That does sound absurd but it seems like a key issue was that Arkane’s leadership, specifically Harvey Smith and Ricardo Bare, were hyped to make Redfall while the Prey vets were like “If the player can’t jankily move a box to crawl through a vent in order to bypass a locked door we’re joining Cloud Chamber or Wolf Eye.”
Article says that Harvey Smith and Ricardo Bare didn’t have a mandate from management, but I’m pretty sure after a sales disaster like Prey, there had to be a discussion or at least self-pressure on Smith and Bare to do something different that would be a financial success.
Plus the article points out:
Harvey Smith recently said in an interview with the website Eurogamer that “early on” he pushed back against the compulsory inclusion of an in-game store. But people who worked on the game said the remarks didn’t square with how things played out. For the first three years, Redfall had a significant microtransaction plan in place. Only in 2021, with “games as a service” growing more controversial among gamers, did Arkane finally scrap its unwieldy in-game monetization plans.
There really was no good answer here. Had MS actually canceled Redfall they’d have been absolutely raked over the coals for canceling a game from a studio that has turned out absolute classics, and might be repeating its mistakes it had made with Lionhead and Ensemble, among others. Instead they’re raked over the coals for allowing Redfall to release to market.
Along the way, Smith and other leaders assured the staff that the game would get exponentially better once the final art was implemented and the bugs were fixed, promising that “Arkane magic” would manifest at the last minute as it had with previous games.
Yeah, it clearly didn’t work out in the case of Redfall because it sounds like it was just a genuinely bad game. But as a general rule, I think the new corporate master letting the newly acquired studio do its thing with as little interference as possible is the best approach and other than Redfall being shit, I think MS should be applauded for it.
Maybe it’s just watching EA run so many developers into the ground and my own experience being at a company that was acquired by a large corporation and saw firsthand how they mismanaged everything, didn’t understand the business and ran us right into the ground. These studios are being acquired because they’re making good games and have built valuable franchises. Why mess with a good thing unless your hand is forced (which might be the case now)?