Perfect Dark game director leaves Xbox's The Initiative studio

Perfect Dark Dec 2020 Concept Art
Perfect Dark Dec 2020 Concept Art (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

What you need to know

  • The Initiative is a brand-new studio under the Xbox Game Studios umbrella, currently working on a reboot of Perfect Dark.
  • It was recently discovered that Dan Neuburger may have left his position as Perfect Dark game director in February.
  • A member of The Initiative's team for nearly four years, Neuburger's reasons for departing are unclear at the moment.
  • The Initiative and partner Crystal Dynamics are continuing to work on Perfect Dark, which purportedly may arrive as early as 2023.

The Initiative is a member of the expansive Xbox Game Studios family, established by a team of industry veterans to bring to life new gaming experiences. The studio is currently working on a reboot of first-person shooter Perfect Dark in collaboration with Tomb Raider developer Crystal Dynamics. The game has been in active development for years, but it was recently brought to light that the project has lost its game director.

Revealed by Neuburger's LinkedIn profile (thanks, VGC), this would be the second high profile departure from The Initiative in recent memory, after the design director for Perfect Dark left in Feb. 2021.

Neuburger was the game director for nearly four years before leaving in Feb. 2022, and before that was game director at Crystal Dynamics, which is now partnered with The Initiative. The reasons for Neuburger's departure aren't clear, but it appears he's seeking out new opportunities elsewhere as a game director. It's also not clear if The Initiative is looking for a replacement or has already found one, but the studio's available positions don't list a game director.

The Initiative is still comprised of many talented individuals working on Perfect Dark, which has been in active development for several years now. There's reason to believe that Perfect Dark is nearing the final stages of development between The Initiative and Crystal Dynamics, and could release as soon as 2023 or 2024. We may hear more about the project later this year alongside upcoming Xbox titles like Starfield and Redfall.

Not a lot is currently known about the Perfect Dark reboot, but we know it'll release as an Xbox console exclusive, and will launch into Xbox Game Pass on day one. If The Initiative and Crystal Dynamics are able to revive and modernize what made the original Perfect Dark so special, they could have one of the best Xbox games on their hands.

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer primarily focused on covering the latest news, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life, and have been with Windows Central and its sister sites since 2019. While originally brought on to write about all things Minecraft, Zachary has since expanded to write about practically everything that Windows Central covers. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.

  • This studio is supposedly meant to be an industry leader. It took them 3 years of collecting talent that's been in volved with major franchises. For all of that spending on employees and time in meetings, 3 years of work brought us an announcement trailer. That trailer revealed that The Initiative's best idea was to take the work of another developer (Rare), a franchise that has already been canceled twice. Even if some are excited for the franchise's return, recycling a twice-failed franchise isn't the most inspiring way to start a studio. Now, they've roped in another development team to help? The Initiative doesn't seem like it's got a good grasp on its goals. Needing this long to outsource work to another team (not even one within Xbox) is a poor showing.
  • It's possible The Initiative was never intended to spearhead development on a game entirely by itself. The studio's intention is to remain "small and agile," which doesn't lend itself well to crafting a "AAA" game. I wouldn't be surprised if the intention was always to enlist help from a third-party studio after the initial work and planning were done.
  • Like ... an initiative?
  • I think the Initiative was meant to spearhead development on the game, Crystal Dynamics came on board AFTER a bunch of staff left, I feel like they were brought in to try and salvage the game. Which isn't the worst idea in the World, they are a great studio.
  • Yeah, two major staff leaving before the developer has even dropped a game is more than a little worrying. This isn't the first time an Xbox Studios developer has had staying issues and hiccups before release.