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These Perfect Dark Reports Don't Sound Good

One of Microsoft's upcoming flagship titles, "Perfect Dark," might be having some development issues, according to one recent report. The Initiative, Microsoft's "AAAA" game development studio, first revealed at the Game Awards 2020 that it was working on a "Perfect Dark" reboot. Since then the team and the game have been relatively quiet, not appearing at any press conferences or livestreams since the game's announcement. One notable design director left the developer in February 2021. Now, it seems like he isn't the only one moving on to new projects.

As reported by VGC, about half of the core development team behind the "Perfect Dark" reboot have left the studio. The number of current employees sits at about 34 people, including positions across the company, based on an analysis of Linkedin pages. This includes directors, designers, engineers, QA leads, and more. The team is now less than 50 people, with only three job roles currently being advertised. It is also believed that the studio has only hired about 12 people in the last year. It was announced in September that Crystal Dynamics would be coming aboard to co-develop "Perfect Dark," which appears to coincide with some of the departures. Based on the number of developers working at The Initiative, it seems as though Crystal Dynamics might be taking charge. So what exactly is happening at The Initiative that has caused so many developers to leave?

Creative differences and a frustrating work environment at The Initiative

Multiple former developers told VGC that there was a lack of creative freedom and that progress on the game was excruciatingly slow, leading to departures. The former developers said the departures were "fast and furious," likely having a heavy impact on the project's momentum. Studio head Darrell Gallagher told VGC that he is confident in the development team at The Initiative and that the studio's staffing problems are a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In this journey, it's not uncommon for there to be staffing changes, especially during a time of global upheaval over the last two years, and there's plenty more work in front of us to deliver a fantastic 'Perfect Dark' experience to our players," Gallagher said.

Some of his former colleagues disagreed with Gallagher's assessment, stating that the reason for departures came from the hierarchy at the studio. Despite promoting a collaborative work environment, many creative decisions were being made by Gallagher and former game director Daniel Neuburger. Some former developers even speculated that "Perfect Dark" may have undergone a soft reboot at this point, meaning that the game might not release for a few more years.