A former employee at Ascendant Studios has spoken out about the development of the ill-fated Immortals Of Aveum, and why it was a huge flop.
Many predicted Immortals Of Aveum wasn’t going to be a huge success based on its early trailers, but it appears that sentiment was also felt during its creation, by many of those working at developer Ascendant Studios.
Originally billed as a magical take on Call Of Duty, Immortals Of Aveum faced middling reviews (69 on Metacritic) when it released in August last year. Less than a month later, the studio’s CEO Bret Robbins confirmed Ascendant had laid off nearly half its staff in the wake of poor sales.
A former employee at the studio has now spoken out about the project, estimating that it cost around $125 million (£98m) in total to make and stating that making a high budget single-player shooter in today’s market was doomed from the start.
‘At a high level, Immortals was massively overscoped for a studio’s debut project,’ a former Ascendant employee told IGN. ‘The development cost was around $85 million, and I think EA kicked in $40 million for marketing and distribution.
‘Sure, there was some serious talent on the development team, but trying to make a AAA single-player shooter in today’s market was a truly awful idea, especially since it was a new IP that was also trying to leverage Unreal Engine 5. What ended up launching was a bloated, repetitive campaign that was far too long.’
Another employee, who is currently employed at Ascendant Studios, said the game had all the features many players request, but it still sold poorly.
‘It’s not a sequel or a remake, it doesn’t take 400 hours to beat, has zero microtransactions, no pointless open world grinding,’ the unnamed employee said. ‘Although not everyone loved it, it reviewed pretty well, currently sitting at a 74 on Open Critic and a Mostly Positive on Steam. No one bought it.’
It’s claimed sales of Immortals Of Aveum were only a ‘tiny fraction’ of what was projected, which led to nearly 50 people at the studio losing their jobs.
As noted in GameCentral’s interview with Bret Robbins ahead of Immortals Of Aveum’s launch last year, he was fully aware of the financial risks.
‘I think everyone’s gotten more risk averse,’ Robbins said when asked if it’s harder to launch an original IP now. ‘The cost of games have only increased, which only puts more risk in trying to do something new. So over time, it has become harder to try something new, especially at the triple-A level.
‘What we see is enormous invention and great games coming out of the indie space in lower budget titles, because that’s where you can take the risks, you’re not going to break the bank. Doing what I’m doing is more risky at a higher budget, but I think it’s worth it.’
For reference, as revealed in leaked Sony documents from last year, Horizon Forbidden West from established Sony first party studio Guerrilla Games had a budget of $212 million (£168m), while The Last Of Us Part 2 cost around $220 million (£174m).
While the budget for Immortals Of Aveum is lower in comparison, it’s still surprisingly close for a studio’s debut game.
This, however, might be the by-product of an industry wide problem. In the same IGN report, it suggests Ascendant Studios may have simply been a victim of a ‘stupidly volatile market that requires mountains of capital to participate in at a professional level’.
While other factors are at play, like the funding influx during the COVID pandemic, we’re seeing the blowback of this volatile market continue through mass layoffs in 2024, with the likes of Microsoft, Riot, Twitch and Thunderful all cutting staff in the past few months.
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