Zero-G PvP shooter that sold 100K in a day is closing after a year—publisher blames developer, developer blames them right back, players just review bomb it

(Image credit: Surgical Scapels)

Boundary is a multiplayer space shooter where the pitch is simple: PvP in zero-G. The game was announced in 2019 by developer Surgical Scalpels, and would eventually launch in early access in April 2023, at which time PC Gamer's Tyler Wilde found it a weirdly compelling take on the competitive FPS: "Space is really not the ideal location for anything humans do, nevermind tactical infantry battles, but it is quite a lot of fun."

Players agreed, too. Despite an upfront price of $25 Boundary managed to shift over 100,000 copies in its first 24 hours on-sale, as well as racking up thousands of "Mostly Positive" Steam reviews. The developers said at the time they expected early access to last six months to a year. Just over a year later, Boundary is being abandoned.

An announcement from publisher Skystone Games, which was founded in 2020 by longtime industry veteran David Brevik, creator of Diablo and former president of Blizzard North, alongside Bill Wang, is titled "End of Service" and reads in part: 

"After careful consideration, Skystone has decided to relinquish the publishing rights for Boundary, effective at the end of June.

"Over the past few months, there have been significant delays and a noticeable absence of content updates for Boundary. Despite our best efforts and support, the developer has been unable to deliver the necessary updates and improvements to keep the game thriving. This has led to growing concerns within our community, and we share your frustration.

"Unfortunately, the developer has made the difficult decision to cease all services for the game instead of continuing to run it in its current state."

The developer, Surgical Scalpels, has a different take on things. In a post to Chinese social media site BiliBili, the studio says (via machine translation):

"The unilateral decision of SkyStone to stop operating Boundary is extremely sudden and unreasonable for the studio and players. We immediately negotiated with SkyStone upon receiving the notice, but unfortunately, we were unable to change SkyStone's unilateral decision to stop operating Boundary.

"In response to the current situation, the studio is striving to regain the rights related to the operation of Boundary and is making every effort to preserve the account data of Border, creating conditions as much as possible for the subsequent re-launch."

(Image credit: Studio Surgical Scalpels)

Skystone, we have a problem

So this is clear as mud. The publisher Skystone says it's returned the rights: the developer Surgical Scalpel says it's still "striving" to retain them. But then we really get to the heart of the matter.

"At the same time, the studio is continuously striving for the income that Boundary deserves so far through negotiation and legal means," says the developer. "Because so far, the studio has not been able to recover the income it deserves from SkyStone."

Tale as old as time. This developer and publisher are in a dispute over money, the developer's stopped working on the game because of it (or at least is not sharing progress with the publisher), and now the publisher's dropped the whole deal.

Does this mean Boundary may have a future? I wouldn't be too bullish about that, but Surgical Scalpel is: "The operation of Boundary may be suspended as a result of this, but it will not stop forever. The studio is a stronghold on the Boundary. We hold fast, we are here, and we will never abandon the Boundary."

Except for the part where, in nine days, it looks like Boundary's going offline for good.

Unsurprisingly the news has seen the game review-bombed by its remaining players, many of whom are understandably aggrieved at the announcement. Some are demanding refunds and, while I have some sympathy, unfortunately that is the risk of buying early access titles: not all games, even those that seem to have a successful launch and attract a big audience, are going to make it. The developer claims that Boundary will return, and it may well do so. But I wouldn't hold your breath.

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."