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Embracer reportedly close down cult RPG maker Piranha Bytes, creators of Gothic, Risen, and Elex

Former head opens a new studio

Four fantasy warriors battle a large monster in Gothic.
Image credit: THQ Nordic

The studio-killing fallout of Embracer's acquisition frenzy continues to fall like ash on the industry. The publishing giant has reportedly closed Piranha Bytes, the studio known for cult RPGs like Gothic, Risen, and Elex, according to a worker who spoke to Polish games site CD-Action. The studio's existence had been under threat since early this year, after being targeted in Embracer's purgatorial studio massacre. At that time the German studio were hopeful to avoid being closed down, insisting "don't write us off yet!" Unfortunately, it looks like those who worked at the studio have since been laid off.

The former head of Piranha Bytes, Björn Pankratz, confirmed the news on a Discord server for Pithead Studio, a newly established games company co-founded with his wife, Jenny Pankratz.

"As you sure noticed, the gaming industry was not doing well last year," says a message in the Discord, as spotted by PC Gamer. "This was also the case for the Embracer Group, to which THQ Nordic and Piranha Bytes belong. A lot of studios had to close, thousands of people in the gaming industry worldwide lost their jobs. Sadly, Piranha Bytes was also affected by this."

Images in the CD-Action report also show the Piranha Bytes offices in a state of relative abandonment, with unused desks, chairs and lamps piled up in a room.

The RPGs of Piranha Bytes were known for being somewhat janky but spirited. Gothic was more believable than modern RPGs, according to Sin. The Risen games had "heart and soul" even if they were sometimes wobbly, said Alec once upon a time. And although Elex II was not Alice B's cup of sci-fi lizard battering, she could still clearly see why people would gel with it.

As brands, Gothic, Risen and Elex still belong to publisher THQ Nordic (owned by Embracer), according to another message on the Pithead Studio Discord. But it's hard for even those who spent their lives working on these games to know whether the franchises will continue in any meaningful way in the future.

"All we know is that Alkimia Interactive from [Spain] is working on [a] Gothic Remake," say Pithead. "We are not included in the making of the remake in any form, and therefore have no influence on it."

The closures brought about by Embracer have greatly impacted the industry, putting a huge number of people out of work, and killing dead a potential Red Faction sequel. They say their "restructuring programme" is over.

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