Xbox Apologizes for Redfall Flop by Throwing Its Developer Under the Bus

Phil’s not mad, just “disappointed.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Phil Spencer, Executive President of Gaming at Microsoft, speaks ...
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The launch of Redfall has been a bloodbath. Reviews are quick to point out the many problems in the latest AAA Xbox exclusive from developer Arkane Studios. Many feel the game is unfinished, which is supported by the prevalence of bugs. With a lack of tentpole titles, Xbox gamers are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the platform and want answers. In response, Xbox CEO Phil Spencer told Kinda Funny Xcast on May 4 that Redfall had an issue with “creative vision.”

The promise of Redfall is that players would take the role of vampire hunters in a seaside New England town taken over by tech-bro vampires that players would be able to shoot up with a variety of weapons. But reviews have shown that despite an interesting world, the game fails to deliver an exciting experience and lacks the charm of Arkane’s impressive catalog, including the Dishonored series, Prey, and Deathloop.

This stumble is an alarming failure for Xbox, which hasn’t had a major AAA game since Halo Infinite. This is something Spencer is well aware of.

“There’s nothing more difficult for me than disappointing the Xbox community,” Spencer tells Kinda Funny. “Just to kind of watch the community lose confidence, be disappointed, I’m disappointed, I’m upset with myself.”

But when it comes to Redfall, the options were slim. Either Xbox chooses to release the game in the state it exists (flaws and all) or it delays Redfall in the hopes that more time will help the final product come together. According to Spencer, the latter doesn’t solve the core problem. His thoughts on this topic are worth quoting at length.

“If a think about a team’s execution on a game. We had a creative vision and did we realize that vision through the game we created? That’s not a delay question if the answer is no. You can’t take something that, that you started on — this isn’t a Redfall-specific conversation — but we will build games that review int he high 80s, and we will build games that review in the 60s.
It’s just kind of part of being in games publishing. If you are afraid of that, you shouldn’t be in the entertainment business, you shouldn’t be in the games business. That said, every time we deliver something below our own internal expectations, that surprises us, and we should check our process.
There’s a fundamental piece of feedback that we get that the game isn’t realizing the creative vision that it had for its players. That doesn’t feel like a ‘Hey, just delay it.’ It feels like the game had a goal to do one thing and when players are actually playing, they aren't feeling that thing, they aren't feeling the creative execution of the team.”

Arkane has made some of the best immersive sims in the past decade.

Bethesda Softworks

To cut through all of this, Spencer is placing the blame on Arkane for a failure of “creative vision.” This is just the latest issue that Arkane has dealt with when it comes to its games. Despite the widespread critical acclaim of the studio’s immersive sims like Dishonored 1 & 2 ,the games weren’t selling well enough. So the studio pivoted to making Deathloop, which fell into the trendy roguelike genre. Redfall seems to also be chasing industry trends, but doing it too late.

However not all the blame can be placed on Arkane. The studio was acquired by Microsoft when the company bought ZeniMax. Creative director Harvey Smith told IGN France that this acquisition came with “change with a capital C.” The most obvious change was the immediate cancellation of a PS5 version of Redfall.

The biggest takeaway from Redfall’s failure is that it might just be a remnant of Arkane’s struggles to perform financially before the Microsoft acquisition. Arkane has always executed creative vision with style in its games, but Redfall was meant to be appealing to a general audience rather than the niche immersive sim fanbase. Hopefully, Arkane’s next project will go back to its roots with the support of Microsoft which has been willing to support less obvious hits like Pentiment and Hi-Fi Rush in the past year. For AAA tentpoles, fans will just have to keep waiting for Starfield.

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