Xbox Game Studios Spotlight: MachineGames

By Kes Eylers-Stephenson,
In our first ever Xbox Game Studio Spotlight, we are covering Bethesda's MachineGames — the makers of the superb modern Wolfenstein games. See how the dev ranks, its history, projects, and how many achievements you've unlocked!

This is the dev panel. It helps you keep track of all the games made by the developer, and exactly how many achievements you have unlocked in total. How many developers can you complete?

MachineGames overview

Xbox Game Studios machine games history ranking faq

In 2009, several Starbreeze Studios employees left the company and reformed into MachineGames. Russ Pits, working for Polygon at the time, wrote up the early MachineGames history in a fantastic article. The new team of old veterans agreed to work on a new Wolfenstein game with Bethesda Softworks. The initial meetings must have gone very well because only a year later the Swedish developers were bought by Zenimax Media and incorporated into Bethesda. So, work began on the rejuvenation of the dystopian alternate WWII narrative shooter franchise, Wolfenstein.

In four years, Machine Games made Wolfenstein: The New Order for the start of 2014. It succeeded in bringing 90s mechanics into the modern shooter, contextualised by a solid narrative experience. The gunplay was hard-hitting, the steampunk vibes were somehow incorporated into a brutalist aesthetic that just clicked, and the level design always kept players on their toes. It was a magnificent effort and one of the best shooters of that generation. A year later they released a prequel, 2015's Wolfenstein: The Old Blood.

Naturally, work began on a sequel after this initial batch of the fresh-legged Wolfenstein franchise. By heading to the US and twisting the classic American imagery, the writers said that they had the freedom to create a brutal story. The result was 2017's Wolfenstein: New Colossus which was lauded critically. The combat was, again, fantastic and that story really landed with audiences.

the new order wolfenstein concept art

The expansion for the title was called Wolfenstein: Youngblood, which was released in 2019. It was seemingly led by Arkane Studios and introduced co-op mechanics. It didn't quite hit the highs of the rest of the series and felt a little different from the weighty combat of its predecessors. Likewise, the VR-only title Cyberpilot was released alongside Youngblood to mixed reviews, though it seems MachineGames had full control over development.

MachineGames also spent time working with Quake. In 2016, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the franchise, MachineGames released the Dimension of the Past level pack with ten new stages and a multiplayer map. Later on, in 2021, Quake was remastered for modern consoles. The levels that MachineGames released previously were integrated with a new set called Dimension of the Machine.

MachineGames' previous project — Wolfenstein: Youngblood (2019)

youngblood beautiful artwork very nice bit james bond you know i eat that stuff for breakfast like cheerios

Developed in conjunction with Arkane Studios (of Dishonoured fame), it's safe to say that Youngblood didn't quite live up to the high expectations placed on it after its incredible prequel in the mainline series, The New Colossus. It sits at a 68 Metacritic score, but the user score is an unfavourable 2.5, compared to The New Colossus' 88 rating with a 6.5 user score. Youngblood introduced a co-op mode that was intimately tied to the use of two main characters, who had an interesting tie back to the aforementioned mainline games. However, it seems that some of the experiment with new RPG systems and co-op didn't quite work, through the level designs were praised.

MachineGames' current projects — Indiana Jones and Wolfenstein III

Indiana jones game

Vice president of PR, Pete Hines, spoke to Metro to confirm the existence of Wolfenstein III and to clarify Bethesda's outlook on single-player games in the process. We know Wolfenstein III is probably still in production thanks to lead game designer Teemu Kivikangas' Linkedin profile: however, since Microsoft's Bethesda acquisition, nothing has been spoken about officially. Instead, Bethesda announced a MachineGames-developed Indiana Jones game in early 2021. It will have an original story and is being made alongside Lucasfilm Games. Nothing has been heard from the team since.

MachineGames in 2021

Wolfenstein the new colossus

MachineGames has been pretty silent since the Indiana Jones announcement and the 'unannounced project' report (see above). In The Telegraph, Bethesda director Todd Howard did mention that he had been trying to grab an Indiana Jones licence for a decade. In fairness, Bethesda did say that "it'll be some time before we have more to reveal" in the original announcement.

How does MachineGames rank?

Working MachineGames's output and studio quality into a grade is a funny old game based upon personal preference and the amount of leeway you are willing to give. To us, an A grade represents a team with a portfolio to die for and one always rocking the potential to make something truly great. Those two mainline Wolfenstein games are ones that we absolutely adore! The shooting, the dystopian steampunk setting, and the level design feel like they were tailor-made to our tastes. To us, at least, it marks the return of an old-school single-player FPS with all the right modern age twists. We would gladly eat that bowl of videogame soup any day of the week. The other spin-offs, in our opinion, didn't meet that high bar. But, we will happily make the excuse those, because when MachineGames puts its talent into a mainline product, it can make something truly exceptional. As for the future, we are very interested in Indiana Jones. The team could very well make a faithful and exceptional videogame based on the legendary archaeologist. However, MachineGames has only made gritty, bloody Wolfenstein shooters and some Quake levels, so we are really curious how these hallmarks will translate into a light-hearted action-adventure. So, for creating two stunning Wolfenstein games and some excellent videogame soup, we personally think that the team are an A grade.

A Tier

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

Do you agree with the A grade for MachineGames? Vote in the poll below to have your say, and who knows? Maybe you can change our minds with a salient comment!
How would you rank MachineGames?
  • 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 92 responses.
Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Written by Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Working across TrueTrophies and TrueAchievements, Kes writes news, reviews, and a variety of bespoke features. Kes left university after four years with a first-class MA in English Literature — a subject that required research, creativity, and lots of writing. He also has dabbled in teaching, farming, and building websites. Some days, he plays Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag to pretend he is a pirate.
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