By Oni 9 Comments
While the curtain hasn't fallen with certainty yet for Vigil Games, it seems unlikely that they will be bought if no one at the auction was willing to bite. Vigil isn't the first studio to fall, and it certainly won't be the last, given the increasingly oppressive climate of AAA development. Budgets are ever-increasing, development teams get bigger, and publishers are only investing in sure-fire hits because the risk is too great, and there's no longer a market for mid-tier games. The competition at the $60 retail level of games is fiercer than it's ever been. Darksiders 2 didn't do the business THQ needed it to do, their next game is a ways off, and thus, in the current climate, Vigil probably isn't a smart buy for most, if not all, publishers.
It's always sad when a developer closes its doors and people lose their jobs. It saddened me when Black Rock, developer of the criminally underrated Split/Second, closed its doors in 2011. It disgusted me when Activision closed down Bizarre Creations after making them pump out a crappy 007 game that clearly wasn't in their wheelhouse. But no studio closure breaks my heart like Vigil's. Here's a studio with a unique creative voice, an identity, tons of talent and passion that just bursts through the surface of their games, and nobody wants them. Because sadly, Zelda-like fantasy action-RPG's aren't the hot ticket they ought to be. Here's a studio further breaking down genre walls and building out a franchise with a ton of potential. Remember seeing the ending of Darksiders? Remember all the possibilities and potential it heralded?
I'll be the first to admit Darksiders 2 was a bit of a let-down for me. I'm 20 hours in and haven't finished it yet, due to other games coming out, some pacing issues and a story that was going nowhere, and going there slowly. But even still, mechanically it's a great game. It looks great, it's got a killer soundtrack by the fantastic Jesper Kyd, punchy, satisfying combat, and that Zelda/Metroidvania feel I wish there was more of in modern games. And all this talented group got to make was two Darksiders games. I feel like, had this group come together 20 years ago with the same boundary-breaking sensibilities, they might be regarded as one of the all-time greatest studios now. Vigil splitting feels like one of my favorite bands breaking up. Makes me wonder if Joe Mad saw the writing on the wall when he left the studio last year.
There is hope, slim though it might be. Platinum Games has expressed some interest in the Darksiders IP, and while it certainly would be cool to see what they would do with it, it's not the loss of the IP I'm mourning so much as the loss of the studio that created it. There's also an off-chance some company or publisher could swoop in at the last moment to buy Vigil, but truth be told, I don't see it happening. And that really is a crying shame.
Farewell, Vigil. You went before your time.