Understaffing and unclear direction were just some of the reported problems
Redfall suffered from a tumultuous development cycle where developers from Arkane Austin hoped that Microsoft would either reboot or cancel the project, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The co-op shooter launched to mostly negative reviews last month, which was uncharacteristic of Arkane’s usually excellent pedigree.
The report states that Redfall entered production in 2018 as parent company ZeniMax were hoping to “sell itself.” As a result, the company encouraged its studios to develop games with live-service elements that could generate consistent profit over time, potentially making them more attractive as an acquisition target. That might also explain the prevalence of microtransactions in games such as Fallout 76 and Wolfenstein Youngblood.
Even Deathloop’s origins can be traced back to that kind-of-not-really mandate. Jeremy Peel interviewed the studio’s founder, Raphaël Colantonio, who said that Zenimax wanted “something that maybe has multiplayer so we can learn multiplayer, something that maybe has microtransactions.” According to Bloomberg, Redfall reportedly had microtransactions up until 2021.
Bloomberg's report also states that Redfall's pitch as a “multiplayer Arkane game” left the understaffed development team feeling confused at times. Bloomberg claims that around 70% of the staff who worked on Prey had left the studio by the time that Redfall eventually launched, with veteran developers leaving over its unclear direction and ZeniMax’s less competitive wages at the time.
By the time Microsoft acquired ZeniMax and all of the accompanying studios in 2020, some developers reportedly were hoping Mircosoft would either cancel or reboot the game. Microsoft instead took a hands-off approach with the newly-owned teams, and Xbox boss Phil Spencer recently said in an interview with Kinda Funny that the publisher "didn’t do a good job early on in engaging with Arkane Austin to really help them understand what it meant to be part of Xbox."
Our Ed’s Redfall review noted: “There are moments of wonder buried away in Redfall, where Arkane's penmanship and architectural mastery surface,” but “there's a sense that what's arrived is a game that was pulled in so many directions it couldn't cope.” Sounds about right.