Today Microsoft announced a re-organization within its Xbox division that will see ZeniMax and Bethesda Game Studios report more directly to head of game services, Matt Booty. The shift comes after vampire shooter Redfall was so poorly recieved that Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer went on a fan podcast to publicly apologize for the situation.
As reported by The Verge, Microsoft’s latest executive shuffling will see Booty, previously in charge of overseeing Xbox Game Studios, expand his purview to include ZeniMax and Bethesda as the newly appointed president of game content and studios. Meanwhile, former VP Sarah Bond will now be president of Xbox in charge of everything related to the platform including “Devices, Player & Creator Experiences, Platform Engineering, Strategy, Business Planning, Data & Analytics and Business Development.”
“ZeniMax will continue to operate as a limited integration entity led by Jamie Leder, President and CEO, reporting to Matt,” Spencer wrote in a memo to staff today, but the closer collaboration appears designed to avoid another mishap like Redfall. The announcement comes a week after Bethesda marketing head Pete Hines announced he’d be retiring from the company after 24 years.
Arkane Austin’s multiplayer shooter combined elements of Stephen King horror, immersive sims like Dishonored, and loot mechanics from Borderlands into an intriguing but ultimately messy mix that felt unpolished, incomplete, and hollow. A promised 60fps mode for the console version, alongside a patch containing other fixes and improvements, didn’t arrive until six months after release.
Spencer apologized to disappointed fans, but defended the decision not to delay it and said internal mock review scores pointed to a much better reception than the one it eventually got. “I feel accountable that we could have done a better job with Arkane,” Booty told Axios in a June interview. “It was a miss, but how much of a miss?” he sad at the time, adding, “I want to support them to be able to keep working to deliver the game they had in mind.”
According to a report by Bloomberg shortly after Redfall came out, the game suffered from a lack of clear direction, a lack of resources, and a lack of conviction in the shift to online multiplayer for a studio renowned for its single-player experiences. It’s still unclear how much Microsoft was aware of the situation surrounding the game, and whether more direct intervention might have saved it or simply led to it being canceled altogether. Bloomberg reported that 70 percent of Arkane Austin staff who worked on Prey had left by the time Redfall shipped.