As protests continue over on Reddit, the world’s largest community forum that is now inexplicably being turned into an engine for shareholder-driven greed, one of its biggest gaming subreddits has announced that it will be leaving the platform for good.
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The official Minecraft subreddit, r/minecraft, a community that at time of posting has 7.4 million members (making it one of the site’s largest), has announced that it will no longer be supported by developers Mojang and that, having served as an incredibly useful place not just for discussion but for tech support and changelogs as well, will now be asking users to contact them directly on their website (or social media) instead.
Mojang’s Mikael Hedberg wrote the post, which reads:
As you have no doubt heard by now, Reddit management introduced changes recently that have led to rule and moderation changes across many subreddits. Because of these changes, we no longer feel that Reddit is an appropriate place to post official content or refer our players to.
We want to thank you for all the feedback and discussion you’ve participated in in past changelog threads. You are of course welcome to post unofficial update threads going forward, and if you want to reach the team with feedback about the game, please visit our feedback site at feedback.minecraft.net or contact us on one of our official social media channels.
Note that it’s shutting down as an official community, a resource where fans could get help and information directly from the developers. The subreddit will remain in place, but will now be just a community discussion hub.
We’re only a few years removed from companies closing down their own internal support and moving their forums to places like Reddit and, less usefully, Discord. To see them already have to start moving this stuff back in-house is as sure a sign as ever that the ‘Enshittification’ of platforms like Reddit, TikTok, YouTube and Twitch is now very much in full swing, and that as useful as their reach has been for people (and games and companies) over the years, as they each collapse under the weight of their own greed it only goes to show the only websites and forums you can ever rely on are your own.
UPDATE 6:30am ET – Headline has been altered to better reflect the subreddit’s future status.
Polish horror game developer Bloober Team told Engadget it’s leaving the psychological horror subset—a genre that defined all of its biggest titles, like Layers of Fearand the cyberpunk title Observer—far behind. The studio is currently responsible for the (impossible, diehard fans say) task to remake Silent Hill 2 and says it’s time to lean fully into “mass-market horror.”
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“This year is like closing the era of making psychological horror games,” Bloober co-founder Piotr Babieno said to Engadget. “Right now we are going into Bloober Team 3.0, making mass-market horror.”
Since Konami’s Silent Hill series features dead wives, hallucinations, and foggy, physical manifestations of grief, its horror is arguably very psychological, and some fans seem confused about Bloober’s distinction.
But all Babieno means, he explained to Engadget, is that Bloober is ready to branch out from the slow-moving, cryptic games it’s become entwined with.
“[In our past games, we] focused on the story, we focused on the mood, we focused on the quality of graphics and music, but we didn’t put a lot of attention on the gameplay mechanics,” he said. “It wasn’t our target. But we decided that there was a ceiling that we couldn’t break if we did not deliver something fresh, something new.”
This seems encouraging to me. Bloober’s recent “reimagining” of the Layers of Fear series was disappointing evidence of the studio’s inability to handle some sensitive topics, like mental illness and women’s issues like “hysteria,” with grace. Bloober needs a refresh. And since the Silent Hill 2 remake, which does not yet have a release date, will also tackle many fragile topics, now is the perfect time for Bloober to reassess its approach to games.
“We are touching something sacred,” Babieno said about working on Silent Hill 2.
He understands that his studio’s interpretation of the 2001 game will be divisive no matter what, but as part of Bloober’s new mass-appeal initiative, Babieno said players can expect all forthcoming titles to have “a lot of gameplay mechanics” and to “be much bigger” than past Bloober games.
No one likes a spoiled surprise. But if you’re Battlestate Games, developers of the indie extraction shooter Escape From Tarkov, then you really, really, really don’t like it. Recently, the dev has threatened to ban anyone who datamines or even shares datamined content from the game. The threatens haven’t gone over well with fans, who often find the game a bit too cryptic for comfort and thus rely on datamined content to learn about stat changes and other essential information.
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Escape From Tarkov is a tough-as-nails extraction shooter where once you die, you lose all your loot. Sending players into zones set in a fictional region of Russia, the goal is to get in, survive, loot, finish quests, and then extract in one piece. Much like a Destiny raid, many objectives in Tarkov are often a little cryptic. And while that level of mystery can be kind of fun to unravel, some fans have felt certain information (such as weapon stats and info about critical resources like ammo) has often been too vague.
That’s where dataminers and streamers like LogicalSolution come in, sharing critical info about the game’s stats to help players demystify the game a bit and plan their loadouts around specific challenges.. But a few days ago, Battlestate Games have taken to announcing sweeping bans for anyone engaged in the sharing of or process of “illegal datamining.”
Battlestate Games bans dataminers to preserve ‘wow-effect’
Taking to Twitter on June 23, Battlestate Games posted a hard-to-read image of a statement (can this whole image-of-a-statement thing stop, by the way?) titled “Official statement from Battlestate Games on illegal datamining of the information.”
The statement is pretty heavy with scary language. Firstly, Battlestate Games sweepingly categorizes datamining as “the illegal infiltration of in-game code and databases,” which is not strictly true. Like copying an mp3, what you do with that piece of data and potentially how you accessed it might be illegal, but datamining itself isn’t strictly illegal, though developers can choose to institute a policy prohibiting it in their Terms of Service.
Battlestate then expresses that datamining reduces the “wow-effect” and “makes the game much more predictable [and] does not align with the development vision.” The statement concludes with the developer pledging to “[take] action towards all the personalities sharing the datamined information” in the form of full account bans.
Escape From Tarkov is a tough game, one where the lack of critical information like weapon stats, item spawns, etc. can actually turn players away. This is doubly true when the community has felt patch notes are unhelpfully vague. That lack of info has made the developer’s latest move to so strongly clamp down on info found via datamining feel heavy handed amongst players.
Battlestate Games didn’t waste any time banning folks, turning its attention to a popular Tarkov streamer and creator of tarkov-changes.com (which catalogs essential info about the game) who had already raised issues with the studio’s stance and vague details about what is and isn’t allowed to be shared within the community.
Streamer gets banned and then unbanned following sharing of game information
On June 24, Escape From Tarkov streamer LogicalSolutions was banned after wrapping up a raid.
In a followup tweet, LogicalSolutions made it clear that the ban was in fact the result of sharing game information. But as they point out, the info was from January, which had been publically available before the statement on data mining from Battlestate.
Though LogicalSolutions’ ban was reversed the next day, he made clear during a stream that moving forward, it will be difficult to figure out what exactly is or is not bannable as its hard to know “what [Battlestate does and doesn’t] want announced” regarding changes to the game, “they don’t communicate” LogicalSolutions said. A follow-up Tweet from LogicalSolutions on June 25 states that LogicalSolutions and Battlestate Games are “mending our relationship” and are “moving forward to provide an ever better community experience.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the devs of Escape From Tarkov has ruffled its players’ feathers. While the studio is small in comparison to AAA devs, fans have expressed frequent frustration over transparency issues and an ongoing struggle with cheaters. Battlestate Games has taken action on that last front, but reaction to promises to ban dataminers and those who distribute datamined information seems to have given players the impression that Battlestate’s priorities are out of order.
Just under two weeks after the Pokémon Go dev laid off over 200 workers, Niantic is now the subject of a lawsuit alleging the company has a “systemic sexual bias” against women employees.
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As originally reported by The Verge, the lawsuit comes from a former Niantic employee, who accuses the company of devaluing the work of its female employees, especially women of color. This extended to favoritism toward male employees, underpaying female workers, and labeling those who speak out against these conditions as “a problem” by upper management and subsequently pushed out of the company. The lawsuit goes on to call Niantic a “Boys Club where men mentor and boost the careers of other men while leaving women and women of color behind.”
The employee who put forth the complaint describes a situation where she was earning a salary of $70K when she started working at Niantic in February 2020, then was later promoted and got a raise to $84K, only to learn a male colleague was being paid more than her in a lower job title. By 2022, he was allegedly receiving $127K, while she was being paid $105K, despite the higher job title. Even after receiving a raise earlier this year, she says she was still making around $12K less than the same male colleague.
After this, she learned she was being paid $10K less than her job’s pay range by comparing her compensation to that of other California employers thanks to the state’s pay transparency law. The anonymous employee talked to other female workers at Niantic, then brought them forward to Niantic’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Director and Principal People Partner, and said they “were hostile to her complaints or voiced concerns about sexism or sexual bias in the workplace.”
The lawsuit also claims the executives in the meeting said her pay range was being affected by her voicing her concerns to other colleagues in Wolfpack, an employee resource group for women. This prompted the anonymous worker to unsubscribe from Wolfpack, for fear that any association with the group would affect her position within the company.
This past spring, Wolfpack put out a survey about Niantic’s workplace culture, and the results revealed several female employees were dissatisfied with the state of the company, said the sexist work culture “disadvantages” anyone who isn’t a man, and specifically pointed to pay inequity. According to the lawsuit, Niantic’s Chief Marketing Officer Mike Quigley required Wolfpack to remove references to the “Boys Club” and any other comments about sexism from its presentation to Wolfpack members. This also prompted the company to tell Wolfpack it wouldn’t be allowed to send out surveys without approval from the company’s upper management.
Kotaku reached out to Niantic for comment.
Update, 07/12/23 1:13 p.m.: Niantic responded to Kotaku’s request for comment stating it “[doesn’t] comment on ongoing litigation matters.”
Naughty Dog, the developer behind The Last of Us and Uncharted, is about to undergo a pretty big shakeup in leadership. Co-president Evan Wells has announced he’ll be retiring, and co-president and Last of Us director Neil Druckmann will be the sole president of the company moving forward.
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Wells wrote about his departure on the studio’s website, saying he’s retiring from the studio after 25 years, but that he’s confident in Druckmann and the rest of Naughty Dog’s current management to lead the company in his absence.
“The decision brings with it overwhelming and conflicting emotions, but I’ve come to realize that I’m content with my time at the studio and all that we’ve accomplished together over the last 25 years,” Wells wrote. “I couldn’t be more confident in Neil’s ability to carry on running the studio. It’s the right time for me to provide the opportunity for him and the others on the Studio Leadership Team to steer the studio into a successful future.”
Wells has worked at Naughty Dog since 1998. After a stint at Crystal Dynamics working on the Gex series, Wells joined the studio as a lead designer on Crash Bandicoot: Warped, then worked on the Jak series, ultimately stepping into the co-president role in 2004. Meanwhile, Druckmann joined the studio in 2004 as a programmer on the Jak series, moving into writing roles on the Uncharted series before becoming a director for The Last of Us games. He stepped into the co-president role in 2020.
What’s unclear now is if Naughty Dog will have Druckmann remain as the sole president and head of creative of the company, or if it will hire or move someone to Wells’ position in the future. Wells was co-president at Naughty Dog for most of his stint at the top of the studio, though in 2017 when Christophe Balestra retired as co-president, Wells was the sole acting president until Druckmann’s promotion in 2020. So it’s not unheard of for the studio to have a single president.
Alongside whatever Naughty Dog is working on, Druckmann is currently working with Max on the Emmy-nominatedLast of Us live-action TV series as director and co-writer. So he’s pretty busy these days.
Naughty Dog’s last new game was 2020’s The Last of Us Part II, after which it released a PS5 remake of the original PS3 game. It’s also working on a multiplayer game set in its post-apocalyptic universe, but has yet to show the project to the public.
A developer on the third-person stealth-action game Grey Skies: A War of the Worlds Story has come forward to comment on the game’s abysmal Steam ratings, saying the team will address the concerns and release a free remaster.
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But first, a bit of context. Grey Skies: A War of the Worlds Story launched on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Steam in November 2020. An atmospheric survival game with action-adventure and stealth elements based on the works of science fiction author H.G. Wells, Grey Skies was rocked by a plethora of negative Steam reviews. Players criticized it for sloppy animations, illogical gameplay, atrocious controls, and much more, with the general consensus being that it’s a janky mess of a misbegotten game. This dragging has persisted to this day, and Steel Arts Software never responded.
That was for a reason, as developer Nathan Seedhouse confirmed in a July 15 post on Grey Skies’ Steam page that personal issues kept him preoccupied.
“After a couple of years of crippling personal issues that kept me away from development, I came back to find that Grey Skies has issues, and has been reviewed extremely poorly,” Seedhouse wrote. “I was unaware of just how bad it was until recently. I came back to it with fresh eyes after more than two years and completely understand the issues most people have taken with it.”
Seedhouse went on to say that although Grey Skies undoubtedly has problems, many of which the Steam reviews point out ad nauseam, he firmly believes the team “made a decent game” underneath it all. As such, Seedhouse has outlined some upcoming plans to rectify the mistakes.
“I am remastering the game with new technologies that have become available, and my own improved knowledge of development,” Seedhouse continued. “I will read through all the concerns carefully and address each one, paying close attention to the most common complaints, such as clunky movement and frustrating stealth elements. I really appreciate each and every one of you that took a chance on it. So the remaster will be automatically added to any library that already owns the original Grey Skies, free of charge of course.”
In an email to Kotaku, Seedhouse said the development team is just him now and that the artist he worked with “left a couple years ago.”
“There is no development team,” Seedhouse said. “[The update post] wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. I was just hoping to quietly replace Grey Skies for the people on Steam and carry on with my next game.”
It’s unclear how the studio will remaster the game and, should such an event come to pass, whether it’ll win back players who already took a chance on it. We also don’t know if the theoretical remaster would hit platforms other than Windows. Still, with confirmation that the remaster will be free for those who own Grey Skies, and that the original version of the game will be removed from sale soon, we can only hope that things go well for both Seedhouse and Steel Arts Software.
Update: We’ve added a statement from the developer to this story.
While Nintendo loves a lawsuit and emulation is often a contentious issue for publishers, few situations have been quite as high-profile as the recent attempt to launch GameCube and Wii emulator Dolphin on Steam. The 20-year-old emu engine has long been available online, but this attempt to become more “mainstream” ended pretty predictably. But now, after a few months of silence, the emu’s creators have spoken up and claim Nintendo’s suggestions that their software breaks the law are completely false.
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Back in March, it was revealed that the well-loved emulator Dolphin would receive a surprise release on Steam. The software, used to run both GameCube and Wii games on modern hardware, had a store page on Valve’s PC gaming store, giving the unlikely impression that the decades-old emulator was going mainstream. Inevitably, this caused consternation, with initial reports saying Nintendo issued demands to Valve that the page be removed and the software not distributed on Steam.
It was later revealed that, in fact, it was Valve that went running to Nintendo to tattle on the project, with a Nintendo of America lawyer then requesting it be removed, using the DMCA as its rationale. Dolphin, claimed Nintendo, “unlawfully circumvents” its cryptographic keys, and so distributing the software “constitutes unlawful traffic” of their rights. Incredibly, Valve then approached the developers behind the emulator, Dolphin Emulator Project (DEP), saying they needed to negotiate whether the software could release on Steam with Nintendo.
Which is some shit.
As a result of this, and consultation with lawyers, DEP has decided to abandon its attempt to release the project on Steam entirely. The situation Valve has created, it says, is an impossible one: to be required to seek Nintendo’s permission to release a product on Valve’s store isn’t a thing, can’t be done, and so “that’s that.”
However, DEP wasn’t done there. The group has been seeking legal advice and says it’s pretty certain Nintendo’s claims about unlawful circumvention are completely wrong and strongly believes that Delphin is legal.
Why Dolphin is likely not illegal
Emulation has always been a thorny area in gaming, with its moral quagmire of preservation versus piracy, and copyright versus copies available. Add to that the fact that building an emulator in itself is not an illegal act. For the vast majority of aged games, emulation is the only way available to play them on modern machines. However, for the IP owners, it’s often viewed as a threat to their profits, especially for companies like Nintendo that like to endlessly regurgitate their classic games on their latest consoles at modern prices.
Projects like Dolphin are seemingly not illegal, given they can be used to run homebrew games and applications, developed by fans of an abandoned console. And the emulators themselves most often contain no pirated material or illegal software. That most people use them to run pirated ROMs of classic games is, technically, not on the emulator developers.
In this instance, however, things became more complicated over claims that Dolphin had broken Nintendo’s encryption for the Wii, using something called the Wii Common Key. This Wii Common Key was part of the original console, used to decrypt the games on the discs, all as part of anti-piracy measures built into the system. This was a rudimentary block for pirates and was overcome with a pair of tweezers.
The release of the key occurred a couple of decades ago and went on to be freely shared across the internet and became part of Dolphin’s open-source code in 2009. No one, including Nintendo, has ever tried to prevent this, nor made any noise indicating they care. However, Nintendo’s response to Valve mentioned the key in its attempts to justify why Dolphin was a problem to the publisher.
The Dolphin emulator operates by incorporating these cryptographic keys without Nintendo’s authorization and decrypting the ROMs at or immediately before runtime. Thus, use of the Dolphin emulator unlawfully “circumvent[s] a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under” the Copyright Act. 17 U.S.C. Distribution of the emulator, whether by the Dolphin developers or other third-party platforms, constitutes unlawful “traffic[king] in a technology…that…is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure.
Dolphin is certainly not “primarily designed…for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure,” says DEP, but rather designed to emulate a piece of hardware as software so others can interact with the recreated environment as they wish. DEP describes circumvention as, “only a small fraction of what we do,” and lays out a series of arguments for why the software fits neatly within exemptions in the DMCA. It includes the reverse engineering exemption, which states,
…a person may develop and employ technological means to circumvent a technological measure, or to circumvent protection afforded by a technological measure, in order to enable the identification and analysis under paragraph (1), or for the purpose of enabling interoperability of an independently created computer program with other programs, if such means are necessary to achieve such interoperability, to the extent that doing so does not constitute infringement under this title.
DEP goes on to express its disappointment that so many in the wider community demanded that the developers remove the encryption key from Dolphin, given its conviction that it was not in violation of any laws, and indeed that Nintendo’s own letter didn’t make the claim that including the key violated U.S. copyright, because “a short string of entirely random letters and numbers generated by a machineis not copyrightable under current US copyright law. If that ever changes, the world will be far too busy to think about emulation.”
Nintendo has never taken an emulator to court, and given the company’s propensity to drag absolutely everyone they can through the legal system in the most brutal ways imaginable, that’s something of note. It strongly suggests Nintendo doesn’t think it would win if it tried. It’s incredibly murky territory, with the legality untested, and the results of doing so very likely to end badly for those who create hardware. It’s very likely in the strong interests of console manufacturers to never actually let this matter reach the courts.
Despite this, Dolphin will not come to Steam, seemingly primarily due to the actions of Valve rather than Nintendo. Kotaku contacted both companies regarding these claims to ask why certain decisions were made and based on what rules. In the meantime, Dolphin remains widely available, and often the only way to play vast libraries of abandoned games without the original, no-longer-produced hardware. Whether this is morally or legally acceptable or not is up to you.
There seems to be another Divinity: Original Sin sequel in the future, but eager fans will need to wait until well after developer Larian Studios releases Baldur’s Gate 3 to get their hands on it.
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In an IGN interview published July 27, the Belgian studio’s founder Swen Vincke confirmed that players haven’t seen the last of the tactically-minded, isometric role-playing game series Divinity: Original Sin, saying that it’s Larian’s “own universe,” and that “we’re definitely gonna get back there at some point.”
But his team will very much need to “refresh [themselves] creatively” after Baldur’s Gate 3, its first game in six years, before committing to an actual game announcement.
In an article from earlier this July, Kotaku staff writer Kenneth Shepard explains why this latest entry in the Dungeons & Dragons-set, party-based RPG series first introduced by BioWare in 1998 is “a big deal.”
“Baldur’s Gate 3 fills a current void in big-budget RPGs as BioWare sorts itself out,” Shepard writes. “It’s been a minute since we got a meaty RPG that is truly character and choice-driven, full of big decisions and consequences and relationship-building, and involving player expression on this level.”
Vincke guesses that people will only experience about 30 percent of the game or less during their first playthroughs, he told senior Kotaku writer Ethan Gach in a recent interview.
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“You’re seeing 400 developers putting their heart and souls into [Baldur’s Gate 3],” Vincke said to IGN. “You’re getting the best of them and their craft into this game. And so I can tell you, it’s quite a thing.”
Sorry, Divinity fans. Take solace in the fact that your time will eventually come.
It might help to know that Baldur’s Gate 3 is almost out the door—Larian, hoping to avoid competition with Starfield and the Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty expansion, bumped its PC release date up a month to August 3. It will release for PlayStation 5 on September 6, and an Xbox Series X/S date is not yet confirmed.
Only Up! Is a brutal janky platformer that blew up on Steam earlier this summer after becoming a hit with Twitch viewers. A number of controversies later, its creator has removed the game from Valve’s digital storefront seemingly forever, saying they made a lot of mistakes and need time to heal before making their next game.
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“The game has kept me under a lot of stress all these months,” the game’s developer, Indiesolodev, wrote in what appears to be the final update for Only Up! (via PCGamesN). “Now I want to put the game behind me. And yes. the game won’t be available in the Steam store soon, that’s what I decided myself.” The game now shows as “not available” on its store page, though players who already purchased it still have access.
A parkour game about constantly ascending to new heights, Only Up! released back in May and rose to popularity in June with over 10,000 concurrent players and 90,000 viewers on Twitch. Reviews of the game’s actual quality were mixed, however, with some players praising the surreal and capricious 3D platforming while others critiqued its glitchy physics and hasty design full of what appeared to be cheap asset flips.
A hit among Twitch streamers who found viewers were attracted to it as a sort of voyeuristic failure porn, Only Up! was nevertheless briefly pulled from Steam for a day in July after it was accused of stealing another developer’s copyrighted 3D anime model. As PC Gamer pointed out at the time, the game also appeared to be loosely affiliated with NFTs, from images of Goblintown tokens appearing in levels to the title itself which is a common rallying cry among crypto scammers.
“What I need now is peace of mind and healing,” Indiesolodev wrote in today’s update. “I plan to take a pause, and continue my education in game design and further with new experience and knowledge to direct my energies to my next game.” They’re sophomore project is currently titled “Kith,” which means friends or acquaintances, though it’s also the name of a popular streetwear brand. Indiesolodev describes it as completely different from Only Up! with an emphasis on “cinematography.”
“This time I hope the project will be created by a small team,” they wrote. “This is a challenging project on which I want to significantly improve my skills in game design.”
Some players are already mourning Only Up!’s unexpected disappearance, asking why Indiesolodev didn’t just decide to give it away for free. But most of the comments on their update are just congratulating them for creating a viral game out of nowhere. “You did a fantastic job with this game and should be nothing but proud of yourself,” wrote the_drummernator. “I’ve had a great experience with it so far, and finally getting to the top after many setbacks was very fulfilling.”
Gearbox Software, the studio most well-known for the Borderlands franchise, is reportedly up for sale as parent company Embracer Group considers options to “shore up its finances,” according to a September 11 Reuters report.
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Three people familiar with the matter told Reuters that various third parties have expressed interest in purchasing Gearbox from Embracer Group, with the Sweden-based holding company working with both investment bank firms Aream & Co and Goldman Sachs to explore a possible sale. Unnamed “international gaming groups” are among the likely buyers; however, Reuters’ anonymous sources said that a deal may not actually happen, though they didn’t provide a reason why.
This development comes almost two weeks after Embracer Group shut down Volition, a 30-year-old studio responsible for games like the open-world shooter Agents of Mayhem, the first-person shooter series Red Faction, and the open-world action game series Saints Row. The holding company made the decision to shutter Volition and lay off its developers because of a failed $2 billion investment deal with the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, which fell through in May. As a result of the funding arrangement falling through, Embracer Group announced in June a “restructuring program” meant to bolster its position in the industry. According to an August 31 statement from Volition on its sudden closure, the studio said that part of Embracer Group’s restructuring program involved evaluating operational and strategic goals, which prompted the holding company to shutter the studio.
Despite closing Volition and potentially selling off Gearbox Software, Embracer Group still owns quite a few companies. This includes publishers Deep Silver (Dead Island 2) and THQ Nordic (Biomutant), developer Coffee Stain Studios (Goat Simulator), developer-publisher Saber Interactive (Evil Dead: The Game), book publisher Dark Horse Comics, and game distributor Limited Run Games, among others. One of Embracer Group’s last acquisitions was in October 2022, when the company scooped up British anime distributor Anime Limited, though a sale price wasn’t listed.
Kotaku reached out to Embracer Group and Gearbox Software for comment.