Redfall co-director reflects on Arkane Austin’s closure

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In the wake of Microsoft’s decision to close Arkane Austin, the co-director of Redfall, Harvey Smith, has written about the studio’s achievements.

Yesterday (7th May), Microsoft announced that it’s to close several studios under its control, including Tango Gameworks, makers of The Evil Within and the joyous Hi-Fi Rush, and Arkane Austin, a developer whose work includes Dishonored, Prey and last year’s Redfall.

Evidently still processing the decision, Harvey Smith, the co-director of Redfall, has taken to Twitter to write a lengthy post on the studio’s history and achievements. It places a movingly human angle on a cold business decision – and emphasises just how sudden the announcement was.

“Yesterday, as we packed up and reassured one another,” Smith wrote, “I spent time with people who were part of crafting Redfall, Dishonored 1, and Prey, yes, but prior to that Deus Ex, Ultima, and countless other games that left a mark on me.”

Smith had spent some 16 years at the studio, switching roles and locations between its offices in Lyon and Austin.

“We connected to Bethesda, made Dishonored, the Knife of Dunwall, the Brigmore Witches,” Smith wrote. “The number of difficulties along the way could fill a book. But the number of glorious, hilarious moments could fill ten. We segregated the two teams, I moved to Lyon for 4 years, where we made Dishonored 2 and Death Of The Outsider. While Raf, Ricardo and many others including key Redfall leads stayed in Austin and created Prey and Mooncrash.”

Sadly, the reception to Redfall – partly made, as Smith points out, during the pandemic – may have placed Arkane Austin in Microsoft’s crosshairs. Development on the multiplayer shooter was troubled, by several accounts, and the resulting game was poorly-received enough that Xbox boss Phil Spencer took the unusual step of expressing how “disappointed” he was with its scores shortly after launch.

All the same, Arkane is a hugely talented studio, and part of the problem with Redfall was that it was reportedly a project forced on the team following the superb yet slow-selling single-player shooter, Prey.

Smith’s thought on the closure arose as reports emerged that Arkane Austin had been working on a major update for Redfall, scheduled for this month, when Microsoft suddenly cancelled both the game and the studio that made it.

Microsoft has put the closures down to a “reprioritization of titles and resources.” Smith’s words are a reminder of the human cost behind all the corporate jargon.

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