Torchlight studio Runic shut down, Gigantic devs also almost closed

The owners of Torchlight developers Runic Games, the Chinese free-to-play-focused publisher Perfect World Entertainment, confirmed today that it has shut down Runic’s Seattle studio. Seeing as that’s Runic’s only studio, er, that’s them basically gone – though their games will live on. This comes barely one month after Runic released Hob.

Perfect World have also laid off most the team at Motiga, the studio behind Gigantic – which only launched in July. Perfect World say these are unconnected but sheesh, not a good week to be owned by Perfect World.

“I’m sorry to say that today will be Runic’s last day open,” studio head Marsh Lefler said in a statement on their site. “For those that love the Torchlight series, there will be some news coming. And for all our fans, our community and multiplayer services will keep running even after the studio’s lights go off.”

As for Motiga, they’re not entirely closed but most people have been laid off. Perfect World said in a statement to Kotaku that “A core team of developers remains at Motiga, who will work with us to support the game and its players, including moving full steam ahead with the upcoming November update and future content.”

That statement also says that the decision to close Runic was “part of the company’s continued strategy to focus on online games as a service.” Ah, that old chestnut.

Runic’s swansong, Hob, was a plain old singleplayer game one our John quite liked parts of – though others, not so much. Our John said in his Hob review:

“Hob is like a beautiful example of how to make a third-person action game. Like a filmmaker who has learned every detail of cinematography, direction, lighting and set dressing, but never thought to care about the script. In that, I found it impossible to escape the sense of lack that pervades its beauty, both in an overall motivation (beyond ‘because it’s there’), and in the ‘why?’ of everything you do. It’s fun to play, it’s often extremely clever, but – well – it lacks at the same time too.”

Best of luck to everyone affected by these layoffs and closures.

Runic co-founder Travis Baldree, who left Runic in 2014 with fellow co-founder Erich Schaefer to start a new studio and make Rebel Galaxy, has remembered the studio with a good blast of trivia on Twitter. My favourites:


  1. DasBilligeAlien says:

    Gigantic is real fun. Or at least was when I tried an early beta. I will try the game again later today.

    The animations are absolutly brilliant!

    • dmoe says:

      It shot itself in the foot when it became an MS exclusive and partnered with PW.

  2. CAMN says:

    Torchlight 2 was everything I ever wanted Diablo 3 to be, and more.

    I had my doubts after playing the original one, but once I got my hands on the sequel, I was blown away by how much they improved.

    Sad to see such good talent ending up without a job.

    • waltC says:

      I loved the fact that the full MSRP for both Torchlight Games was $19.99, IIRC! Smart move at a time when everyone else was still price-gouging at $50-$60, and they sold a bunch of copies–read something about that recently IIRC. The games were great if that sort of game is your cup of tea–and I like them and don’t regret buying them at all–because I didn’t overpay. But TL2 I thought was just TL1 on steroids–and this kind of game might be the only kind the Studio could make. Hopefully all the principals will move on to more/better positions–they are certainly talented enough–and they can learn some new tricks…;) Variety, after all, is the spice of life! They will all do well I’m sure.

  3. ZephaniahGrey says:

    I can’t imagine there’s ever a good day to work for PWE. They make awful, bland, cookie-cutter MMOs, and every marginally original IP they gobble up is inevitably processed down into the worst kind of unpalatable excrement. They’re possibly the worst thing to ever happen to gaming, both for developers and players.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Yeah, the Perfect World moniker attached to a game is pretty much an automatic ‘no-buy’ for me. Learned that the hard way.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be any company like Perfect World.

    • Atrak says:

      You took the words right out of my keyboard. I was going to say basically this. Honestly Perfect World Entertainment are the scum of the gaming industry. Whenever they buy a studio I lose all hope for that studio. I do hope that the Runic staff find better jobs with less evil overlords in the future.

      Sigh Runic was probably axed because they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) work out how to retroactively fit terrible loot % drop boxes with overpriced keys into any of Runic’s Games. (Or make it so the game plays automatically and the user just has to buy things with real money to keep it going). You know, the things are more PWE’s cup of tea.

    • Furiant says:

      PWE is where good games go to die. I simply don’t play anything attached to their name anymore, no matter what. I’ve seen too many things wither and rot under their fingers, and I feel like it’s a sort of moral imperative to not condone that kind of business practice.

  4. kalirion says:

    A thing of great value was lost :(

  5. April March says:

    Best of luck to the affected devs. Not games that I was very interested though.

    Although Gigantic is the only thing that can be honestly called a MOBA that I kind of enjoyed. Mostly because I always thought I’m the weird who thinks the mobs are doing the most fun part in a MOBA and in Gigantic you’re kind of the mob, and the beast that’s the hero? Not sure if I’ll play it again and potentially give money to the publishers that cut down their studio, though.

  6. ludde says:

    Damn it, I just started playing Hob. While I like it, it feels somewhat unfinished. Looking at this, maybe that’s actually the case then.

  7. BewareTheJabberwock says:

    I found it impossible to escape the sense of lack that pervades its beauty, both in an overall motivation (beyond ‘because it’s there’), and in the ‘why?’ of everything you do. It’s fun to play, it’s often extremely clever, but – well – it lacks at the same time too.”

    I disagree with John wholeheartedly on this. Maybe, for the first small bit of the game, there is a question of “why?”, but once you start to solve puzzles and figure out what’s going on, the “why?” question is answered with “because extremely cool shit happens when you do”. I’m really glad it didn’t clobber you over the head with a heavy handed “Save The World!!!” plot. I guess that’s the general gist of the story, but to concentrate on that is missing the point.

    Sad that Runic are gone. They were about the only studio that were an instant must-buy. Hopefully, the people affected will go on to greater things.

  8. LuNatic says:

    Disappointing to see Runic Games shut down, but not surprising. Throwing in with Perfect World was always a silly move.

    Here’s hoping they reform under a new name, and go back to doing what they do best.

  9. Lobotomist says:

    Travis Baldree and Eric Shaefer left the Runic in 2014. Basically they are the ones that made Torchlight with few other people. Without them Runic was just some random Perfect World studio.

    It is obvious they saw this coming.
    Only question is what Perfect World wanted from Runic in first place ? They are making single player games and PW is MMO company.

    • Atrak says:

      That is a very good question.

    • pepperfez says:

      Torchlight IP? I mean, that seems at least as dumb as it does plausible, but it’s my best guess.
      Otherwise maybe a ‘prestige’ indie studio like major film producers run?

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      When they launched they talked quite a lot about their intention to make a Torchlight MMO in the long run. Their intentions changed as the market did, but I guess their publisher and owner didn’t.

  10. GemFire81 says:

    Can’t help but think that Runic would not even be close to shutting down if they kept working on Tourchlight 2 and made it more of a hub mmo style game like Diablo 2 / 3 or PoE. TL2 was my favorite ARPG by far at release, but then they went the mod support route instead of the MMO expansion route. There was just not enough Game and replay Value to just drop it off and run off to another project.

  11. Dynamique says:

    Sad to hear… Just playing Hob and love its style and world design! (Also liked them Torchlight Games, but when I tried to play Grim Dawn last year I realized that I’m not so much into ARPGs any more).