Darkwood studio releases new game's alpha then promptly says it's going on hiatus but may return 'in 5-10 years when we get our s*** together'

Image for Darkwood studio releases new game's alpha then promptly says it's going on hiatus but may return 'in 5-10 years when we get our s*** together'
(Image credit: Acid Wizard)

As developer names go, Acid Wizard Studios is a great one, but fans of horror game Darkwood may well wonder what kind of acid it's talking about. The Polish studio has announced that, following the release of Darkwood's 1.4 update and the alpha of Soccer Kids, it's going to be shutting down.

"We're going on hiatus for the foreseeable future," said the studio in a statement posted to social media. "We haven't been able to create a work environment that would not be destructive to our personal lives [...] So ultimately we decided that it would be best if we part ways, with a possibility of returning in 5-10 years when we get our shit together.

"This doesn't have to be bad news! We aren't disappearing into thin air and would like our games to live on."

The statement adds that the developers have been talking to others who may be interested in making a sequel to Darkwood or continuing work on Soccer Kids, though I wouldn't be overly hopeful. A sequel to Darkwood is something fans of that game have been clamouring for pretty much ever since it was released in 2017, and it is worth emphasising that this game in particular is something special. My memory's a little hazy because it must've been five years ago I played it, but Darkwood is a terrifying and unusual horror game that will teach you to love wooden barricades and be very afraid of what is out there in the woods. It has almost 15,000 Steam reviews that trend 'very positive' and certainly put me off camping in Poland. 

I haven't played Soccer Kids, but the alpha was released in June and, where Darkwood felt like a game made by people who didn't like the usual horror games, this looks like a football game made by people who don't have much time for football. It's a turn-based strategy game where, apparently, a viable tactical option is to insult the opposition. "An idea of kids playing soccer was born, but seen from the eyes of a mathematical child prodigy, analyzing every angle and range in great detail," said the studio in an Imgur post announcing the game. "The setting remained close to our hearts: Poland in the 90s. But the theme would be different now, a vivid, playful, over-the-top world seen through the eyes of kids who watched too many cartoons."

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This is sad news because, whatever else can be said about Acid Wizard Games, it's responsible for one of the great gaming stories of the last decade. It released Darkwood, which became something of a word-of-mouth hit at the time, and then made a decision that even now seems astonishing: it released a torrent of the game for free on the Pirate Bay.

"To date, Darkwood has sold more than 1.5 million copies," said Acid Wizard Studios. "It’s up to debate if that number would be higher or lower if we hadn’t posted the game on TPB, but still, this has wildly exceeded our expectations and we’re completely satisfied on this front.

"We grew up in Poland in a time when games from official distribution were prohibitively expensive and piracy was not illegal. In my town, the local 'pirate shop' (a normal shop where you could just go in and buy bootleg disks or cassettes with games) was just across the street from the police station. For us, that was pretty much the only way to play games, aside from arcade salons. So, if it wasn’t for piracy, there would be no Darkwood."

These days games are more easily accessible and affordable in Poland, but for these developers that consciousness remained that this wasn't the case everywhere in the world. "Or simply, life can just be hard sometimes. Reading how Darkwood helped you during those times really meant the world to us."

That's how Acid Wizard Studios signs off, leaving behind one great game and the beginnings of a new one. It's more than a lot of studios manage, and there's an element of self-awareness in how this collective has chosen to end it all: even with that suggestion it may return down the line. RIP to a real one.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."