Xbox Studios boss says days of single-studio AAA games ‘are behind us’

The head of Xbox Game Studios says the days of individual studios working on large-scale games “are long gone.”

During a Q&A session at PAX West 2022 over the weekend, Booty was asked if the large number of game delays in recent years could be primarily attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Booty responded that while the pandemic clearly played a key role, there are other aspects of modern game development that make delays more likely.

These included the difficulties of adapting to a new generation of hardware, the challenges in quality control testing more complex games, and the fact that so many big games are now made with multiple studios.

“The way we make games is evolving,” explained Booty. “The idea of ​​one team under one roof doesn’t really happen that often anymore. I’ll use an example: our Perfect Dark team in Santa Monica, The Initiative.

“So, we just did this big partnership with Crystal Dynamics, and I read online, ‘oh, this must mean there’s a problem or something,’ it’s quite the opposite, right?

“You have this veteran team at Crystal Dynamics, a great AAA team with over 100 people that is available. Of course we want to work with them, especially if they’ve made a game like that before.

“And that’s how we’ve done a lot of work. If you think about Age of Empires 4, which was released last fall, it was done in association with Relic Studios in Vancouver, a great partnership. And even something like Flight Simulator, we work with a studio in France called Asobo.

“And that kind of co-development, when you work with people like Certain Affinity, Iron Galaxy, Blackbird [Interactive]all those studies are so key to the products we make.

“That, however, also adds some complexity in that if one of those studies has problems, then it affects the schedule.

“So gone are the days where you could say ‘everybody get the team together in the cafeteria, I want to tell everyone to work harder this Wednesday.’ That was a long time ago, it has become much more complicated than that.”

Xbox Studios boss says days of AAA games from a single studio
Development on Perfect Dark is claimed to have been ‘painfully’ slow

Xbox signed on Marvel’s Avengers and Tomb Raider developer Crystal Dynamics in September 2021 to help develop its Perfect Dark reboot.

At the time, The Initiative tweeted: “Perfect Dark Update! We’re partnering with Crystal Dynamics, the world-class team behind character-based games like Tomb Raider, to bring this first-person spy thriller to a new generation.”

However, VGC reported in March that The Initiative has seen a “fast and furious” wave of senior exits in the last 12 months.

Nearly half of the core development team known to be working on the upcoming Perfect Dark reboot have left the company over the past year.

At the time, The Initiative’s management told VGC that it was confident in the team it had and bringing in new talent, noting the staffing challenges across the industry during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, current and former senior Initiative developers VGC spoke with attributed the wave of departures to frustration among senior talent over the direction of the project set by studio head Darrell Gallagher and game director Daniel Neuburger (who left the company this year).