At last year's Game Awards, Warframe maker Digital Extremes revealed that it was publishing Wayfinder, an online action game from Airship Syndicate which released in early access this August. Today, PC Gamer has learned that Digital Extremes is now closing its publishing wing and handing control of Wayfinder over to Airship Syndicate.
"We can confirm we have made the difficult decision to cease operations of our external projects division," a Digital Extremes rep told PC Gamer in an email today. "We have had to say goodbye to a number of hardworking and highly valuable team members as a result and we're working with Airship to transition full control of Wayfinder to them in the coming months."
Digital Extremes declined to elaborate on the specific number of layoffs.
The studio was relatively new to publishing (it also published failed Human Head roguelike Survived By in 2018), but is an accomplished game developer with a 30-year history. It found its greatest success in online action game Warframe, which for many years now has held its own among heavy-hitting competitors like Destiny 2. The studio is also working on a new game, Soulframe.
Airship Syndicate is a well-liked developer that has historically relied on publishing partnerships like the one it had with Digital Extremes. It also developed League of Legends spin-off Ruined King under Riot's licensing supervision, and has worked with THQ Nordic.
Wayfinder has only been out in early access for a few months, and Digital Extremes didn't say whether the action MMO's performance directly led to the decision to end its publishing ambitions. The $20 early access game has "Mixed" reviews on Steam, but quite a few of them: over 15,000 total. It's also available on PlayStation consoles.
Wayfinder's average concurrent player count for the past 30 days is around 477, according to Steam Charts, so it's not a phenomenon at this point, but that's not necessarily a dire situation. We've seen lots of games grow in popularity throughout early access, or after their full release. We liked a beta version of Wayfinder that we played near the start of this year, though the early access launch suffered from server problems.
Digital Extremes saw another big structural change just last month when founder James Schmalz stepped down as CEO. The studio's chief creative officer, Steve Sinclair, took over CEO duties, and Schmalz remains on the company's board of directors to provide "insight and guidance," according to Digital Extremes.
Given the comment from Digital Extremes that it will transfer control of Wayfinder to Airship Syndicate, I'm assuming the game will continue to operate. I've reached out to Airship but haven't heard back yet—I'll update this article if I learn more about what's next for that studio, or the Digital Extremes layoffs.