The Initiative Working on Perfect Dark as Its First Game Worries Me
With The Initiative being Xbox's new top tier studio, I don't think Perfect Dark was the right choice as its first AAAA project.
For the past couple of years, we’ve seen Xbox enhancing its first-party studios through acquiring a number of major studios such as Ninja Theory and Bethesda/Zenimax. However, the company has also created what it calls a “AAAA” studio known as The Initiative that has been confirmed to be working on a reboot of Perfect Dark. The studio is based out in Santa Monica, CA and since the announcement, multiple big industry names have joined the studio. This includes those who have worked on beloved franchises such as God of War, The Last of Us, Red Dead Redemption, and others.
For most of 2020, there had been rumors that The Initiative’s first project was going to be a reboot of Perfect Dark — a stealth action-adventure title originally created by Rare back on the Nintendo 64 that gained a relative fanbase. During The Game Awards last week, those speculations were revealed to be true. While I believe that this game does have a passionate fanbase and I am personally optimistic about the studio’s take on the franchise, I had hopes that with being Xbox’s new number one studio, The Initiative would have started fresh out the gate with a brand new IP.
Since Microsoft’s acquisition of several notable studios, Xbox has announced many first-party games such as Fable and Hellblade II: Senua’s Saga. But I noticed a trend — Most of Xbox’s lineup seems to be sequels or reboots. Both Obsidian and Ninja Theory have created new IPs with Grounded and Bleeding Edge respectively, but it is common knowledge that the teams that are working on those titles are small in comparison to the main projects that each studio is working on.
Obsidian’s next big project is Avowed, a fantasy RPG that is technically a new IP but takes place in the Pillars of Eternity universe, so there’s this weird middle ground. Outside of that title, the only AAA projects that are entirely new and under Xbox’s umbrella that we are aware of are Everwild from Rare and Starfield from Bethesda Softworks.
With Xbox now having so many studios under its belt, alongside creating a brand new studio that has been said to work on AAAA games according to job listings in the past. It would have been much more exciting to have seen a team of numerous industry veterans working on something brand new rather than reviving a dormant franchise that more or less has a cult following — this coming from the viewpoint of someone who has no significant history with the series.
Those same job listings also noted that the studio was looking for “knowledge and understanding of the process of building new IP,” so I guess Xbox could be considering this reboot as a new IP which I can understand.
We’ve seen a few successful reboots in recent years with God of War and Tomb Raider — franchises that have that level of recognition that I don’t think Perfect Dark has. I see The Initiative with the potential to be comparable to Naughty Dog or Sony Santa Monica, arguably Sony’s two most beloved first-party studios. To be the cream of the crop, I know that Santa Monica found major success in bringing back God of War in a new and refreshing way that went on to win Game of the Year from many outlets, including DualShockers, but I’m not sure Perfect Dark has that same potential.
Even with doing a reboot, the game needs to be something that your casual gamer would know and I don’t think Perfect Dark is that. I have no ill will towards the series, and I wouldn’t be opposed to its return, just not with The Initiative. I think the studio would find more success with an audience if its first project was bringing something brand new to the table.
With The Initiative being Xbox’s headline studio, I believe that outside of Halo and maybe Gears of War, whatever it works on will be the primary game marketed to get players to jump into the Xbox ecosystem. Phil Spencer and the Xbox team have been making Game Pass the face of the platform and I don’t know if Perfect Dark will be able to be that game it needs to bring in new subscribers.
Perfect Dark being in this spotlight gives me two potential thoughts. The first being that it will be seen as a new IP to casual consumers due to it being so long since the last 2010 remaster and could turn out to be very successful. Either that, consumers will remember Perfect Dark with its middling history in quality and may not be as excited as Xbox hopes. The franchise has had an odd history with the first releasing on Nintendo 64 while its follow-up was exclusive to the Xbox 360.
Either way you look at it, it is a gamble. There is a chance that Perfect Dark surpasses all my expectations and ends up being Game of the Year when it eventually launches giving a great first impression. And it needs to impress due to the consistent criticism that Xbox has had for the past generation. But if it fails regardless of the success of other Xbox exclusive titles that will likely come before —like Halo Infinite and Hellblade II— Xbox will still be seen as a first-party platform that can’t deliver relatively consistent high-quality games like PlayStation. Of course, that’s if Xbox’s assumingly best studio is unable to deliver, then why expect better from other studios?
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, Xbox is more than just a console platform now, but to get the attention —those who are loyal to PlayStation specifically— it needs to think about what will get those consumers to come to the Xbox platform. All first-party titles coming to Game Pass on day one will definitely help, but I think it is the consistency in the products that will really make consumers on other platforms interested. Bethesda will assist in that, but I have this gut feeling that The Initiative will be the heart of Xbox Game Studios down the line.
I do believe that The Initiative truly wants to work on Perfect Dark and that it isn’t something that it’s being forced to develop by Xbox or Microsoft. And there’s also the possibility that it just wants to play it safe and work on a previous franchise to gain its footing before starting work on a totally new IP which could prove to be a more challenging feat.
As of now, we’ve only received a CGI trailer, so there’s very little idea of the vision and scope of what the upcoming Perfect Dark is going to be. When it eventually comes out there’s that chance I could end up loving it to death. People like brand new shiny things, and while this is technically a reboot, it does come with that name familiarity. But with Xbox recovering from its lack of first-party games from the last generation, I think that those who have yet to get either a new Xbox console or even PC Game Pass would be more excited to see new IP rather than another revival.