There’s been a lot of misfires in gaming lately. Atomic Heart delivered an impressive world filled with boring gameplay. Forspoken had a lot going for it, but ultimately failed to deliver. And the less said about Crime Boss: Rockay City, the better. There are two very high profile titles that remain in the limelight, however. Cyberpunk 2077 and Redfall. Both suffered catastrophic launches. However, one has turned it around. The other? Well, that’s to be seen.
The Cost of Creating a Dystopia
Cyberpunk 2077 launched back in 2020. After an eight year wait between announcement and release, the game was immediately panned at launch. Despite actually providing an enjoyable experience, Cyberpunk 2077 fell far short of that which had been promised. The bug-ridden world was so far removed from the pre-release marketing that it in fact lead to Sony removing the title from purchase on the PlayStation Store. Only after the backlash, it should be noted.
Six months after launch, Cyberpunk 2077 showed signs of growth. Numerous patches and bug fixes had been deployed, and – on PC and current-generation consoles, at least – the game began to resemble the promises that had been made. Last month, the arrival of the first (and reportedly only) expansion, Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, noted a marked change in the game. Now, Cyberpunk 2077 was everything it should have been from day one.
However, this reversal of the game’s fortunes did not come cheap. CD Projekt Red recently revealed that they have spent $125 million USD on Cyberpunk 2077 since launch. This includes updates, bug fixes and development/marketing of Phantom Liberty (~$84 million). According to a report from Kotaku, the base game cost $174 million to develop and $142 million to market. The total cost of the game is now reportedly over $436 million, making it the second-most expensive video game to develop, behind Star Citizen.
The Road to Redfall
Arkane Studios’ Redfall arrived in May 2023. The response at launch was similar to that of Cyberpunk 2077. The game fell far short of expectation, littered with bugs and fundamental gameplay issues. However, six months on we’ve begun to see the shoots of redemption.
After months of silence, Redfall received its biggest update yet. The second big patch will added the multiplayer game’s long-awaited 60 frames-per-second mode on Xbox Series X|S, as well as a host of gameplay improvements and bug fixes.
“Today’s update brings Performance Mode to Xbox Series X/S, stealth takedowns, a bevy of new controller settings, and a lot more changes to Redfall,” the development team wrote on Bethesda’s website.
Now, while the timelines appear to be similar, Redfall is not the same story as Cyberpunk 2077. Not by a long shot.
Cyberpunk 2077 vs Redfall
Cyberpunk 2077 had a lot riding on it. CD Projekt Red has all but acknowledged their hand was forced to launch the game in an unfit state simply to appease their investors. A strategy that did of course backfire. The publisher has long since stabilised, if not fully recovered. Redfall however, was in a very different position.
Zenimax Media was hot off the Microsoft acquisition. Microsoft weren’t looking for Redfall to achieve X profitability. At least, not directly. Instead, the Xbox strategy has long been known to revolve around Xbox Game Pass. A platform which had been crying out for a blockbuster addition for some time. The recently released Starfield was still six months away, and Forza Motorsport was being lined-up as the big holiday title. Redfall, then, was to be the filler. The amuse-buche before the big names come and satiate you.
It’s doubtful Microsoft had ever expected Redfall to be any kind of system seller. Nor any kind of subscription driver. It was, alongside Hi-Fi Rush, positioned as a title to maintain subscribers, not grow them. And with that, we have to wonder whether or not Microsoft is affording Arkane Studios the resources to continue to develop a game that by all accounts has been left to rot.
With Microsoft keen to present a ‘gamer-first’ outlook for the Xbox brand, there’s every chance they could allow Arkane the opportunity to redeem the game. However, Microsoft’s strategy is most certainly a long play, and at present the confirmed launches in 2024 and beyond are still left wanting. There’s plenty coming of course, but when? It would make more sense to reassign Arkane to a new project. Keep the schedule rolling. Looking back at Redfall may have its benefits, but could also prove fruitless in the long term.