Friday, September 1, 2023

The failure of Redfall is a failure of Xbox not Arkane – Reader’s Feature

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The spectre of Redfall is going to hang over Xbox for a long while (pic: Microsoft)

A reader examines the controversy over Redfall’s launch and who should take the blame: Microsoft or developer Arkane Studios.

Xbox have a habit of shooting themselves in the foot. Well, they have no toes left on either foot now, because a situation like Redfall can never happen again. It’s perhaps a pivotal moment for Team Xbox, similar to Crackdown 3. It proved Microsoft couldn’t rely upon third party studios any longer, subsequently sending them on a spending spree. The situation with Redfall appears far more serious however. The fact it isn’t an isolated incident is the most concerning part.

Unfortunately for Team Xbox, gamers aren’t going to reflect upon a recent success like Hi-Fi Rush. Neither are they going to excuse the fact the game was started before Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda. And gamers certainly aren’t going to accept the Activision Blizzard deal distraction as a valid excuse. Now that the deal is in jeopardy, there could be a moral to this story once it plays out.

To be fair to developer Arkane Studios, there was unwanted pressure on the release of Redfall. Being completely honest, I don’t regard Arkane as a top tier AAA studio. They come up with some inventive game mechanics, but they’ve never achieved great commercial success. Personally, I find their art style unappealing, with low tech graphics and a distinct lack of polish. Nothing about their games befit the AAA standard gamers expect. Even their better titles, like Dishonored, feature the same characteristics.

I say all of that to say this: I still don’t blame the developer. At least not entirely, invariably it’s the publisher at fault. Whilst Microsoft has allowed Bethesda to work autonomously, evidently this hands-off approach isn’t working. The buck stops with Phil Spencer and his team.

It’s been well over a year since Xbox has had a major first party release, so the exposure given to a studio like Arkane always seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. So what went wrong? The studio was given more time, yet it still launches with poor performance, weak AI, bugs, and worse still, dull gameplay.

Perhaps the issue goes beyond it not being fit for purpose on a technical level – which Phil Spencer kind of hinted at. Even if there was no faith to turn a mediocre game into a great one, fixing the performance issues should be the bare minimum. The obvious solution would be to delay Redfall once again and release it at a time when there isn’t such a spotlight on it. Instead, Xbox has created more drama for themselves and now has gamers sceptical of Starfield, their most anticipated title for years.

Xbox has to take much better stewardship of their studios. This lackadaisical approach is baffling. It’s not as though they haven’t had plenty of warnings: 343 and their handling of Halo being a prime example. Nintendo’s gold seal of quality should be the inspiration. An unrealistic goal perhaps, but all concerned should give greater emphasis to quality control.

Whilst all is not lost for Xbox, and they do have talented studios like Ninja Theory and Obsidian working on exciting titles, they can’t overlook any of their portfolio. It’s not quite 2013 all over again, and I wouldn’t suggest the damage caused is irreparable.

The CMA may be proven wrong in their verdict, but that shouldn’t be the focus. Much more pressing matters have arisen. Redfall has to be the wake-up call. The disappointment shown by Phil Spencer in a recent interview was plain to see, and it was commendable he fronted up. Hopefully Redfall is the kick up the backside they need, and next month’s Xbox Summer Showcase is so good it can renew some much needed optimism.

By reader Anon

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. Just contact us at [email protected] or use our Submit Stuff page and you won’t need to send an email.

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