What appeared to be a bad omen has turned into a harsh reality, as Square Enix has confirmed that it shut down Studio Istolia, cancelling its fantasy RPG title Project Prelude Rune in the process.
The reason for Square Enix deciding to make this move is still unclear, only providing this brief statement:
Following evaluation of various aspects of Project Prelude Rune, development of the title has been canceled. Studio Istolia is no longer in operation and we have been taking appropriate steps to assign studio staff to other projects within the Square Enix Group.
Studio Istolia and Project Prelude Rune, led by former Tales of series producer Hideo Baba, were announced back in Feb. 2017, before it was shown for the first time at Sony Interactive Entertainment Japan Asia’s pre-Tokyo Game Show 2018 press conference, where it was confirmed to be an Unreal Engine 4-based PlayStation 4 title.
However, things started to take a turn for the worse earlier this year in April when Baba announced he left Studio Istolia in Dec. 2018 and left Square Enix entirely in March 2019.
Granted, a team lead leaving a studio doesn’t necessarily mean the end for any given title, and Square Enix is known for having this happen during the course of developing major titles, such as Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XV. So while disconcerting, Baba’s departure didn’t raise any immediate red flags.
As it turns out, however, his departure was indeed an indicator of things to come. Not only did the studio’s official Twitter account recently disappear, but its website now leads to the Square Enix Holdings homepage.
This event represents the second high-profile departure and cancellation for Square Enix in the past several months. As you might recall, Luminous Productions, another SE studio designed to develop original IP, lost Hajime Tabata who is now leading his own firm, JP Games.