Redfall's devs were reportedly building out its massively delayed Hero Pass content 'very recently'—before Microsoft closed Arkane Austin for good

Redfall key art
(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

In case you missed the news, yesterday Microsoft's Xbox division announced the closure of four studios—which included Arkane Austin (Prey, Dishonoured) as well as Tango Gameworks (Tokyo: Ghostwire, Hi-Fi Rush).

The news came as a shock to an industry still reeling from thousands of layoffs in 2023 and 2024, seen as a cynical move that ran contrary to the vibe Microsoft wanted to give off with its acquisitions—more along the lines of Embracer's disastrous spending spree that saw many studios sold off or shut down

Hi-Fi Rush, in particular, seemed like a damning edict. You can make a solid game based on a fresh IP that creates a huge wave of excitement and, in Microsoft's own words, exceeds expectations—only to have the world crumble around you less than two years later. 

Arkane Austin, however, had almost the inverse problem—having produced a library of well-received work (Prey, Deathloop, Dishonoured) before Redfall's major flop in May of 2023. The thing had a massively troubled development cycle. As my fellow PC Gamer writer Joshua Wolens wrote last year: 

"Bloomberg's investigation states that Redfall's development was afflicted by chronic understaffing. Arkane Austin's team of fewer than 100 people simply wasn't large enough for the job of creating a marquee, multiplayer-focused shooter—a problem that wasn't helped as dispirited veteran devs began an exodus from the project as it limped along."

Despite that, it seemed there was a serious effort to try and make Redfall an underdog revival. Updates would follow, and while Redfall was a long way off from a Cyberpunk 2.0 style 'redemption', stranger things have happened. According to IGN's Wesley Yin-Poole, the dream itself didn't die until the shutdown announcements yesterday.

"IGN was told that the now cancelled Hero Pass content, which was set to add two new characters to the vampire co-op shooter, was scheduled for release this Halloween." The report states that this work was being done "very recently", so it's uncertain whether Arkane Austin's developers were hard at work right up until the closure announcement or not. 

Considering the shock of surviving studio Arkane Lyon's Dinga Bakaba, who called the decision a "gut stab", it doesn't take a detective to say the whole thing was probably unexpected.

As for whether Redfall could've been saved by new content—that's a whole other thing entirely. We gave it a score of 44 in our Redfall review, and it was pretty much universally panned. If anything, the surprise is that Redfall (not the studio itself) hadn't been scrapped until now, with Arkane Austin put back in a genre they have proper history with. Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League released in a (comparatively) much better state, and even that game's having trouble. Live service just really isn't a safe bet.

On the other hand, I think Arkane Austin deserved a chance to try. Maybe a massive overhaul to the game and its systems could've done something—anything—to raise it from the coffin it had landed in so unceremoniously. Even if Redfall was doomed, Arkane should've gotten to move to something else.

As it stands, Arkane Austin's last hurrah was a busted, ill-advised live service game it had no real business making in the first place—which is a goddamn shame by any metric. As developers have aptly been pointing out in Microsoft's wake, a good and profitable track record will no longer save you.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.