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Piranha Bytes veterans establish indie developer Pithead Studio

The news comes amid rumours that Embracer has shuttered the Gothic and Risen maker.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

July 8, 2024

1 Min Read
The Pithead logo
Image via Pithead Studio

Piranha Bytes veterans Jennifer Pankratz and Bjorn Pankratz have left the Embracer-owned Risen developer to establish Pithead Studio.

The news comes after a report from CD-Action indicated that Piranha Bytes has been shut down by Embracer. Those rumblings haven't been confirmed by the studio or its parent company, but come months after Piranha Bytes admitted to being in a "difficult situation."

In January, the German studio indicated it was in trouble with Embracer looking to cut jobs, torch projects, and divest assets in a bid to reduce debt after an era of free-wheeling mergers and acquisitions.

At the time, it was reported the studio was in danger of being shuttered, but despite acknowledging the situation Piranha Bytes also seemed defiant. "There are a lot of news [stories] about us circulating right now and this is our answer: Don't write us off yet," it wrote on X.

Game Developer has reached out to Embracer for more information, but it's evident that key talent has departed Piranha Bytes.

Between them, both Jennifer and Bjorn Pankratz spent almost four decades at the Gothic and Elex developer, with the former joining in 2008 and the latter in 1999.

Bjorn Pankratz served as creative director, game designer, sound designer, composer, and head of story during that time, while Jennifer worked as a story and game designer.

With Pithead, the pair hope to "develop immersive and fantastic indie games." In a video announcement shared on YouTube (with English subtitles), they explained they wanted to keep doing what they love and that opening an indie studio "seemed like the best way to do it."

They didn't directly address the situation at Piranha Bytes but thanked their community for showing solidarity and support as rumors swirled.

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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