Darkside Games was the independent development studio tasked with rebooting cult Xbox hit Phantom Dust. The operative word here is “was,” because as of Tuesday, the studio has shut down. The closing has put fifty developers out of jobs, and the reason behind the shut down was news of Microsoft cancelling their version of the game. Strangely, Microsoft says they are still going to work on the Xbox one reboot, though who will be doing it and what they plan to do with all the work Darkside has done is yet to be said.
If you had not heard of Phantom Dust before the reboot announcement last year, I can hardly blame you. The original was an obscure Xbox (original) exclusive that barely made it to American shores. The game was about a bunch of psychics in a world full of dust that seems to drain your memory. There was a neat, real-time card-based combat system and a fun versus mode, and though it never saw much marketing attention, it easily became a cult hit. Darkside Games had been tasked with making the reboot. They were an independent studio in Florida who had previously done contract work for other titles like Borderlands and Sunset Overdrive.
Regarding the closure, Microsoft stated:
“Microsoft partnered with Darkside Game Studios in the development of ‘Phantom Dust,’ but our working relationship has now ended. We have great respect for their studio and their work in the industry. While we do not have anything new to share on ‘Phantom Dust’ at this time, we can confirm that development of the title continues. We look forward to sharing more details on the game as we get closer to release.” — Microsoft
An anonymous member of Darkside, however, paints a bit of a different picture. “The executives who saw it were impressed and as late as [Tuesday] morning gave our team every indication that the project was on solid ground. Yet we got the phone call [Tuesday] that someone up on high who in all likelihood wasn’t even aware of the game in detail shut it down.” Being their first solo project, the sudden ending of the project forced the head of the studio to let all of its roughly fifty members go.