The closure of Runic Games, the Seattle-based video-game studio that created the popular dungeon crawlers Torchlight and Torchlight II, is the latest example of a popular game developer falling victim to the changing whims of a corporate parent.
Runic, founded in 2008 by Fate creator Travis Baldree and video-game veterans, was quietly shut down last week by its parent Perfect World International. The announcement came just six weeks after the long-awaited release of Runic’s puzzle-platformer game Hob.
It's true, Runic Games has been closed. Our statement is on the website: https://t.co/uSWZ4X0XlW
Thank you for being part of our story. <3
— Runic Games (@RunicGames) November 3, 2017
Since 2010, the Chinese publisher Perfect World, known for hosting various RPGs such as Neverwinter and Star Trek Online, had held a majority stake in Runic. Perfect World released a statement that Runic’s closure was “part of the company’s continued strategy to focus on online games as a service,” and has otherwise remained silent on the topic.
In recent years, similar closures have hit developers including Disney’s Bellevue, Wash., game studio; Wargaming’s WG Cells division; and others. EA made layoffs earlier this year at Seattle’s PopCap Games.
Runic’s closure came shortly after Perfect World announced it had laid off most of the personnel at the Bellevue, Wash.-based studio Motiga, which released the “hero shooter” Gigantic in July, despite a rocky development process. According to Motiga’s chief executive Chris Chung, speaking to Destructoid, “It was a budgetary decision at the highest level. Perfect World as a public company has a profitability goal and they decided to cut parts of the company that were not profitable. In short, Gigantic was not making enough revenue.”
Perfect World has stated that the two studios’ closures are unrelated.
As of right now, Runic’s properties have been folded into Perfect World’s software lineup, and will continue to be offered through Perfect World for the foreseeable future. The developer still exists, at least on paper, and Perfect World has said that it will “stay committed to supporting and growing Runic Games’ beloved franchises.”
The studio head at Runic, Marsh Lefler, also posted in Runic’s official forums that “there will be some news coming” about the fate of the Torchlight franchise. This may indicate that there’s still hope for the eventual production of the long-promised Torchlight MMORPG, which would fit neatly into the rest of Perfect World’s lineup, although Runic had said in 2012 that it didn’t plan to work on such a thing in the near future.
The company is encouraging people interested in hiring former Runic Games employees to contact the studio at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out Runic co-founder Baldree’s Twitter for some retrospective tweets about the nine-year history of the company.
[1/?] In celebration of 9 years of @RunicGames – a bunch of Runic trivia….
— Travis Baldree (@TwinStickGames) November 3, 2017