Ambitious indie RPG Unforetold: Witchstone is halting development and laying off staff

Unforetold: Witchstone dinosaur
(Image credit: Spearhead Games)

Unforetold: Witchstone showed a lot of promise when it launched into early access in January, but much of that potential was buried under jank: It's "damn impressive" when it works, Fraser Brown wrote back in February, but in its pre-1.0 state, much of it "is undone by bugs and wonky systems."

Sadly, it seems the game won't ever have the opportunity to overcome that roughness and truly shine, as developer Spearhead Games is halting further development of the game and laying off most of its team.

"The past few weeks have been challenging, as the combined impact of financial prospects that did not materialize have put us in a difficult position," studio co-founders Atul Mehra and Malik Boukhira wrote. 

"Hence after careful consideration, we have come to the regrettable conclusion that we must stop further production on Unforetold: Witchstone indefinitely as of March 8th 2024, after the release of Hotfix 7."

The Unforetold: Witchstone Discord server will also be closed on March 8, although other social media accounts will be left up as the studio tries to "find ways to rebuild again."

(Image credit: Spearhead Games (Twitter))

The announcement resulted in a spate of negative user reviews on Steam, prompted in part by the fact that Spearhead is continuing to sell the game. In a follow-up message, the studio apologized for what it said was an "oversight," and said it was in communication with Steam "to gather all necessary information regarding pricing and refund policies."

In a more detailed breakdown of the situation, Spearhead said it had significantly expanded the scope of Unforetold: Witchstone, and the size of the development team, following an investment from "a large third-party publisher." That fell apart a few months ago, however, when the unnamed publisher "made significant cuts internally," which included dropping multiple projects including Unforetold: Witchstone.

While looking for another publisher, the studio opted to release Unforetold: Witchstone into early access, both to encourage interest from potential partners and earn money to support the developers as work continued. That didn't pan out, and while the studio is still trying to secure funding for the game, "the current climate of the game industry makes that prospect unrealistic at this moment."

"We acknowledge that our previous communication could have been more comprehensive, particularly regarding the Steam platform specifics (price adjustments, refunds, etc.), which was an oversight for which we take full responsibility," Spearhead wrote. "We are learning from this experience and acknowledge the need to improve how we communicate significant changes. Your trust is paramount to us, and we are dedicated to rebuilding it moving forward."

For now, Unforetold: Witchstone will remain available in early access, with a notice that it's no longer being supported: Spearhead said it's not taking the game down or making it free because "we have legal obligations to investors to maintain the sale of the game." It has, however, reduced the price from $35 to $10, which "will allow more people to enjoy what has been created so far" and leave open the possibility of completing the game if funding is secured.

Spearhead is also in talks with Steam about making refunds available to people who have played for more than two hours, and said it will post another update once that situation is figured out.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.