Phil Spencer admits Xbox needed the Perfect Dark reboot to make its firstparty lineup less male

Head of Xbox Phil Spencer recently popped onto IGN's Unlocked podcast and talked a little about the upcoming Perfect Dark reboot. While he kept it mostly detail-free, he also expanded on the reasons for bringing back Joanna Dark and just how long it's been in planning.

The Perfect Dark reboot is being developed by The Initiative, a Santa Monica-based studio set up with this as its first project, and led by industry veteran Darrell Gallagher. Over his career Gallagher has worked at many developers—most notable in this case as studio head at Crystal Dynamics, leading the reimagining of Tomb Raider. He was also studio head at Square Enix for Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

"The discussion happened before [Darrell Gallagher] even joined us," says Spencer. "Obviously he had a great track record at Crystal and the work he'd done with Lara Croft and the reimagining of Tomb Raider, so we were looking at different opportunities with him and one we brought up was Joanna and Perfect Dark and it was something that he was excited about."

One of the unanswered questions is whether this game is going to be a complete reimagining of Perfect Dark, or loosely based on the existing games and some kind of remake. "In the end and this'll sound like maybe the wrong thing to say I actually don't think it matters what path that we pick," says Spencer, "whether we decided to go back and reimagine Perfect Dark or do something new, I think the important thing is the quality of the execution and whether we deliver a delightful game that people love."

Perfect Dark

(Image credit: Microsoft)

There is however no doubt that Microsoft knows that one of the games is a much better starting point than the other. "Y'know Perfect Dark's had two iterations really and one of them people love, on the N64. The one on the 360, it was a launch game, it was challenging to get a launch game ready [and] Rare had two launch games that year with Kameo," says Spencer. "But it, y'know, it wasn't as well received as we'd have wanted. And now it's just gonna come down to how they [reimagine] Joanna."

Finally, Spencer talked about Joanna Dark's importance among Xbox's rather man-with-gun first-party lineup. "I think it's awesome that for us we can focus on a female protagonist in our lineup, we don't have a lot of that in our our first-party [lineup]. I think Joanna offers a lot of modern opportunities that I love to see the team focusing on, having a strong protagonist..."

Spencer continued by emphasising the importance of not just Gallagher to the project, but how long Joanna Dark's return has been in the planning phase for Microsoft. "That discussion to be transparent started with Darrell before he was even here. I didn't want it to have a leader come on and then it wasn't something [where] we're aligned on what we wanted to go do, so that was part of the early discussions. It wasn't the only outcome, it didn't have to be 'Darrell hey come do Perfect Dark or don't come to Microsoft', but it was a discussion we had before he even joined. And so for the creation of that team, I think everybody's who joined The Initiative has joined with the idea of what we're trying to go do."

While details are still thin on the ground, there's enough to get very excited about the potential of this reboot: Gallagher's one thing, but The Initiative is absolutely packed with developers who have equally impressive track records. Here's everything we currently know about the Perfect Dark reboot. Just do us one favour Darrell: get rid of Elvis. Please.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."