Last week, Wayfinder fans were shaken by the news that another round of layoffs at Digital Extremes was accompanied by the dissolution of the studio’s publishing outfit – and the severing of its publishing partnership with Airship Syndicate. Since then, we’ve fretted alongside players over what would happen to Wayfinder, which Airship vowed to continue to develop.
Airship Syndicate Director of Marketing and Engagement AJ LaSaracina has now kindly answered our questions about the whole ordeal with some specifics, and there’s critical information in here. LaSaracina conveys that Wayfinder’s staff – which didn’t suffer any direct layoffs itself and seems to have been blindsided by Digital Extremes’ internal upheaval – can continue operation for the near future and means to do just that while it hunts for a publisher (apparently, there’s already been interest). But players also need to know that the studio has put the brakes on seasons and F2P plans while it reassesses and revises its roadmap. Read on for the whole interview!
MassivelyOP: It was my understanding – which may be incorrect or outdated – that Digital Extremes was not hurting for money, so why this sudden about-face when it comes to Wayfinder? Is Tencent somehow to blame? Is this really as simple as DE wanting to leave the publishing business? Why is it happening so dang abruptly?
Airship Syndicate Director of Marketing and Engagement AJ LaSaracina: I can’t speak for Digital Extremes or for Tencent. I can say that we began working on the transition plan with DE the second we were informed.
How exactly is Airship going to keep supporting the game – how much funding is it sitting on, how long can it go the way it is now, and is the company looking for a buyer or new publisher? Does DE have any hand in the running or funding of the game now? How about Tencent – might something like Tencent’s Level Infinite pick it up?
Airship right now has enough resources in both staff and funding to run the game for some time. In the meantime we’ll be talking to publishers, including some that have already expressed interest. We are confident that the terms of DE’s divestment make the game and the deal appealing to a potential partner.
Did Airship itself lose anyone, or was it all just DE folks who worked on Wayfinder publishing and infrastructure?
There have been zero layoffs at Airship.
Was the experience boost [last week] calculated with this move in mind, or was it a coincidence?
Publishers set priorities, and 3 weeks ago we went to DE and said that we wanted to switch up our focus. We believe that we needed to fix the fundamental issues with the game before we delivered more content and Founder’s Season 2 (the two content updates that did release, had been done prior to launch). DE approved this pivot.
XP was at the top of that list. Our next focus will be UI, loading, technical performance, drop rates and more. Our number one priority right now is to fortify the base of the game.
It’s important to note that the publisher has control of 1st party accounts, so in our case we are unable to update PlayStation at this time. These weekly patches will be for PC for the time being, and as soon as we’re able to update PlayStation we will. Those players will still be able to play as they normally would, but cross play will be disabled. This is entirely out of our control and we know it’s not what we advertised or envisioned for the game and we’ll update as soon as we’re able to.
Is there any kind of refund plan on deck?
As far as refunds go, that is entirely up to DE as they handle all payments.
Presuming that there’s funding for the game, how have the game’s launch plans altered? What is the prognosis for reviving the game with F2P and getting the player counts back up and into the profitable zone?
The honest and real answer here is that we don’t know. We’re putting a pause on our “season” structure and assessing our calendar. The team here agrees that just racing to F2P isn’t the answer. We are staying true to the vision of Early Access where we work with the community to fix fundamentals as well as implement meaningful changes.
But that doesn’t mean we’re not releasing content. We’ll be addressing the fundamentals mentioned previously while also releasing content along the way. Seasons were our “wrapper” of sorts. It included a new character, a themed Reward Tower, new weapons, new quests, new locations etc. Instead of waiting for a large seasonal drop, we’ll be taking those pieces of content and releasing them alongside the smaller patches + fixes we’re doing at the faster cadence. We’ll also be updating our Roadmap to be much more about what players can expect from the next patch both content wise and fix wise.
I’m really worried for this game. I cannot believe a project with that much money and effort behind it is worth nothing.
The game definitely still has value. Airship is motivated (arguably more than before) to make Wayfinder a success. There is still a lot that we don’t know both about the transition as well as what the future holds but we aren’t slowing down. We’ll be hosting a community stream soon to talk directly to the community as well as give more info once we have it.