‘A F***ing Gut Stab’: Game Industry Reacts To Shocking New Studio Closures

‘A F***ing Gut Stab’: Game Industry Reacts To Shocking New Studio Closures

One of the worst years for cancellations, cuts, and closures in the history of the video game industry has just claimed its next victims, including Arkane Austin and Tango Gameworks. Developers and fans alike are in disbelief. “Great teams are sunsetting before our eyes again, and it’s a fucking gut stab,” wrote Dinga Bakaba, director at Arkane Austin sister-studio, Arkane Lyon.

Set up in 2006, Arkane Austin helped develop the acclaimed 2012 whale-oil-punk immersive sim Dishonored, before leading development on 2017’s haunting sci-fi shooter Prey. Tango Gameworks, meanwhile, was founded in 2010 and is best known for making the Evil Within series of survival horrorgames, before bestowing a collective breath of fresh air on the video game industry last year with the colorful rhythm hack and slash platformer Hi-Fi Rush. Microsoft shut down both studios today, as well as other Bethesda subsidiaries Roundhouse Games and Alpha Dog Games, citing a need to focus on “high-impact” “priority games.”

“This is absolutely terrible,” tweeted Bakaba, co-creative director at the remaining Arkane studio, in the wake of the news. “Permission to be human: to any executive reading this, friendly reminder that video games are an entertainment/cultural industry, and your business as a corporation is to take care of your artists/entertainers and help them create value for you.”

The Deathloop co-director at the Microsoft-owned studio continued:

Don’t throw us into gold fever gambits, don’t use us as strawmen for miscalculations/blind spots, don’t make our work environments darwinist jungles. You say we make you proud when we make a good game. Make us proud when times are tough. We know you can, we seen it before.

For now, great teams are sunsetting before our eyes again, and it’s a fucking gut stab. Lyon is safe, but please be tactful and discerning about all this, and respect affected folks’ voice and leave it room to be heard, it’s their story to tell, their feelings to express.

Inside baseball, but if I read ‘immersive sim curse’ from the community, especially from a fellow dev, I swear to God… Please, let’s talk about the *real* challenges instead of rehashing irrational anxieties of the past. Even more inside baseball, but with a very, very wide range, as a wise and sorely missed man said: “Please Stop.”

Harvey Smith, co-director on Redfall at Arkane Austin, called today’s new “terrible,” adding that the team there had been through a lot together. Bloomberg previously reported that the vampire shooter’s troubled development grew out of a push by top Bethesda leadership to make a live-service game, a decision that ultimately led to sky-high attrition and multiple delays. “Your talent will lift you up, and I will do anything I can to help,” tweeted Smith. John Johanas, game director at Tango Gameworks, was also at a loss. “So this is how it ends…” he wrote. “Unfortunately I don’t quite have the words…But at least thank you to everyone who supported us.”

Back when Microsoft acquired Bethesda in 2021, its burgeoning Game Pass model seemed like a potentially great fit for Arkane Studios, whose creatively ambitious projects didn’t always seem to find the audiences they deserved. If Bethesda would never greenlight a Prey 2, maybe a deep-pocketed tech giant would see it as as a worthwhile addition to its Netflix-like subscription gaming library. If nothing else, the newly acquired teams would have no shortage of other holes to fill in Xbox’s struggling first-party lineup.

Adam Boyes, co-CEO at Iron Galaxy Studios, juxtaposed today’s carnage with Microsoft’s bottom line in a tweet screencapping the company’s recently announced quarterly profits of roughly $US20 billion. “It hurts dude… it hurts,” wrote back Rich Lambert, head of ZeniMax Online Studios. “Angry. Frustrated. Shocked. Furious. Speechless. Dumbfounded. Perplexed,” wrote Alistair Hatch, another long-time veteran of Bethesda. “I have so much love for the studios affected. The people that made those teams were incredible, hard working, dedicated, and talented.”

People from other Microsoft-owned studios and outside the company have also been horrified by the news. “We took a lot of inspiration from both Evil Within and Evil Within 2 when developing Alan Wake 2,” tweeted Remedy Entertainment game director Kyle Rowley. “They are both excellent horror games and I’m very sad we will not get to see a continuation of the franchise from Tango Gameworks. “Why do I still do this?” tweeted Obsidian Entertainment communications director Mikey Dowling.

“Arkane did solid work and had a highly talented and motivated staff,” Mike Wikan, the former Retro Studios developer who led design on Metroid Prime, wrote on LinkedIn. “Companies need to understand that burning your Creative Production Studios to the ground is NOT the path to profitability.”

Update 5/7/2024, 12:58 p.m. ET: Added more reactions from developers.

Update 5/8/2024, 9:19 a.m. ET:Added more reactions from developers.

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