A recent report by Bloomberg sheds light on the tumultuous development cycle of Redfall, the co-op shooter developed by Arkane Austin. According to the report, developers at Arkane Austin had hoped that Microsoft would either reboot or cancel the project due to the difficulties they faced during its development. This was surprising given that Arkane Austin has a reputation for developing excellent games.
Redfall entered production in 2018, just as its parent company ZeniMax was hoping to sell itself. As a result, the company encouraged its studios to develop games with live-service elements that could generate consistent profits over time, potentially making them more attractive as an acquisition target. This directive may have also led to the prevalence of microtransactions in games such as Fallout 76 and Wolfenstein Youngblood.
Even Deathloop, another game developed by Arkane, can be traced back to this mandate. In an interview, Raphaël Colantonio, the studio’s founder, revealed 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.
Redfall’s pitch as a “multiplayer Arkane game” left the development team feeling confused at times, especially since they were understaffed. 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.
When Microsoft acquired ZeniMax and all of the accompanying studios in 2020, some developers reportedly were hoping Microsoft would either cancel or reboot the game. However, Microsoft took a hands-off approach with the newly-owned teams, and Xbox boss Phil Spencer recently admitted in an interview 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.”
In our review of Redfall, we noted that there were “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.”
Redfall’s development cycle was challenging due to ZeniMax’s mandate for live-service games and the confusion surrounding the game’s direction. Despite Arkane Austin’s reputation for excellent games, Redfall launched to mostly negative reviews. However, Microsoft’s hands-off approach with the newly-acquired studios suggests that they have learned from their mistakes and are committed to supporting their developers going forward.