Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed

An article on CD-Action has an unconfirmed report (in Polish) that developer Piranha Bytes shut down at the end of June (thanks NeoGAF via Jim). This appears to be based on a paywalled GameStar article from last week (in German). The rumor is attributed to an employee of the company, and a machine translation of the post suggests this will not be officially announced: "The current CEO of Piranha Bytes, Michael Rueve, has not yet commented on the fate of the company, but according to our information, the studio will most likely not release any official statements, allowing itself to depart peacefully and quietly." A separate post (also in Polish) points to a post on GameStar (also paywalled, also German) announcing Björn Pankratz and Jenny Pankratz are no longer part of Piranha Bytes, where they worked on the Gothic, Risen, and Elex series. It says the couple has formed a new developer called Pithead Studio:
The Gothic chapter is over, there will be no Elex 3 with them: Björn Pankratz and Jennifer Pankratz have started their own business after leaving the apparently closed role-playing game developer Piranha Bytes.

Their new company is called Pithead Studio and there are already initial plans for future games. Important for fans of Elex, Risen and Gothic, in which the two played a leading role as game designers and story writers: The new projects will also contain role-playing elements.
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16.
 
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed
Jul 8, 2024, 17:42
16.
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed Jul 8, 2024, 17:42
Jul 8, 2024, 17:42
 
Sad to see another old and storied developer get forcibly closed. I'll always remember the fun times I had playing their early games.
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15.
 
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed
Jul 8, 2024, 17:36
15.
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed Jul 8, 2024, 17:36
Jul 8, 2024, 17:36
 
Kxmode wrote on Jul 8, 2024, 17:02:
This is unfortunate news. I'm a big fan of all their games, including the Elex series. The good news is THQ Nordic has co-ownership of most of Piranha Bytes' games.

There is no "co-ownership". Embracer/THQ Nordic acquired Piranha Bytes lock, stock and barrel in 2019, including the Piranha Bytes brand, the Gothic, Risen and ELEX brands/IPs, heck, they even bought the frickin' house that PB owned and worked out of in Essen, Germany, and the furniture... everything are belong to Embracer .
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Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed
Jul 8, 2024, 17:02
Kxmode
 
14.
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed Jul 8, 2024, 17:02
Jul 8, 2024, 17:02
 Kxmode
 
This is unfortunate news. I'm a big fan of all their games, including the Elex series. The good news is THQ Nordic has co-ownership of most of Piranha Bytes' games.
"Listen, Peter... with great horsepower comes... the sickest drifts..." - source
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13.
 
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed
Jul 8, 2024, 16:26
13.
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed Jul 8, 2024, 16:26
Jul 8, 2024, 16:26
 
WaltSee wrote on Jul 8, 2024, 15:33:
RogueSix wrote on Jul 8, 2024, 12:21:

The remake is not made by Piranha Bytes but by Alkimia (a THQ Nordic/Embracer studio located in Barcelona). Piranha Bytes had no interest in working on Gothic. They wanted to continue the ELEX franchise and were working on ELEX III before they got the boot by Embracer.

Well, that's good to know...I'm kind of looking forward to the remake, but it's been "coming soon" so long at Gog that I wonder if it's still a thing. I knew THQ was involved, but Embracer's fate still seems a bit questionable.

Well, first of all, Embracer and THQ is the same thing basically. The sole reason that Embracer is called Embracer is because THQ Nordic AB (Sweden) was tired of being confused with their subsidiary THQ Nordic GmbH in Wien (Vienna). That is why THQ Nordic AB (Sweden) renamed itself to Embracer Group while THQ Nordic GmbH Wien (Vienna) kept its name.

Otherwise, Embracer is doing great again after their restructuring and after divesting major assets such as Gearbox. They managed to repay a larger chunk of debt which is going to allow them more financial flexibility and IIRC their last forecast was €400 million profit for the fiscal year which isn't too shabby.

Embracer have never made a secret of who they cut loose. There was an open letter by their CEO and he said that they will primarily be getting rid of studios that are in the early stages of development with low chances of a ROI.

That was pretty much the exact definition of Piranha Bytes. They were in early development of ELEX III and ELEX II had just come out and flopped. The likelihood of a commercially successful ELEX III was effectively zilch. The only lifeline for PB appeared to be the €3.2 million funding grant by the German government. However, these €3.2 million are still only ~25% of the entire budget so someone else needed to come up with the other €~10 million and Embracer decided to go with a 'nope'.

According to a credible German source (with insider contacts just as Polish CD Action claims in this story here) and undisputed by PB to this day, Embracer approached Piranha Bytes about a studio closure in November 2023 which resulted in the immediate departure of Björn and Jennifer Pankratz.
The immediate departure was caused by an internal clash because the younger team members supposedly accused Mr. and Mrs. Pankratz of poor creative direction with regard to ELEX. A substantial part of the team would have preferred to return to the Gothic franchise but Björn and Jenny wanted to stick with their -literally as they called it as such many times- "baby" ELEX.

So, Björn and Jenny jumped ship immediately and the rest of the team received their pink slips in December. In Germany, the termination of a contract depends on how long you have been with a company. PB had a lot of long term team members who had up to a seven month deadline, i.e. some contracts only expired now, in June.

Embracer also made them a pretty fair offer. They said that if PB would find a new publisher or new funding then Embracer would let them go plus add the ELEX franchise as a departing gift on top of it. German fans were hopeful because of the €3.2 million government grant that some publisher or investor would bite given these circumstances but, alas, here we are with a confirmed lights out situation.
As I said, the writing was on the wall as several key long term team members joined other studios like Keen (Enshrouded) or PLAYERUNKNOWN (PUBG) in the meantime and many were openly looking for work via LinkedIn.

It remains unclear what will become of the Currywurst (this is the government funded project which was going to be ELEX III). The money was granted to the now defunct Piranha Bytes GmbH. Björn and Jenny Pankratz can not just grab it and use it for their Pithead Studio project. It is also unknown how much of that €3.2 million grant has actually been consumed/spent. It's probably all a bust...

P.S.: Yes, the remake is very much still a thing. Alkimia started over from scratch after that playable teaser years ago. It is taking so long because they are working on a rather faithful remake, instead of using more creative liberties, as originally planned. The Gothic remake will be a headliner of the THQ Nordic showcase in August (August 2nd), and later that same month, there will be a playable hands-on on-site demo for the fans at Gamescom (starting August 21st). There is going to be quite a lot of coverage next month.

This comment was edited on Jul 8, 2024, 16:42.
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12.
 
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed
Jul 8, 2024, 16:26
12.
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed Jul 8, 2024, 16:26
Jul 8, 2024, 16:26
 
I knew Piranha Games but not Piranha Bytes.
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11.
 
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed
Jul 8, 2024, 15:58
11.
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed Jul 8, 2024, 15:58
Jul 8, 2024, 15:58
 
Loved all their games -except contrived Risen 2-, playing them regularly/various times.

Going to miss very much Elex 3 and the developing story now cut short.
(Hacked Risen 1 & 3 and Elex I & II to have infinite levitate, parrot spell, jetpack, and whatnot, making the games much more dynamic and joyful experiences for me).


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10.
 
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed
Jul 8, 2024, 15:33
10.
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed Jul 8, 2024, 15:33
Jul 8, 2024, 15:33
 
RogueSix wrote on Jul 8, 2024, 12:21:

The remake is not made by Piranha Bytes but by Alkimia (a THQ Nordic/Embracer studio located in Barcelona). Piranha Bytes had no interest in working on Gothic. They wanted to continue the ELEX franchise and were working on ELEX III before they got the boot by Embracer.

Well, that's good to know...I'm kind of looking forward to the remake, but it's been "coming soon" so long at Gog that I wonder if it's still a thing. I knew THQ was involved, but Embracer's fate still seems a bit questionable.
It is well known that I cannot err--and so, if you should happen across an error in anything I have written you can be absolutely sure that *I* did not write it!...;)
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9.
 
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed
Jul 8, 2024, 15:14
9.
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed Jul 8, 2024, 15:14
Jul 8, 2024, 15:14
 
I loved the first Gothic game, so I'm hoping that Alkimia Interactive is still moving forward with the remake. I tried ELEX II and it was fun for a while, then got tedious and boring, so I never finished it
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Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed
Jul 8, 2024, 14:42
Jim
8.
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed Jul 8, 2024, 14:42
Jul 8, 2024, 14:42
Jim
 
Gothic was just a great experience. since I played gothic 3 first it was my favorite. Risen was ok.
Afterwards it seemed like they were chasing trends. Add guns and Voodoo to Risen 2.
Then Elex. Guns, mechs, jetpacks. I enjoyed it despite the jank.
Anyway I hope the actual gothic series continues after the remake.
7.
 
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed
Jul 8, 2024, 14:07
7.
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed Jul 8, 2024, 14:07
Jul 8, 2024, 14:07
 
El Pit wrote on Jul 8, 2024, 13:30:
Thanks for Gothic 1 & 2 and Risen 1. The rest was between alright and just not good.

I really loved Risen 3! It was uncharacteristically polished for a game of theirs. I believed Elex to be a downgrade in basically every way compared to Risen 3.
Where are the adults?
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6.
 
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed
Jul 8, 2024, 13:30
El Pit
 
6.
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed Jul 8, 2024, 13:30
Jul 8, 2024, 13:30
 El Pit
 
Thanks for Gothic 1 & 2 and Risen 1. The rest was between alright and just not good.
"There is no right life in the wrong one." (Theodor W. Adorno, philosopher)
"Only a Sith deals in absolutes." (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi)
Founder, president, and only member of the official "Grumpy Old Gamers Club". Please do not apply.
5.
 
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed
Jul 8, 2024, 13:11
5.
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed Jul 8, 2024, 13:11
Jul 8, 2024, 13:11
 
Heart-breaking. Gothic was such an amazing experience. I got my hands on it when it was only available in Germany at the time. An online buddy sent it to me; someone I knew from a very close community on the RebelAct forum for Severance: Blade of Darkness. I even played it in German, there was no other choice. What a fucking relic...

To this day, no other games come close to their version of RPG. Your character's progression was in the form of promotions in the faction of your choice and the new armor that came with it. Your combat progression wasn't just more DPS, but the actual combat stance and animations improved.

I've returned to gaming only a few months ago. This news is a kick in the balls 😭
Where are the adults?
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4.
 
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed
Jul 8, 2024, 12:40
Prez
 
4.
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed Jul 8, 2024, 12:40
Jul 8, 2024, 12:40
 Prez
 
I have played and loved more than just a few games that they created. This is horribly sad but not at all unexpected; they have never ventured far out of the mid-tier game development. The fact that they lasted as long as they did into an era of gaming that has relied more and more heavily on huge and established properties that are heavily monetized is the only surprise to me. It would have been wonderful if they had found a way to continuing on, but it was also highly unlikely. I'm at least curious to see what direction the new company goes in.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
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3.
 
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed
Jul 8, 2024, 12:21
3.
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed Jul 8, 2024, 12:21
Jul 8, 2024, 12:21
 
Bill Borre wrote on Jul 8, 2024, 12:18:
That's disappointing. I was looking forward to the Gothic remake.

The remake is not made by Piranha Bytes but by Alkimia (a THQ Nordic/Embracer studio located in Barcelona). Piranha Bytes had no interest in working on Gothic. They wanted to continue the ELEX franchise and were working on ELEX III before they got the boot by Embracer.
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2.
 
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed
Jul 8, 2024, 12:18
2.
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed Jul 8, 2024, 12:18
Jul 8, 2024, 12:18
 
That's disappointing. I was looking forward to the Gothic remake.
1.
 
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed
Jul 8, 2024, 12:17
1.
Re: Piranha Bytes Reportedly Closed Jul 8, 2024, 12:17
Jul 8, 2024, 12:17
 
The writing was on the walll for months. Many key team members had already left the company for greener pastures according to their LinkedIn profiles or they were openly looking for work. The Pankratz folks already left in November of last year. They were the first rats to leave the sinking ship. Many others followed over the last few months. It was already clear that there was no hope for the studio (at least not in its former form).

Personally, I will always miss the PB that made Gothic, Gothic 2 Gold and Risen but, to me, it's only been various degrees of downhill since then. Risen 2, Risen 3, ELEX, ELEX II were all just different flavors of plain mediocrity or outright poop.

As someone who is fluent in German and has watched many videos with Björn and Jenny Pankratz, I can not say that I have much hope for their new company (Pithead Studio). If they ever produce anything even slightly above average then it will be a huge surprise.
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