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Microsoft has a lot of games in development for Xbox Series X and Game Pass. But the most mysterious project is the one that The Initiative is working on. That’s the new blockbuster studio that Microsoft opened in Santa Monica in 2018. The Initiative has spent the last couple of years bringing in developers from around the industry to work on a massive, tentpole project. But the studio has kept the details quiet so far.
So, what do we know?
Well, speculation is pointing to Perfect Dark — and that’s partially my fault. That rumor is pretty old, and it showed up as a story on VG247 in April. But I added to the flames this week when Reddit picked up some things I said in a Twitch chat. But I did not accurately convey what I know about The Initiative’s project in those messages. I didn’t remember my notes. So let me clear things up.
The Initiative is dabbling with the Perfect Dark universe for its upcoming game, according to sources familiar with the project. What does that mean? Well, it doesn’t mean that it is a new Perfect Dark game. And it may not even take place in the same universe or star the same characters. So don’t expect a game about Joanna Dark, but maybe elements of her game could show up in The Initiative’s project.
Think about the link between Apex Legends and Titanfall. Respawn says those two games exist in the same universe, and The Initiative’s game may not even have that strong of a connection to Perfect Dark. But no one considers Apex Legends a Titanfall game, and it’s likely that no one will really consider The Initiative’s game a Perfect Dark.
New things and old things
So what else do we know?
Well, an Initiative tech designer’s LinkedIn profile described something that sounds like a potential Perfect Dark. The studio is using the Unreal Engine to make a game featuring “scripted various weapons, gadgets, and a camera surveillance system.”
Microsoft also describes The Initiative as its “AAAA” studio. What is a quadruple-A studio? Well, it’s a weird term, but I get what the company means. The Initiative is going to make big, expensive games. And they’re so big and so expensive, that their scope may reach beyond the blockbusters we have had up to this point.
That’s where all of that new talent comes in. The Initiative boss Darrell Gallagher announced on Twitter this week that the company hired 16 industry veterans. These engineering and design experts come from studios like Bungie and Crystal Dynamics. Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Marvel’s Avengers director Remi Lacoste came onboard to work as The Initiative’s experiential director. And Destiny 2’s narrative designer Christine Thompson is now heading up The Initiative’s writing team.
What these hires point to more than anything else is that it’s still early for this project. The studio only opened its doors in 2018, and it is still staffing up key positions. And it takes a long time (years, if not the better part of a decade) to build a blockbuster-level video game. So a lot could change.
Finally, we have a cryptic Twitter hint from Xbox boss Phil Spencer from January:
Great update today with @DGallagher_LA @mattbooty and the team @TheInitiative. Incredibly talented studio challenging themselves to do new things things (and old things :-) ) in new ways.
— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) January 28, 2020
Spencer is obviously teasing something here, and it should make a lot more sense when the Xbox team finally decides to make the announcement.
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