Microsoft’s studio working on Perfect Dark has reportedly lost almost half its staff during development

It’s hard to keep up with half the team.

Image via Microsoft

The Initiative, the studio responsible for the reboot of Perfect Dark, has lost a huge part of its staff over the past 12 months due to “a lack of creative autonomy and slow development progress,” according to a VGC report released today.

VGC reports that around 34 people have left The Initiative, including “game director Dan Neuburger, design director Drew Murray, lead level designer Chris O’Neill, principal world builder Jolyon Myers, two senior system designers, a group of three former God of War designers and more.”

These departures, according to the report, coincide with the announcement that Crystal Dynamics, the studio behind Tomb Raider, was brought on to co-develop Perfect Dark in September 2021. Speaking to VGC, former employees described the exits as “fast and furious” and said the momentum of ongoing projects had become “heavily affected.” 

Furthermore, VGC’s interviews with former staff describe problems like a feeling that the studio was not a collaborative place to work, being apparently built as a top-down hierarchy in which Neuburger and studio head Darrell Gallagher commanded all the creative processes and decisions. They also shared that they felt unheard by their seniors on matters such as development priorities, project planning, and team staffing. All of these problems resulted in a project that developed “painfully” slowly and with a lack of company culture, according to the report.

VGC’s sources claim that the lack of culture was part of the reason for bringing on Crystal Dynamics as a collaborative studio. Gallagher and Neuburger were the studio head and game director, respectively, at Crystal Dynamics.

The Initiative now has fewer than 50 employees, according to VGC, who checked the studio’s LinkedIn page, and “analysis suggests it hired around 12 people in the past 12 months.” The former employees who were interviewed believe that it would be strange if this lack of staff members does not affect the development of the title.

Despite all these changes in the studio, Gallagher remains positive. “We wish all our former colleagues the very best, and I’m confident in the team we have in place, the new talent joining, and we can’t wait to share more with the fans,” Gallagher told VGC.

The Perfect Dark reboot was announced for the Xbox Series X|S in 2020 with a teaser trailer, but it doesn’t have a release date yet.