Immortals of Aveum released in August 2023 as a fairly solid action game that combined magic with the first-person shooter genre, for a mix of unique gunplay, and character-driven storytelling. In the GamesHub review, we awarded it four stars, and praised its approach to combat and blockbuster excess. Other reviews had fainter praise, but it was still regarded as a fine game, and a solid debut for Ascendant Studios. Unfortunately, it released during one of the biggest and busiest periods for video games yet, and was swiftly outstripped and outsold by the competition.
Speaking to Windows Central, Immortals of Aveum game director and Ascendant Studios CEO Bret Robbins has discussed the game’s lack of success, the nature of the modern games industry, and why he was forced to initiate layoffs following Immortals‘ launch.
Per Robbins, it’s been a difficult time for Ascendant Studios, largely due to tough competition in the games industry, and the inherent risk of launching a new, untested IP. While Robbins knew the game was entering a crowded month for the games industry, dominated by titles like Armored Core 6 and Starfield, as well as the smash-hit success of Baldur’s Gate 3, he noted the studio was “not in a position” to delay or push back the game.
“You set those windows quite a bit ahead of time because you’re spending marketing dollars, you have commitments to a particular date,” he told Windows Central. “I’ve never seen a year like this. It’s always hard to break through the noise when you’re a new IP or a studio people haven’t heard of before. Trying to create awareness for us was really, really difficult. It’s always hard for a new IP and this year made it 10 times harder.”
While Ascendant Studios was confident in its ideas, competition and timing meant Immortals largely flew under the radar. On launch, it reportedly sold poorly, and was quickly swamped by a second wave of new releases, including major sequels like Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and Alan Wake 2. As Robbins makes clear, the games industry is still a business – and the reality for the studio was that low sales meant fewer resources to support and maintain its staff.
In mid-September 2023, Ascendant Studios announced it would lay off 45% of its workforce.
“The layoffs really sucked. There’s no two ways around that,” Robbins said. “We are not a big corporation. Our business relies on selling games, and we didn’t sell enough games. And that forced me to make that decision, which, it was really unfortunate. These are people I worked closely with, people that put their heart and soul into the game. You never, ever want to have to do that.”
Now, Ascendant Studios is looking for ways to build itself back up, and to invite more people to experience Immortals of Aveum, and its twist on classic FPS combat. To that end, the team is currently working alongside Xbox and PlayStation in the hopes of bringing the game to subscription services, providing a lower barrier to entry for new players.
At this stage, nothing is set in stone – but Robbins remains enthusiastic about the future of Immortals of Aveum and Ascendant Studios, now backed by the knowledge and experience of very hard lessons. “I will say that Ascendant is working on a new project that I’m very excited about,” he told Windows Central. “There’s a lot of possibilities about what we may or may not be doing in the future.”