Xbox has had a challenging couple of years, to say the least.
Redfall recently launched to Average reviews and criticism of the game’s bugs, collaboration issues, and performance, at a time when Xbox was already suffering concerns and criticism over several years of silence from many of its 23 internal studios. Until yesterday’s presentation at least, the narrative was that the Xbox AAA effort was faltering. But all of this begs the question: What could Xbox have done differently?
Like his fellow execs, Matt Botti, head of Xbox Game Studios, understands that Xbox has a lot to prove to those who’ve been watching it closely since its acquisition spree in late 2010. So after the Xbox Game Showcase, I asked him if there was anything he’d do differently. If only he could go back to 2017 and play it again. Booty responds by telling me he’s going to change the way he sets expectations: not with the Xbox audience, but with the developers that get Xbox.
Booty responds: “When a studio becomes part of Xbox, like it or not, it becomes part of the first party.” “And as part of the first party, they’re in a different spotlight; people look at them through a different lens. And it’s my responsibility, and our responsibility as the broader Xbox organization, to make sure they understand that, and then make sure they’re set and that we set expectations appropriately. If you’re a small, independent studio You can charge a game, or maybe you’re working on something and you say hey, that’s not really working, let’s just charge this thing, get it out of the way and move on to our next game.We don’t have that luxury as part of a first party.
“If I were to go back in time, where I feel a bit left out about the Redfall thing, this project started before we bought Zenimax, and I think we could have done a better job of setting them up…then please go back in time in my little time machine.” Until 2017, make sure everyone understands that they won’t be able to ship a game like Double Fine or inXile anymore. They’ll be seen as part of the first party.”
Since the launch of Redfall to Average reviews Criticizing the game’s bugs, collaboration issues, and performance, Xbox leadership took responsibility for the disappointment, and also indicated that they believed it would do better. Due to stronger fake reviews. On reflection, though, Matt Botti, President of Xbox Game Studios, adds that part of the reason the team wasn’t aware of the issues was due to claims of it being “tunnel vision” and missing the bigger picture.
“Sometimes a team can get a little bit tunnel vision about their game, and other times management can have the opposite problem of maybe zooming in too far,” says Booty. Having indications that the game is going to perform a certain way…we get people to play the game, have reviews, do mock reviews, and just have indications that it will perform better than it did. And I think the team was so committed to what they were building that they had a little bit of tunnel vision.”
Booty goes on to say that the accountability for Redfall ultimately rests with him and ZeniMax chief James Leder, and urges players not to blame individual developers.
“If you work for Arkane, you’ve spent years working on Redfall,” he says. “For me, I just feel for the people who have spent all their time working on it, getting all this fire in their game. I immediately go to, How do we support the team? How do we support them to get the game in shape, and what do we learn from that?”
We also talked to Booty about why games are taking so much longer nowadays. Booty also appeared on a panel with other Xbox chiefs to talk about first-party strategy for Xbox, along with Xbox chief Phil Spencer talking about the importance of the console. And you can catch up on everything from the Xbox Showcase and IGN’s Summer of Gaming here.
Rebecca Valentine is a senior reporter at IGN. You can find her on Twitter @employee.
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