Crystal Dynamics, the developers behind the Tomb Raider franchise and Marvel’s Avengers, is joining Microsoft studio The Initiative to co-develop the upcoming Perfect Dark game for Xbox Series X|S and PC.
It’s a surprise announcement from a number of perspectives, but is an interesting proposition given Crystal Dynamics’ established reputation for action games. This will still be a project that’s a little out of their wheelhouse, as it’s now confirmed that the game will be a “first-person spy thriller”.
The teams couldn’t pass up a chance to work together. We’re still early in development, but incredibly excited to use this unique opportunity to deliver on the vision for Perfect Dark!
— TheInitiative (@TheInitiative) September 24, 2021
The Initiative was founded in 2018 by Microsoft with the ambition of creating “AAAA” – yeah, “quadruple-A” – blockbusting games. It was eventually revealed (after more than a few rumours) that they are working on a reboot of Rare’s classic N64 Perfect Dark, the cinematic world-setting trailer dropping at last year’s The Game Awards.
Of course, The Initiative is still a very young studio, and it takes time to found and build a team around a project. Microsoft started with a core of industry veterans bringing in, amongst others, former studio head of Crystal Dynamics Darrell Gallagher to lead the studio, and Daniel Neuburger, the director of Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider.
These two key figures likely jumped at the opportunity to work with their former colleagues at Crystal Dynamics and, at least at a higher level, this should absolutely help with the collaborative efforts between the two teams. Microsoft should also be rather familiar with working with Crystal Dynamics, having cut a controversial timed exclusivity deal for 2015 game Rise of the Tomb Raider.
From Microsoft’s perspective, they presumably saw the need for manpower and experience to create Perfect Dark, and you probably don’t have to look too hard to figure out why Crystal Dynamics was available for such a partnership.
Their most recent game, Marvel’s Avengers, didn’t hit home with gamers quite like Square Enix had hoped at the end of last year, with Square Enix’s writing off over $100 million from the game’s marketing and development. Add to that delays to post-release content as the game shifted gears into live service updates, and this feels like Square Enix’s way of balancing the books of one of the most important studios.
It’s not clear what this means for Marvel’s Avengers going forward, though new content is coming through the rest of 2021. Crystal Dynamics is almost certainly large enough to have multiple internal teams, acting as curator and leader to further Avengers updates while also collaborating with The Initiative.
With Perfect Dark seemingly still fairly early in production, it could be quite some time before we see another original title from Crystal Dynamics published by its owners at Square Enix.