“Redfall,” which was to showcase why Microsoft bought ZeniMax for $7.5 billion, turned out to be a critical disaster. A new Bloomberg report shed light on why the game turned out the way it did, and how some of its developers actively hoped Microsoft wouldn’t let it see the light of day in its original form.
Development issues began when ZeniMax and Bethesda had Arkane Studios pivot the game’s trajectory, turning a would-be single-player experience into a multiplayer “games as a service” title (“games as a service” is a label used for titles that are designed to generate recurring revenue and, in concept, never have a proper end point).
Given that Arkane’s specialty is single-player games with definitive, well-planned end points, one can imagine how such multiplayer mandates weighed on the development team.
Constant direction pivots, on top of understaffing, led to a half-baked game not ready for primetime. The situation was bad enough that, according to the report, some Arkane employees had hoped Microsoft would step in and either nix the project or otherwise intervene to save it from the whims of ZeniMax and Bethesda. Despite said hopes, the house of Xbox remained hands-off, a stance it had adopted to benefit its studios and promote creative freedom — a stance which, ironically, hurt a studio hungry for safety rails on a doomed project.
Head of Xbox Phil Spencer chatted about the “Redfall” situation before Bloomberg’s report released, noting the poor critical reception and that Xbox checks its internal procedures when blunders occur. Spencer also noted that great games are not the end-all be-all of Xbox, and that critical darlings aren’t a magic band-aid to make up for larger, ecosystem-related woes currently facing the brand and its stiff competition with Sony’s PlayStation.
Microsoft declined to comment on this story.