Some employees at Bethesda’s Arkane Studios reportedly hoped that Microsoft, after acquiring Bethesda in 2020, might cancel Redfall or reboot it as a single-player game, according to a new report from Bloomberg.
That didn’t happen, however, and Redfall launched on May 2 to poor reception from critics and players. Game Informer gave it a 5 out of 10 in our review. Xbox head Phil Spencer said on Kinda Funny Games’ Xcast that he was disappointed with the Redfall launch. “I’m upset with myself,” he told the Xcast.
Despite hopes for a new approach to the game following that 2020 acquisition, Microsoft remained hands-off and allowed development on the title to continue as normal, save for canceling a PlayStation 5 version of Redfall.
Bloomberg reports that Arkane began development on Redfall in 2018, a time when ZeniMax, Bethesda’s parent company, was still private and not owned by Microsoft. It says behind the scenes, Zenimax was encouraging studios to develop games that could be monetized beyond launch. The company was essentially asking its studios to make what we now call “games as a service” games or live-service games, a type of game popularized by Bungie’s Destiny series.
While Zenimax “strongly” urged its studios to create these types of games, according to Bloomberg, it stopped short of forcing it. Redfall was born out of this push, and development began a year after the release of the critically well-received but financially less successful Prey in 2017. Arkane wanted to make something more broadly appealing after Prey’s release, and the studio landed on the idea of Redfall.
Development was led by Harvey Smith and Ricardo Bare, and the two pitched Redfall as a “multiplayer Arkane game,” Bloomberg writes. However, some team members found that confusing, and over time, tension continued to rise as a studio with less than 100 people who had focused on the single-player games of Arkane’s past clashed with the multiplayer ideas at play in Redfall. Bloomberg reports that 70% of the remaining staff that worked on Prey left Arkane during the development of Redfall.
Without a clear vision of what this multiplayer game would be, the studio struggled to offset that reduction in staff with new hires. According to Bloomberg, it was challenging to explain what Redfall was to potential hires. Plus, many applying to work at Arkane were looking to work on the type of single-player title the studio is known for, not a multiplayer FPS.
Bloomberg’s report goes deeper into all of this, so be sure to read it for the full story.
Game Informer reached out to Microsoft and Bethesda for comment. A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment and Bethesda had not responded by the time of publish.
For more, read Game Informer’s Redfall review.