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Embracer Shuts Down Saints Row Studio Volition After 30 Years

Volition, the studio behind Red Faction, Saints Row, and countless other games, is closing its doors after 30 years. The decision was made by parent company Embracer after the sprawling conglomerate announced cuts earlier this year following the loss of $2 billion in funding that was reportedly supposed to come from the controversial Saudi Arabia Public Invesetment Fund.

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“This past June, Embracer Group announced a restructuring program to strength Embracer and maintain its position as a leader in the video game industry,” Volition announced on August 31 in a statement on LinkedIn. “As part of that program, they evaluated strategic and operational goals and made the difficult decidion to close Volition effective immediately.”

The news was coincidentally shared shortly after reviews for Bethesda’s spacefaring RPG Starfield went live, and Embracer declined to comment to Kotaku on why the decision was made or how many developers will be laid off as a result. “Naturally, It is a challenging time for everyone impacted and we are working with those team members with compassion, respect, and integrity,” a spokesperson for Embracer wrote in an email.

Volition began its journey in 1993 as Parallax Software with the sci-fi first-person shooter Descent. The company was renamed after a split in 1996, and went on to survive the collapse of publisher THQ in 2012 before eventually becoming part of Koch Media (now Plaion), itself later purchased by Nordic Games (now Embracer). Over three decades it created the space combat sim FreeSpace, the shooter series Red Faction, the fantasy RPG Summoner, and the hit open-world parody of Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row.

A reboot of the Saints Row series that released last year was its most recent game. It launched with lots of bugs and received mixed reviews, and reportedly didn’t meet sales expectations despite continual updates and plenty of fans. It was one of a number of big blockbusters whose less-than-stellar reception forced Embracer to begin slashing projects and development teams across its massive organization after years of snatching up studios in an unprecedented third-party acquisition spree.

The publisher’s financial health took a particularly hard hit early this year when CEO Lars Wingefors revealed that a $2 billion deal the company had planned on suddenly fell through at the last minute. Axios later reported that the partner in question was Savvy Games Group, the gaming investment vehicle for the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund. The fund had already invested $1 billion in Embracer, and maintains investments in Electronic Arts, Nintendo, and many other large gaming companies while also being criticized for the country’s terrible track record on human rights abuses.

“The Volition team has proudly created world-class entertainment for fans around the globe for 30 years,” the studio wrote in its announcement today. “We’ve been driven by a passion for our community and always worked to deliver joy, surprise, and delight.” Embracer said it’s trying to provide job assistance for those affected to “smooth the transition.” Franchises like Saints Row and Red Faction stay owned by Plaion, the company confirmed.

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