Microsoft Needs Game like Hi-Fi Rush: Smaller Games

Microsoft Needs Game like Hi-Fi Rush

Today, Xbox Game Studios CEO Matt Booty hosted a town hall meeting to talk about the Microsoft Needs Game like hi-fi Rush, following Microsoft’s announcement a day earlier that it would close four of its game studios. Booty reportedly said to staff, “We need smaller games that give us prestige and awards,” according to internal documents obtained by The Verge. For a few callers, this was an unexpected objective: The Japanese developer Tango Gameworks, fresh off the success of the modest but prestigious hit game Hi-Fi Rush, had just been shut down by Microsoft.

Last year’s surprise release, Microsoft Needs Game like hi-fi Rush, received accolades for both its inventiveness and charm. The Black Keys and Nine Inch Nails contributed music to the rhythm action game, which had artwork reminiscent of the overly stylized PS2 games. Three million people had played Hi-Fi Rush in just four months of its release. The game went on to win a BAFTA, a Game Award, and a Game Developer Choice award during the 2023–2024 awards season.

Microsoft Needs Game like Hi-Fi Rush

Microsoft was pleased with the game even though it hasn’t released any sales figures. Vice president of Xbox games marketing Aaron Greenberg stated on X that Hi-Fi Rush “was a breakout hit for us and our players in all key measurements and expectations” in response to rumors that it wasn’t performing well financially.

According to all accounts, including Microsoft’s own, Tango Gameworks created something completely original and successful. Tango Gameworks was best known for its survival horror titles, such as Ghostwire: Tokyo and The Evil Within series, before Hi-Fi Rush. Xbox CEO Phil Spencer discussed the value of letting developers create games that push the boundaries of the platform in an interview with Kinda Funny Games.

What are we Doing Here?

To be honest, I can’t think of anything more absurd and tone-deaf than what happened the day after the studio that produced one of the best-received Xbox games in recent memory closed. Should Microsoft require compact, critically acclaimed games, then why would it initially reject a sequel to Hi-Fi Rush and then completely disband the team behind it?

Booty stated that a “reprioritization of titles and resources” was required in his email to the staff yesterday when he announced the cuts. According to a Bloomberg report, he added that the closures were meant to free up resources for other initiatives because ZeniMax leadership was overworked. But with a $21.9 billion net income, Microsoft has surpassed earnings estimates and is now the most valuable company in the world as of 2024.

I have the impression that there was another way to handle this situation besides acquiring three studios behind the shed and firing developers. Furthermore, this comes after Microsoft Gaming laid off about 2,000 workers in January. Microsoft, what are we doing here?

It is important to remember that the definition of a “smaller game” is arbitrary. The lengthy development of Hi-Fi Rush was disclosed in a comprehensive interview with multiple Tango Gameworks developers that Xbox released in October.

Although the team working on the project was small for most of that time, there was eventually a “final sprint to pull people in to get it finished.” Even though he “would never call it a small project,” audio director Shuichi Kobori did add, “You might have a different view” if you compared it to games with larger budgets. But as you can see from the screenshot of his response above, Booty’s remarks bothered game director John Johanas—if nothing else, his remarks are incredibly insensitive.

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