No More Hi-Fi Rush: Microsoft Axing Tango Has Ruined My Xbox Wishlist

In Short
  • Tango Gameworks, a creative studio, leaves a legacy of 4 stellar games in just 14 years.
  • Xbox Studios acquired Tango Gameworks in 2021 for $7.5 billion but closed down the team in May 2024.
  • One key reason behind the closure could be Microsoft Games' focus on making more sustainable games for Xbox Game Pass.

Everyone knows the video game industry is volatile. Xbox’s latest studio shutdown is a case in point. Four major studios, like Tango Gameworks, Arkane Austin, and more, are vanishing into dust, and gamers worldwide are angry. While I can make my peace with Arkane because of Redfall, Tango Gameworks’ shutdown gets me like no other. As a studio that delivered some of the best games, what happened? Well, let’s talk about that.

Tango Gameworks: 14 Years of Four Amazing Games

To understand what went wrong and why Xbox cut off Tango Gameworks and three other studios, we need to know what Tango was. The studio was founded in 2010 by Shinji Mikami, the creator of the OG Resident Evil game.

As such, the studio immediately started with what Mikami did best: survival horror. Tango further continued its typecast with The Evil Within, a horror game that launched to critical acclaim and all but earned its respect in gamers’ eyes and hearts.

The success continued with a great sequel, The Evil Within 2. This is when Tango Gameworks showed their potential for creativity and switched directions. Then came Ghostwire: Tokyo, a critically appreciated action-adventure game. After a series of previous games, Tokyo showed gamers the different aspects the studio was willing to try.

But Tango’s piece de résistance came in the form of Hi-Fi Rush. In a March 2022 interview, Mikami mentioned that he wanted Tango to venture outside of the survival horror genre. That is why Hi-Fi Rush was not only a great detour, but showed the dedication behind the game on release.

Microsoft acquired Tango’s parent company, ZeniMax Media, for $7.5 billion in March 2021, making the studio Xbox’s first Japan-based studio. The situation looked positive, as Team Xbox also visited the studio during TGS.

So, just like any other gamer who loves Tango’s work, I was shocked when I saw Xbox letting go of the company within six months of their visit to Japan. With Mikami leaving the team in February 2023, was it just a drag of an announcement or a part of the new Xbox strategy?

Tango Gameworks Gone: Planned Strategy or Bad Decisions?

It would be wrong to say that any Tango games were not praiseworthy. Whether starting a great series with The Evil Within or creating a great AA game with the Hi-Fi Rush, Tango always ensured the fans got something fresh. Hi-Fi Rush won multiple awards for its music, gameplay, and many other aspects in 2023-24. With everything going well, all I can wonder is why?

Well, a lot of rumors say that Mikami was the soul of Tango, and his leaving might have demoralized the team. Further further rumors suggest that some of Tango Gameworks’ employees joined Mikami and his new studio, Kamuy Inc.

While this rumor has no concrete evidence, Xbox president Sarah Bond hinted to as to Gameworks was closed down in a Bloomberg interview. When asked about the shutdown, Sarah answered:

“We look at each studio, each game team, variety and factors…. but it all comes back to our long-term commitment to games we create, the devices we built, the services..”

This might factor in the fact that Tango Gameworks has only created four games in the last 14 years. Given that this number is low, it might not have gone with Microsoft Games’ strategies. This argument is further solidified after Xbox attempts to sell the Game Pass. As such, it can be hard for such games to sell enough subscriptions even after being creatively unique.

Xbox’s long-term thinking may mean reskinning generic Call of Duty every year and putting all its efforts into its sustainable game direction. Unfortunately, even if the games feel repetitive, they are the right games for Xbox as long as they sell well. An ex-Microsoft/EA person, Brad Hilderbrand, said in a LinkedIn post:

“ like Hi-Fi Rush, which is incredible mind you, gets a very small bump in revenue from being the hot Game Pass game for a month, then it falls off a cliff when everyone moves onto the next thing. Poor Redfall had it even worse since it launched so rough, it never had a chance.”

A Classic Case of Disappointment

As I approach the end and put my love story with Tango Gameworks to rest, there is one hard truth to face. Regardless of how good it was, the fact is that Tango was not what Xbox wanted.

From a business standpoint, the move feels accurate, but I think we all feel for Tango Gameworks, given our love for the games they created with passion. If I had to express it in one word, I would post the same post as Shinji Mikami did after the news, saying, “Sad.”

Will Xbox recover and get what it wants? Only time will tell. But as a gamer and someone who works in the gaming industry, seeing so many creative people let go out of nowhere feels disheartening. What is next for the people who made Hi-Fi Rush? Only time will tell.

I want to know your opinions on this matter. Is Xbox shutting down Tango Gameworks justifiable? Let me know in the comments below!

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