Despite decent reviews, the 2023 shooter Immortals Of Aveum was an $85m sales disappointment. A new report places it into a broader industry context.
Pre-launch, things looked reasonably promising for Immortals Of Aveum, a novel-sounding first-person shooter which replaced guns and grenades with ballistic magic spells. Developed by Ascendant Studios – which comprised a number of veterans from the likes of Telltale and Sledgehammer – the game had real pedigree behind it, and its Unreal Engine 5-powered action looked impressively slick.
Immortals Of Aveum had the misfortune of coming out in a summer 2023 packed with big-name rivals, however, not least Bethesda’s eagerly-awaited sci-fi behemoth, Starfield. Even with some decent reviews behind it – not to mention an expensive marketing campaign bankrolled up by publisher EA – the shooter’s sales failed to meet expectations. Within weeks, around half of Ascendant’s staff had lost their jobs, with Immortals Of Aveum's slow sales cited as the catalyst.
A new report written by Rebekah Valentine at IGN, meanwhile, provides an inside perspective on what happened behind the scenes on that game, and places it in the wider context of an industry beset by layoffs and even studio closures over the past year.
According to an anonymous former staff member at Ascendant, Immortals Of Aveum’s budget was a startling $85m – which is a particularly high sum given that the game was an original property made by a new studio. EA’s marketing spend was also high – a reported $40m – which, inevitably, meant the game had to sell in greater numbers just to break even.
“At a high level, Immortals was massively overscoped for a studio’s debut project,” the 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.”
The game’s investors, it seemed, were dazzled by the talent at the studio, and eagerly pumped money into a game that project that may have benefited from being reigned in and treated more like a mid-budget single-A release rather than something that could compete with the likes of Starfield, Baldur’s Gate 3 and, to a lesser extent, Armored Core IV – all successful titles that launched around the same time as Immortals Of Aveum.
More broadly, IGN’s report depicts an increasingly competitive, volatile games industry in which development costs are soaring. And, as nervy investors begin to place their money elsewhere, studios are desperately cutting costs (and staff) in order to balance the books.
A report published in January predicted that the mass layoffs we saw in 2023 will only continue to escalate this year, with one industry insider suggesting that the turmoil could last into 2025. As one developer told IGN in its excellent report, “I’ve been in the industry for 15 years and I’ve never seen it this bad. Everyone is scared and waiting to see if their studio is going to be next.”