Obsidian: Lack of internal advocacy killed our Xbox One launch title

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Obsidian Entertainment CEO Feargus Urquhart broke his silence regarding the studio’s canceled Xbox One project Stormlands this week, shedding light on a pattern of executive behavior that has led to the cancellation of multiple Xbox One exclusives over the past several years.

Urquhart’s testimony arrives after the recent cancellation of the Microsoft-funded action game Scalebound and suggests that Microsoft executives are to blame for the Xbox One’s lack of exclusive AAA releases.

Initially slated as a launch title for the Xbox One, Obsidian Entertainment’s Stormwinds was a role-playing game that followed up on the studio’s previous projects Fallout: New Vegas and Dungeon Siege III. Despite a promising start from an established developer, the project was ultimately canned by publisher Microsoft prior to the Xbox One’s retail debut in 2013.

While many games are canceled due to quality concerns or missed milestones, however, Urquhart pins the blame on Microsoft’s executives, who apparently need constant reassurance from internal advocates before they can be convinced to dole out needed funding.

“It comes down to budget and it comes down to having a champion [at Microsoft],” Urquhart said in an interview with IGN this week. “I can see games that had champions and weren’t canceled until $80 million were spent, [and] there’s games that had a $10 million budget and had a champion and ended up the budget was $60 million and it shipped.”

“Why did Stormwinds get canceled?” Urquhart asks. “Stomwinds got canceled because we didn’t have an advocate.”

Xbox One fans recently lost another platform exclusive with the cancellation of Scalebound, a dragon-riding action game from Bayonetta series developer Platinum Games. Given the Japanese studio’s lack of public discussion regarding the cancellation, corporate politics may be to blame.

An Xbox One remake of the card-battling action-RPG Phantom Dust met a similar fate in 2015. Initially granting developer Darkside Studios $5 million to create a multiplayer-only reboot of Phantom Dust, Microsoft later publicly stated that the game would be “a 30-hour [single-player] JRPG.” The team was not notified of this sudden change in scope, nor was its budget increased. The project was eventually canceled and Darkside Studios was later shuttered.

Of the many games Microsoft showcased at its E3 2014 presentation, Crackdown is one of the few first-party, Xbox One-exclusive projects that has not yet been released or canceled. To date, Crackdown has still not been showcased in a playable state.

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