The rampant issues that the development of Xbox’s Perfect Dark reboot from The Initiative has faced over the past several years were detailed in a new report on IGN. The report also claims that the game is still two to three years away from release, as development essentially restarted on Unreal Engine 5 in 2021.
Microsoft formed The Initiative in 2018 and announced its Perfect Dark reboot in 2020, but IGN’s report states that most of the work done on the project before 2021 is no longer in use. The Initiative’s ambition to become the stewards of the Perfect Dark franchise and make a self-proclaimed “AAAA” game without very clear high-level direction reportedly plagued the project in its early years, as did a rocky co-development relationship with developer Certain Affinity. The COVID-19 pandemic reportedly exacerbated all those problems, and The Initiative and Certain Affinity ended their partnership in early 2021, just months after the game’s reveal.
“So many things have changed in terms of how we want to staff games,” Head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty told IGN in response to questions about Perfect Dark’s development. “I think that going forward, almost every major AAA game out there is using some level of co-development, which I separate from outsourcing. Outsourcing is very, ‘Here’s a spec, please go build this, give it back to us.’ Co-development is: This is a studio, a group of people who are a creative entity, how can you work with them? One of the things we learned on Perfect Dark is there is a difference between studios that have that creative DNA versus studios that have done more traditionally outsourcing, no matter how complex, and we just had to find the right rhythm there.”
The end of the Certain Affinity partnership was followed by many internal departures at The Initiative, which ultimately brought on Crystal Dynamics as a new co-development partner in September 2021. An IGN source claims that a lot of the game was “wholly reworked” at this point, with Perfect Dark now running on Unreal Engine 5. Development is reportedly progressing more smoothly, although the game is apparently still in pre-production and two to three years away from release.
That’s disappointing for Xbox fans who were expecting this title to come sooner, but it does explain Perfect Dark’s absence from the recent Xbox Games Showcase. Whenever it does come out, Perfect Dark will be playable on Xbox Series X/S and be on Xbox Game Pass.