Xbox boss Phil Spencer says disappointing <I>Redfall</I> launch a "knockback" for Microsoft

Xbox boss Phil Spencer says disappointing Redfall launch a “knockback” for Microsoft


Xbox boss Phil Spencer has described the launch of Redfall as a “knockback” for Microsoft, and apologized for releasing the open-world shooter in such a rough state.

Redfall debuted earlier this week and was swiftly lambasted by critics and players alike for launching without the sort of polish (think rampant AI, texture, and animation issues) you’d expect from a Xbox first-party title.

Addressing the situation on the Kinda Funny Xcast, Spencer said Microsoft may need to revisit its internal processes after Redfall’s underwhelming launch, and suggested the situation represented a setback for the company after it made a strong start to 2023 with the release of titles like Hi-Fi Rush and Minecraft Legends.

“To watch the [Xbox] community lose confidence and be disappointed. I’m disappointed. I’m upset with myself and want to revisit our process. I think back to the announcement of 60FPS and then we weren’t shipping 60FPS,” said Spencer.

“That was our punch in the chin, rightfully, a couple of weeks ago. Then seeing the game come out and receive a critical response that wasn’t what we wanted. It’s disappointing. […] For that I apologize. It’s not what I expect and it’s not what I want.”

Teams Creative risks don’t always bring rewards

In a rather candid exchange, Spencer suggested Redfall’s struggles aren’t solely down to a lack of polish, but rather Arkane Austin choosing to take a risk. The long-serving boss said Microsoft wants its internal studios to feel like they have the freedom to challenge themselves and surprise players, but claimed that might sometimes mean projects struggle to meet expectations.

“I want to give teams the creative platform to push their abilities,” said Spencer, suggesting Xbox Game Studios developers won’t be asked to stay in their lane because the platform needs a selection of titles that can “surprise and delight” players.

That said, he feels Microsoft and Arkane evidently missed the mark, and doesn’t accept that simply delaying the project would’ve addressed what he feels are some core design issues.

“There are quality issues and we’re working on those. But I think 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’ [type scenario]. That feels like the game had a goal to do one thing, and when players are actually playing they’re not feeling that thing. They’re not feeling the creative execution of the team,” continued Spencer.

Spencer reiterated that he doesn’t want to trivialize any of Redfall’s technical hiccups, but said that “when I look at the review scores of this game, its [a question of] did we have enough creative differentiation in our core idea and did we realize that creative ambition?”

He also admitted that Redfall’s negative reviews caught Microsoft by surprise, and said the title had been handed scores that were “double digits lower” than some of the mock reviews the company commissioned. Still, it seems Microsoft will at least give Arkane Austin the chance to turn things around, with Spencer explaining the dev team is committed to delivering on the near-term feedback it has received. 

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