Culture clash: How Arkane Got Stuck Between Two Competing Ideologies


[Note: The following article was composed with the consent of multiple sources within Arkane/Zenimax. This is based on verified testimonies collected from the sources over the course of several weeks.]

Arkane Studios is going through an identity crisis. Best known for Dishonored and Prey, the development teams are now struggling to churn out another game in the midst of a clash between two competing cultures. The omnipresent corporate culture of Zenimax, and a fringe left intersectional ideology that is taking hold under the guise of ‘social justice’.  

Recently news broke that Dishonored was shelved for the foreseeable future. While this news was only just revealed to the world, Arkane in Lyon, France has known this for the past year. While my sources couldn’t say with certainty if this was what caused studio founder Raphaël Colantonio to disembark from the studio last year, it was stated that he left shortly after the pitch for both Dishonored 3 and Prey 2 had been turned down by Zenimax.

With Arkane Lyon’s flagship series put on hold, and with no other game approved to start production, the studio was broken into multiple teams. The first worked on Wolfenstein 2 DLC with Machine Games, while another team aided with the development of Wolfenstein Cyberpilot. A game as per a source that is “not great”. Meanwhile, any team members who weren’t working on Wolfenstein projects were left to prepare a project for a new and original game. A game, that as of July 2018, has yet to be officially green lit.

I was unable to gather any specifics as to what the current idea for a new game entailed, but I was informed that it’s being pitched with live service in mind. A direction that Zenimax is pushing for.

Across the pond in Texas, Arkane Austin is going through a similar conundrum.

The studio should be a year into development for Prey 2, but after weak sales of the first game — a game which was already under immense pressure to succeed after the financial disappointment that was Dishonored 2 — the pitch for a sequel was turned down.

Following the ‘disappointing’ releases of Dishonored 2 and Prey, Zenimax decided that they didn’t do well because no one buys single player games, a sentiment that one source stated was “dead ass wrong.” This mindset has led to a hard pivot by Zenimax to focus more on multiplayer and live service experiences, with only a few single player games in the pipeline.

On a positive note, it was expressed that we can expect something interesting coming out of Austin within the next 4 years. What that means was left a bit vague, as shortly after it was stressed that the studio is still struggling to figure out how to preserve immersive sim principles in a new format.

With Zenimax making life tough, the morale at both studios is low. More so when one considers how litigious Zenimax is, which has created an environment of fear where employees don’t feel safe speaking out.

The departure of key personnel hasn’t helped, either; but what is making it worse is the hiring of controversial and abrasive figures like Sophie Mallinson and Hazel Monforton. Best known for their  Twitter diatribes  in which they attack men , their views have been endorsed by other Arkane employees. It’s gone so far that it’s been said at work by some that “the world would be better off without white men.”

The short and narrow of it is that a culture best defined as the SJW left is grabbing a bigger foothold within Arkane. Ground that is being given to them with the help of Harvey Smith. He has tried hard to appeal to the likes of Anita Sarkeesian. One way he has achieved this is by altering the narrative storytelling within Arkane’s games. An example recounted to me was that there used to be bras and other kinds of lingerie within Dishonored 2 to tell environmental stories about the whereabouts of who they belonged to. Harvey requested they be removed near the end of the game’s development because of the ‘sexist’ message it portrayed.

Another problem people like Sophie, Harvey, and Hazel have created is a fear of expression.

Multiple employees have now told me that they don’t follow people on social media that they’d like to because of how it could be perceived. In a bid to avoid hostility and to risk the loss of their job, they refuse to follow right leaning personalities. And in the rare times that they do, they avoid controversial individuals.

For obvious reasons, this has created a work environment filled with tension. On one side you have people who just want to “make great fucking games” and on the other you have a contingent of folks whose extreme views are making life rough for everybody else.

While all my sources denied that Prey and Dishonored had been negatively affected by the far left views of those mentioned above, it was stressed by every source that they fear for the future of the studio. With more employees being hired who just add tension to an already stressful environment, I’m sad to report that the future of the once promising Arkane is not looking too bright.