Spellbreak, the magic-based battle royale, is spellbroken, shutting down early next year, developer Proletariat announced in a blog post. Also, the whole studio is getting absorbed by Blizzard, the result of an intended acquisition meant to beef up development on World of Warcraft.
News about shutdowns is always a bummer, but this one hits a little harder for me than the rest. Spellbreak isn’t just a refreshingly unique entry in the crowded battle royale, about hurling spells to become the royalest battler. It was also one of those few games that soothed the darkest days of the pandemic.
Spellbreak launched free-to-play in September 2020 for consoles, PC, and Switch—with full, if wonky, crossplay across platforms–making for an easy game to play with friends. Though it was structured as a third-person shooter, you’d fire off spells instead of guns, and could combine them to inventive effect. It freakin’ ruled. Proletariat added a deathmatch-esque mode shortly after the game’s initial release. That freakin’ ruled, too, even if it made some of us (hi) pine for a lengthier, single-player campaign built on the game’s core mechanics.
It’s unclear when exactly the game will close its server in early 2023, or what recompense—if any—the studio will offer to players who spent money on microtransactions. Proletariat did not respond to Kotaku’s request for comment before publication.
Later this year, Blizzard intends to release Dragonflight, a major expansion for World of Warcraft that will, as the title implies, allow you to fly dragons. Proletariat will support World of Warcraft development, according to GamesBeat. (An earlier, since-updated version of GamesBeat’s story said Proletariat had been working on World of Warcraft since May.)
Blizzard’s parent company, Activision Blizzard, has made headlines on a weekly basis over the past year, having been investigated by multiple government agencies over allegations of a deep-seated culture of abuse, discrimination, and harassment. Blizzard itself has been a regular focal point of controversy; last year, a Kotaku report detailed the existence of a so-called “Cosby Suite” at the company’s annual BlizzCon gathering.
“In some of the earliest conversations, we discussed just how they were looking at continuing to improve the culture and continuing to make a great place for developers to work,” Proletariat CEO Seth Sivak told GamesBeat. “That was encouraging. Obviously, there is a lot of work to be done to continue to make an awesome place for developers to work. But we were pretty happy and satisfied with the direction [they’re] going.”
Blizzard, of course, is no stranger to folding studios it acquires. Last year, not long after the 2020 release of a resprayed version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+ 2, Blizzard scrubbed the studio name from Vicarious Visions, and reportedly, those developers are working on other Blizzard games, including Diablo. (The next entry, Diablo IV, is slated for release next year.) According to Tony “Birdman” Hawk himself, prior to the change, Vicarious Visions was working on a similar release for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skaters 3 and 4.
“We are putting players at the forefront of everything we do, and we are working hard to both meet and exceed their expectations,” Blizzard head Mike Ybarra said in a statement to Kotaku. “A critical part of taking care of players is taking care of our teams—making sure we have the resources to produce experiences our communities will love while giving our teams space to explore even more creative opportunities within their projects. Proletariat will be a perfect fit for supporting Blizzard’s mission in bringing high-quality content to our players more often.”
Correction, 4:15 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this story erroneously said Blizzard had already acquired Proletariat. Kotaku regrets the error.