Perfect Dark developer The Initiative is hemorrhaging staff, a new report has revealed. The developer has lost as much as 50% of its overall workforce within the last year, with prominent staffers such as director Dan Neuburger and lead level designer Chris O'Neill among those exiting the studio.
What's going on with The Initiative and Perfect Dark?
According to reporting by VGC, around 34 staff members have quit The Initiative within the last twelve months. Insiders familiar with the project, including multiple "former senior developers", describe having very little creative freedom on Perfect Dark, as well as development taking a long time, as reasons for their departures. Said insiders also describe the departures as "fast and furious" and say that it's having a huge effect on Perfect Dark's ongoing development.
VGC points out that the timing for these departures lines up with the announcement that Tomb Raider studio Crystal Dynamics would be joining Perfect Dark as co-developers. At that time, The Initiative said Perfect Dark was still "early in development", and the insiders to whom VGC spoke say they wouldn't be surprised if Perfect Dark has undergone a soft reboot since Crystal Dynamics joined the project. According to those insiders, The Initiative's company culture isn't particularly collaborative, with most decisions coming from studio lead Darrell Gallagher and director Dan Neuburger (who has now departed the studio).
Indications appear to be that The Initiative was making extremely slow progress on Perfect Dark due to its inability to coalesce and form a proper company culture, with many staffers frustrated at their lack of control or creative freedom. However, it appears that Microsoft was willing to let this slide, with some insiders apparently surprised that the gaming giant was so willing to overlook Perfect Dark's slow gestation time. However, given that other high-profile Microsoft games such as Fable and Everwild are also fairly quiet, perhaps the company is being lenient in the hopes of getting better games in the end. We can but hope.
Where does Perfect Dark go from here?
At the moment, we simply don't know what's going to happen with Perfect Dark. There's a chance this could turn into a Skull & Bones-style affair, entering development hell and struggling to find a direction amid high staff turnover and constant reboots. On the other hand, Crystal Dynamics could be just the shot in the arm that Perfect Dark needs, despite the relative failure of Marvel's Avengers. What it almost certainly does mean is that it will be a while before we see Perfect Dark. We'll have to wait and see whether we get any more information about the game in the coming months.
Whatever happens next, it's a pretty good time to be at Microsoft, at any rate. The company recently took part in the biggest gaming deal ever, buying up the beleaguered Activision Blizzard for a staggering $68.7 billion (to the consternation of some shareholders). Since Microsoft appears to have all the money in the known universe, its recent decision to halt sales and services in Russia over Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine may not be particularly financially ruinous, but it's an important PR win, at any rate. We'll bring you more on Perfect Dark as soon as we get it.