NetEase is continuing to make a huge push into the larger gaming space around the globe by acquiring legacy Microsoft support studio and co-developer SkyBox Labs in its first big deal of 2023.
The Canadian studio was founded in 2011 and has worked on a handful of original titles. But it is best known for work done alongside Microsoft on games such as Minecraft, Halo Infinite, and several others outside of that with other studios, such as Fallout 76.
Ever since it was first formed, SkyBox was almost a Microsoft-exclusive partner studio. From working on various versions of Age of Empires with remasters and new content to co-developing major pieces of content for Halo 5, Minecraft, and Halo Infinite, collaborations between the two had become a staple. And that has only scaled up over the last several years.
NetEase is fully acquiring SkyBox with this deal. But the Canadian studio will continue to operate independently while working with existing partners—and potentially expanding to add more partnerships in the future. This will include its current model of co-developing titles in both the PC and console markets.
“Over the last decade, we’ve had the pleasure to work on beloved games such as Halo Infinite, Minecraft, and Fallout 76,” SkyBox co-founder Shyang Kong said. “We remain committed to growing our presence in Canada, supporting our current and future partners, and co-developing more AAA games for some of the biggest game studios around the world.
“We have built a team of talented individuals who are passionate and creative, and by joining NetEase Games, we will also be able to accelerate our plans to pursue new creative opportunities, and enjoy access to world-class operational resources and the full breadth and depth of NetEase’s services so we can scale faster in Canada.”
This is just the latest move from one of China’s biggest game publishers, which has now acquired or founded six studios in the last year.
That includes two studios built around former Resident Evil producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi and another made up of former Sega legend Toshihiro Nagoshi. Not to mention the acquisition of Detroit: Become Human studio Quantic Dream last August and No More Heroes developer Grasshopper Manufacture dating back to October 2021.
This is also good news for NetEase as the company is currently facing major issues with two gaming giants—Riot Games and Activision Blizzard. The former is currently suing the company for copying “substantial parts of VALORANT” while the latter has suspended its publishing partnership for Chinese releases.
NetEase will likely continue to expand its stable of studios with more acquisitions throughout 2023, especially since the company seems more than happy to make deals and mostly leave developers to their own devices outside of providing assistance and guidance.