56. That the current Metascore for Redfall, Arkane Studios’ new “big release.” Xbox’s first highly anticipated release from its ZeniMax purchase fell flat on its face.
We got Redfall in its current state after a hefty delay alongside Starfield and concerns about poor FPS at launch. Frankly, Redfall’s low scores feel too familiar. Cyberpunk 2077 got delayed multiple times, even after it went gold, and released unfinished. Before that, Bioware dropped Anthem in a similar state.
Reporting on both games showed both teams’ management believed their respective studio’s “magic” would save them at the bell. Guess what phrase Redfall’s directors used to assuage concerns. That’s right, “Arkane Magic.”
Studio magic is a myth that needs to die in a burning blaze. Magic doesn’t save you, proper planning, communication, and hard work does.
Magic Has Become an Egotistical Word in Game Development
Anthem and Cyberpunk 2077 had high expectations going into release because they came from highly praised studios. Bioware released Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), Mass Effect, and many more highly praised RPGs. Likewise, CD Projekt Red handled The Witcher games, namely 2015’s The Wild Hunt.
In comparison: Arkane gained fame with the Dishonored series, Deathloop, and the modern Wolfenstein games. Each of these were highly praised, so people were excited for another Arkane Studios release.
Admittedly, doing good gives you room to talk. You’ve proven your abilities and have the evidence to back up your talk. So seeing each of these studios have past proof made them believe in themselves. Believe in themselves too much, that is.
Many of the above successes came together at the last minute. As such, the only way management could describe the success was “magic.” That “magic” was reportedly how they internally calmed fears about potentially bad releases. Instead of trying to address the actual concerns developers had about the project’s current state, the leadership pushed ahead.
Regardless of whether Anthem or Cyberpunk released when they did to please shareholders or poor management, the reality is they came out and left bad stains that both teams can’t fully erase.
Now “Arkane Magic” Gets its Time in the Sun
Today, Bloomberg reporter, Jason Schreier, published his article on Redfall’s development. Unsurprisingly, “Arkane Magic” came out from game directors’ Harvey Smith and Ricardo Bare. Redfall had issues meshing multiplayer game-as-a-service ideas with Arkane’s known single-player style, and further issues hiring new talent to replace departing talent.
Yet during the final frantic months, the remaining Arkane staff found themselves stretched thin and the debut date was pushed back from Halloween of 2022 to early 2023 and then eventually to May 2, 2023. 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. (Jason Schreier, 2023).
Internally, everyone knew the writing was on the wall. As many critics pointed out, Redfall had more than just technical issues at launch. Externally, Redfall got top billing from Xbox. Now, Xbox owns one of 2023’s worst games.
In complete honesty, I’ve had much of this article drafted for nearly a month. I started writing it because it was so predictable. First, the studio earns acclaim with multiple critical successes. Said studio starts work on a project either game-as-a-service focused or the project gets massively overhyped. When push comes to shove for the final development stretch, the developers use “Studio Magic” to get the game launched in the bare-boniest way possible.
Game directors need to throw this idea out the window. Gamers know it, and developers know it. Studio magic is a lie.