Xbox CEO Phil Spencer admits to mistakes after Redfall launch disaster

The Xbox brand just experienced its worst week ever after its Activision Blizzard acquisition was blocked by British authorities, and its first big release of the year, “Redfall,” was met with fan backlash and critical disappointment.

Needless to say, Xbox chief executive Phil Spencer isn’t a Happy Camper

“I’m not in a positive mood this week, so I apologize for staying in cranky mode,” Spencer told the hosts of Kinda Funny Xcast.

British regulators denied Microsoft’s $69 billion purchase of games publishing giant Activision Blizzard last week — impeding the company’s attempt to gain that company’s massive intellectual property, including the Call of Duty series, as Xbox releases.

Then on Tuesday, Xbox’s highly anticipated release of “Redfall” ended with a splat. Arkane Austin is a highly acclaimed developer that Microsoft acquired recently. GameSpot gave the game a score of 4 out 10 which is surprisingly low. It was generally described as uninspired, boring and full bugs by reviewers.

The game was released at the standard $70 price, which has now become the norm for high-budget games.

“Redfall is an absolute catastrophe of a video game” was the title of a typical trending review on YouTube.

Here’s what U.K.’s blocking of the Microsoft-Activision deal means

On the podcast, Spencer took responsibility for at least the game’s technical failures.

He explained that “Redfall” started development before Xbox/Microsoft acquired the property in 2021. But he acknowledged that the Xbox version received a far poorer reception from critics than the company had expected.

“We need to improve on engaging in games that are midway through production when they become part of Xbox,” Spencer said. “We didn’t do a good job early on in engaging with Arkane Austin to 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.”

Spencer said Arkane didn’t make use of an internal division at Microsoft that helps game developers with multiplayer networking, code performance and reliability. He also said Xbox failed to give the studio the technological help it needed for Unreal Engine, the game engine software that powers “Redfall.”

Moving on from bad news, he turned the subject to Microsoft’s next big release: “Starfield” by Bethesda Game Studios, which he hopes will put some wind in Xbox’s sails when it releases this fall.

“We did a better job with ‘Starfield,’ but that game was earlier on in production, and it was easier for us to swarm a bunch of people to help with the technology on our platform and ensure we ship a quality experience there,” Spencer said.

The Xbox Series console is currently trailing in sales behind Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Nintendo’s Switch. The company refocused its business to be a service that spans platforms such as PC gaming and cloud gaming. The Xbox Game Pass subscription is the company’s main pillar. It offers over 100 games for $10 per month.

Spencer offered cautious optimism, stating that Xbox would start to catch up with the iPhone and iPad soon.

“I’m just going to say there’s not a win for Xbox staying in the wake of somebody else,” he said.

Phil Spencer on the ‘console war’ mentality, and Xbox’s shift away from the box

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