The development of Microsoft’s Perfect Dark reboot is apparently not going so well according to a new report from Video Games Chronicle. The Initiative, the new “AAAA” Microsoft studio working on the new Perfect Dark game is reportedly being affected by high turnover, with almost half of the core development team leaving the company during the last year.
The Initiative saw a long list of top talent leaving the studio in recent months, including design director Drew Murray and game director Dan Neuburger. In total, approximately 34 employees left the studio last year, including senior writers, the project’s lead level designer and technical director, and more.
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“According to LinkedIn, The Initiative is now less than 50 people and currently has just three roles advertised on its website. Analysis suggests it hired around 12 people in the past 12 months,” the VGC report reads. While this 50 employees number sounds awfully small for a very ambitious studio, The Initiative actually announced a partnership with Tomb Raider developer Crystal Dynamics back in September to co-develop this Perfect Dark reboot.
Former employees at The Initiative who spoke with VGC blamed constrained creativity, the lack of clear direction, and slow progress as the main reasons for their departures. However, Darrell Gallagher, head of The Initiative tried to dismiss the impact of turnover on the project.
“In this journey, it’s not uncommon for there to be staffing changes, especially during a time of global upheaval over the last two years, and there’s plenty more work in front of us to deliver a fantastic Perfect Dark experience to our players. We wish all our former colleagues the very best, and I’m confident in the team we have in place, the new talent joining, and we can’t wait to share more with the fans,” the exec said.
So far, the only thing we’ve seen from this Perfect Dark reboot is the CGI trailer shown at The Game Awards 2020. For those unfamiliar, Perfect Dark is one of the most iconic franchises from the Nintendo 64 era, being a spiritual successor to Rare’s cult-classic Goldeneye 007 game. Perfect Dark made a failed comeback on the Xbox 360 with the poorly-received Perfect Dark: Zero, and it’s safe to say that The Initiative and Crystal Dynamics both have a lot of pressure on their shoulders to deliver a reboot that is as memorable as the original.
Overall, this report is a good illustration of Microsoft’s struggles as a major video game publisher impacted by a global pandemic. Microsoft did beat Sony as the highest-rated publisher of 2021 on Metacritic, but a game like Halo Infinite had a notoriously difficult development cycle with several top management changes and a one-year delay. Nearly six months after launch, the game is still missing Campaign co-op and the fan-favorite Forge map editor mode, which are two things most Halo fans were probably taking for granted.
There’s no doubt that the pandemic has made video game development more complicated than ever, and it could be a while before we get any updates about this Perfect Dark reboot from The Initiative. “VGC’s sources agreed that they would be surprised if Crystal Dynamics’ introduction, combined with the significant departures of core staff, hadn’t triggered an effective soft reboot of Perfect Dark and that it was likely still years away from release,” the VGC report said.