It has been a tough few days for Microsoft and Xbox. First, the firm’s ambitious and expensive attempt to acquire Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard hit a major hurdle when Britain’s competition regulator blocked the $69 billion (roughly Rs. 5,63,980 crore) deal on April 26, citing cloud gaming concerns. And then, Redfall, Xbox’s first big tentpole exclusive of the year, released May 2 to largely negative reviews that criticised the game over its technical and creative failings. Arkane Austin’s first-person looter shooter is currently sitting at an underwhelming overall rating of 61 on OpenCritic. In the aftermath of the fallout from the botched release and the resulting fan backlash, Xbox chief Phil Spencer has come out and taken “full responsibility” for Redfall’s less than stellar reception. In a wide ranging and revealing interview late Thursday, a visibly dejected Spencer laid out his word on Xbox’s recent failures, the expectations from the community, and the road ahead. “I’m disappointed, I’m upset with myself,” the head of Xbox said on Redfall’s poor launch.
Two days after the dismal launch of Redfall, Spencer came on the Kinda Funny Xcast show and spoke candidly about the failures of Xbox’s latest exclusive. “There’s nothing that’s more difficult for me than disappointing the Xbox community,” Spencer said, adding, “…Just to watch the community lose confidence, be disappointed — I’m disappointed, I’m upset with myself.” Spencer admitted that Redfall’s critical response fell far short of internal expectations and was “not what we wanted” and also volunteered to take accountability for the game’s poor reception. “I also know these games are $70 (nearly Rs. 5,720), and I’m gonna take full responsibility for launching a game that needs to be great,” he said.
Spencer also defended Redfall Developers Arkane Austin over criticism that their latest game was perhaps an ill-advised departure from their regular slate of titles. Arkane is known for critically acclaimed single-player immersive sims like Dishonored and Prey, while Redfall is a co-op looter shooter. “There’s clearly quality and execution things that we can do, but one thing I won’t do is push against creative aspirations of our teams,” he said, adding that the studio had a proven track record, but admitting that they failed to hit “their own internal goals” on Redfall.
Spencer also weighed in on British antitrust regulator Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) move to block Microsoft’s takeover of Activision Blizzard and maintained that the firm intended to appeal the decision that could prevent Xbox from bringing the company’s lucrative portfolio, which includes the sales juggernaut Call of Duty franchise under its umbrella.
Later in the interview, the Xbox chief took on the so-called “console wars,” expanding upon Xbox’s position in the gaming space relative to Sony PlayStation and Nintendo. Spencer admitted that Xbox’s last-gen console, the Xbox One, failed to capture a crucial generation of gamers, most of whom were now tied to their game libraries built over the span of a console generation and thus difficult to sway toward buying an Xbox Series X or Series S. Spencer emphasised that Xbox does not intend to “out-console” Sony or Nintendo and instead focus on its unique services such as Game Pass, cloud and PC gaming.
Redfall released May 2 across PC and Xbox Series S/X and faced flak over its several technical and performance issues, while also drawing criticism for its creative and design decisions, leading to a flurry of sub-par reviews. Its cause wasn’t helped by the fact that the game launched with a 30fps cap on Xbox consoles. Spencer confirmed that Xbox, which owns Arkane-parent Bethesda, will work on improving the game and committed on delivering a 60fps patch on consoles on priority.