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Xbox head Phil Spencer says Redfall's problems "not a delay question"

But he's "upset with" himself

The cast of Redfall walk through an abandoned street with their robot pal.
Image credit: Bethesda Softworks

Redfall currently has 'Mostly Negative' reviews on Steam, reflecting a co-op shooter that feels sparse, unsatisfying and buggy to players. Our Ed is no fan either. In an interview with Kinda Funny earlier today, Xbox head Phil Spencer talked at length about Redfall's issues.

"I'm upset with myself," said Spencer, while defending the decision not to delay the game.

"I'll just say all up, there's nothing that’s more difficult for me than disappointing the Xbox community. I've been a part of it for a long time. I obviously work on Xbox, head of the business, have a lot of friends, get a lot of feedback. And just to watch the community lose confidence, be disappointed, I'm disappointed."

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Spencer, who looked throughout like a YouTuber in an apology video, did offer counters to some of the criticism of decisions surrounding Redfall. For example, on the subject of delaying the game to address its issues, Spencer argued that it wouldn't necessarily have helped in this particular case.

"When a game needs to be delayed, we did with Halo, we did with Starfield, we did with Redfall, because the production timeline is saying, we have this vision, and our production timelines don't get us to the completion of that vision, we do delay games. We do that," said Spencer.

While acknowledging that Redfall has bugs, Spencer suggests the issue lies more on its delivery of the creative vision. "If I think about a team's execution on a game, we had a creative vision and did we realise that vision through the game we created? That's not a delay question if the answer is no. This isn't a Redfall specific conversation. "I think there's a fundamental piece of feedback that we get that the game isn't realising the creative vision it had for its players," says Spencer. "That doesn't feel like a hey, just delay it. That feels like the game had a goal to do one thing and when players are actually playing they're not feeling that thing, they're not feeling the creative execution of the team."

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"But when I look at the review scores of this game, did we have enough of a creative differentiation in our core idea? And did we realise that creative ambition? "I think it's maybe a little simplistic to just say, hey, if you would have just delayed it three months the core creative of the game would have delivered on something that was different than what it was.

Spencer also says he's a "huge supporter" of Arkane Austin, and defends the decision to have the studio, best known for singleplayer immersive sims, develop a game seemingly so far out of their wheelhouse.

"Maybe that means I'll under deliver for some of our fans out there. But when a team like Rare wants to do Sea of Thieves, when a team like Obsidian wants to do Grounded, when Tango wants to go do Hi-Fi [Rush] when everybody probably thought they were doing The Evil Within 3, I want to give the teams the creative platform to go and push their ability, push their aspirations."

Part of the issue, Spencer suggests, is that Redfall was already in development when Microsoft acquired Bethesda and its subsidiaries, and that they were too slow in offering the project central support. "We need to improve on engaging in games that are midway through production when they become part of Xbox," he said. "And we didn't do a good job early on in engaging with Arkane Austin to really help them understand what it meant to be part of Xbox and part of first-party and use some of our internal resources to help them and move along that journey even faster."

Starfield, due to release in September, will be different because "that game was earlier on in production, and it was easier for us to swarm a bunch of people to go and help with some of the technology on our platform and ensure we're going to ship a quality experience there," Spencer says.

"I also know these games are $70. I'm going to take full responsibility for launching a game that needs to be great. There are still questions that pop every so often, of how committed is the company to this category? When are we just going to push Xbox out of the market? There's a lot of Twitter 'firing of Phil' right now, which is fine. I'm way overpaid for the role I have anyway. I get that's my responsibility. But we will remain committed to the game and the players, as long as the players want to go play games. That's my commitment to the community. I'm kind of at a low point right now in terms of my delivery on that commitment to the community. But it very much stays. I want to support the team. I want to support the creative ambitions of the teams. And I want to support the players.

"We let a lot of people down this week with the launch of the game, but we will continue to strive on. You have to, right? That's what creative is about."

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