Redfall is bad. There’s no getting around that. It’s a poorly developed, half-finished, poorly thought out video game that could have benefitted from another year of development, or even maybe just forgetting about it completely. Since release the developers have been scrambling to update as much as possible for damage limitation, but unfortunately for them, the furore around the game’s poor performance is more prominent than the marketing of the game, so there’s no getting away from it and it’s all everyone is talking about.
Redfall – A Disaster Class In Game Development and Marketing
For the uninitiated, Redfall was supposed to be a simple premise. Up to four player co-op play with players taking the roles of vampire hunters attempting to take back a town from ‘tech-bro vampires’ with a multitude of different weapons at their disposal. Supposedly interesting world aside, the game is a far cry from Arkane’s previous work, most notably the Dishonored series.
Whilst talking to Kinda Funny, Xbox CEO Phil Spencer was more than open with his opinion on the situation.
“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 in the 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.”
He quickly followed that mouthful of blame-shifting with accusing Arkane of having a lack of “creative vision”. Conveniently he is forgetting the huge upheaval to the studio when it was bought as part of Microsoft’s purchase of Zenimax, or the sudden and disruptive cancelation of the PS5 version of the game.
It certainly can be argued that were the developers given more time with Redfall rather than being rushed and forced to release a defective, broken product that it may have come good. It may well have been the AAA experience intended to blow away players. It could also be argued that the developers had more than enough time to deliver on their promises, and they simply couldn’t.
Either way, Phil Spencer coming out and publicly shaming the developer and its staff is both a poor look and not a good sign. More changes will be coming to the developer that’s for sure, and probably very few of them good. Phil Spencer did also take some of the blame, which seems odd as he wouldn’t be involved in the day-to-day development of any of the games under Microsoft’s stewardship, so it could just be a PR move to try and limit any blowback for himself and the struggling brand.
This is just the latest in a string of bad luck/bad business decisions from Microsoft. They haven’t had a AAA gaming release since Halo Infinite, some eighteen months ago, which would previously have been unthinkable. Add to that the well-publicized issues with the Activision/Blizzard acquisition, as well as their poor console sales, and suddenly the upcoming release of Bethesda’s Starfield is looking a lot more important to not only the company, but to the gaming industry as a whole.