams.
"Hellblade was created with a small team of just 20 people and extremely limited resources," said Matthews. "Imagine what we can now achieve with our whole team of 100 people backed by Microsoft focused purely on Ninja Theory's vision."