Making good, profitable games 'will no longer keep you safe': industry expresses fury and heartbreak over closure of Hi-Fi Rush and Prey studios

Hi-Fi Rush screenshot
(Image credit: Tango Gameworks)

After laying off thousands of employees over the past couple years, games industry executives appear to be adopting a more efficient method of what they euphemistically call "reprioritization": closing entire studios. Take-Two axed two studios just last week, and now Microsoft has bulldozed four more, including Arkane Austin and Tango Gameworks, which it acquired when it bought Bethesda in 2021.

The dissolution of these talented, well-respected teams has reinforced the feeling among gamers and developers that nothing is good enough to earn security under big publishers today. In one popular tweet, indie developer Maisie Ó Dorchaidhe listed 11 things "that will no longer keep you safe in this industry," including "a good game," "a profitable game," and "long hours and sacrifice."

things that will no longer keep you safe in this industry: - a good game - a profitable game - a viral game - a big publisher - a small publisher - a big team - a small team - a rich parent company - an "ethical" parent company - experience - long hours & sacrifice

(Image credit: Maisie Ó Dorchaidhe)

Indeed, Tango Gameworks' Hi-Fi Rush was deemed by Microsoft to be a "break out hit" in "all key measurements and expectations" last year. And in his email to staff today (acquired by IGN), Xbox Game Studios head Matt Booty said that the studio closures "are not a reflection of the creativity and skill of the talented individuals at these teams or the risks they took to try new things." Rather, Microsoft is "prioritizing high-impact titles." 

The message being heard is that you can do everything right, but still be deemed 'low-impact' at any point by the suits upstairs, and then it's curtains. In the wake of the announcement, fans and developers have expressed fury, heartbreak, and unease, especially over the future of other Microsoft-owned studios, which include Obsidian, inXile, Double Fine, and Ninja Theory.

"Extremely cool and not devastating at all how even studios and devs who make award winning or best selling games aren't safe from ✨restructuring✨ and ✨divesting resources elsewhere✨," wrote Firaxis writer Emma Kidwell.

"I don't understand the closure of Tango Gameworks," wrote Helldivers 2 studio CEO Johan Pilestedt. "I mean... Why close instead of divest [sell]? Surely the team would easily have been able to find a new home."

"I cannot imagine hearing you're being let go because of prioritisation of *another developer* is especially good for morale," said Larian publishing director Michael Douse, "especially if you’re in another regional office of a shuttered sister office 🤦‍♂️- imaging reading that and working in Obsidian, or something. Wild."

We took a lot of inspiration from both Evil Within and Evil Within 2 when developing Alan Wake 2. They are both excellent horror games and I'm very sad we will not get to see a continuation of the franchise from @TangoGameworks . We have open positions at @remedygames so please get in touch!

(Image credit: Kyle Rowley)

Notices of unfilled positions at other studios, a common sight in the aftermath of layoffs and studio closures, have been popping up, too. Alan Wake 2 director Kyle Rowley said that Remedy "took a lot of inspiration from both Evil Within and Evil Within 2" when making Alan Wake 2, and encouraged ex-Tango developers to apply. BioShock creator Ken Levine said that he's "sad and disappointed" by the closure of Arkane Austin, and is seeking designers from the studio to work on his new game (although it bears mentioning that Levine's last studio, Irrational, closed so that he could start his current one). 

According to Booty's email, "some" Arkane Austin employees will be moved to other teams at Bethesda. One of the other studios that closed, Roundhouse Games, will be absorbed by ZeniMax Online Studios. Tango Gameworks and the fourth shuttered studio, Alpha Dog, had no such stipulations—they just closed.

"I just want to say that I love all the people at Arkane Austin so much," wrote its former studio director, Harvey Smith. "Great times, hard times, we went through so much, together. Of course, today's news is terrible, for all of us. Your talent will lift you up, and I will do anything I can to help."

In January, Microsoft also canceled a survival game in production at Blizzard, which it acquired with Activision for $68.7 billion last year, and laid off its development team as part of 1,900 job cuts across Xbox.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.