Interview: Hi-Fi Rush director explains how game’s stealth drop was an immense success

Jeremy Gan
hifi rush gameplay

Hi-Fi Rush was suddenly announced during the January 2023 Xbox Dev Direct, stunning the world with its stealth drop. We sat down with the game’s director to understand more about the impact of this surprise release.

During Xbox’s January 2023 Developer Direct, many fans came into the event knowing what games to expect on display. From Minecraft, Redfall, and Forza, the community mostly knew the score. However, something new stole the spotlight, a game that was suddenly revealed and released to unsuspecting players, Hi-Fi Rush. 

The rhythm action game caught the gaming world by storm, not only through its shock release, but with its unique musical combat and a complete departure from Tango Gameworks’ previous titles in The Evil Within and Ghostwire. 

It was shortly after its announcement at the Xbox Dev Direct when Hi-Fi Rush was made playable, to which many players and reviewers questioned why the devs would stealth drop such a unique and ambitious game so suddenly. 

Dexerto recently talked to John Johanas, director of Hi-Fi Rush, to ask why they decided on their Beyonce-esque stealth drop.

Pushing back the announcement of Hi-Fi Rush

“One thing that kind of prevented us from announcing it early,” Johanas began, was the ongoing global situation at the time, he explained. “Thinking of a good opportunity to show it off, there’s nothing. There’s no shows, there’s no chance to show it off.” 

So instead of rushing to reveal Hi-Fi Rush to the masses at a time when the world was locked down, the team kept pushing back its announcement. Ultimately, these delays pushed us rather close to the planned release of the game in full.

Hifi Rush gameplay
Hi-Fi Rush’s announcement kept getting pushed back to the point they decided to stealth-drop the new release.

“We knew we wanted to do a short release timing because [Hi-Fi Rush] was something so different from our studio. It’s very easy for people to misconstrue, or the perception to be weird,” he said. 

The director explained that because it was such a departure from their previous works, with The Evil Within and Ghostwire: Tokyo preceding it, they had a feeling the wider reception from the gaming world would be one of suspicion and doubt, which they wanted to minimize as much as possible. Thus, keeping it under wraps for so long was clearly by design.

“They could say, ‘They made horror games, now they’re making this colorful action game, it’s probably going to be terrible. The music, I don’t get it.’ So we had to think about how we were going to market it and how we were going to get it across,” Johanas added.

He revealed that the team had different ideas of how to announce it, but they kept running into the risk of gamers being instantly negative about the project, to the point the team decided to announce it as close to release as possible, the very same day, in fact.

“The opportunity came up to do the [Xbox Dev Direct], and they said ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could show it there and then release it very shortly after’, and then that turned into, ‘what if we released then?’” 

Naturally, if you put so much time and effort into a game, one Johanas described as his “dream game”, he and the team were naturally anxious about the public’s reaction, especially with a release cycle that was so fast, it could’ve gotten lost in the wave of other news from the show. 

Hifi rush gameplay
The team feared Hi-Fi Rush could have been heavily criticized before it even released.

But, as Johanas described, their PR and marketing team was confident in Hi-Fi Rush’s greatness, knowing the game was unique and that it would naturally attract fans from the get-go. 

“So the perception was just to get it out there. So if anyone is skeptical they can play it right away. It’s on Game Pass, so the barrier to entry is as low as possible.” 

There are always risks when shadow-dropping

However, Hi-Fi Rush’s stealth drop wasn’t without its critiques. Many indie devs urged others to not follow in Tango’s footsteps as the chances of a game getting lost in the market increased. 

Johanas commented on the indie devs concerns, “I do think it is an inherently risky venture. Just like I said, it could have gone wrong for us as well.

“But even though we stealth dropped it, we stealth dropped it in a major marketing beat for Microsoft, so it wasn’t like it appeared on Steam one day and no one knew what this thing was.” 

But Johanas said he feels that it’s completely fine to stealth drop a game, though devs should know the risks of doing so. “I wouldn’t say that no one should ever shadow drop a game, and we’ve seen since then titles get announced and say you can play it tomorrow, and that’s exciting.

I think if you’re confident and you think you can pull it off, sure? But understand what risks you’re taking.” 

About The Author

Jeremy is a writer on the Australian Dexerto team. He studied at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, and graduated with a Bachelors in Journalism. Jeremy mainly covers esports such as CS:GO, Valorant, Overwatch, League of Legends, and Dota 2, but he also leans into gaming and entertainment news as well. You can contact Jeremy at or on Twitter @Jer_Gan