Goodbye Zachtronics, Developers Of Very Cool Puzzle Video Games

Goodbye Zachtronics, Developers Of Very Cool Puzzle Video Games

On July 5, Zachtronics will release Last Call BBS, a collection of stylish little puzzle games wrapped in a retro PC gaming vibe. After 11 years in business (and even more outside of commercial releases), a period that has seen the studio develop a cult following almost unmatched in indie gaming, this will be the last new game Zachtronics will ever release.

Named after founder Zach Barth, Zachtronics has spent most of those 11 years specializing in puzzle games (or variations on the theme). And just about every one of them has been great (or at least interesting). Browse our own archives for Zachtronics games and you will find:

Despite this repeated excellence and a deeply loyal fan base, Zachtronics never became what we would even call in this passionate space a household name. Which is fine, and even by design. Barth, Matthew Burns and their small team (usually about five people in total, depending on the size of the project), were just very good at doing what they loved, no matter how popular it was, and so continued i do.

The result was a succession of games that may not have been to everyone’s taste, but for those who resonated with it, it was their shit. It’s not hard to see why: most of Zachtronics’ games involved challenging puzzles, but also a deeply cool and interesting presentation that surrounded them, whether it’s the grimy hacker aesthetics of Exapunks or Mobius Front 83 type Advance Wars. differences, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes a game a Zachtronics joint so clear, but like love and art, when you see it, you know it.

So it’s sad, but also awesome in its own way, that 2022 will see the end of Zachtronics. Not because their publisher shut them down, or because their VC funding ran out, or because Activision got them to work on Call of Duty, or for any other number of reasons (bankruptcy! scandal!) game developers usually shut down.

No, Zachtronics is closing because… they want to.

“We’re wrapping things up!” Barth tells me, with much more enthusiasm than you’d normally expect under the circumstances. “Zachtronics will release Last Call BBS next month. We’re also working on a long-awaited collection of solitaires that we hope to release by the end of the year. After that, the team will split up. We all have different ideas, interests, risk tolerances, etc., so we’re still figuring out what we want to do next.

I ask him how it feels to be in such a privileged position, where they can make that decision on their own terms, and Barth says “It feels good, to be honest!”. Pointing out that knowing when to quit is its own kind of skill, something the team already has some experience with, he tells me, “We actually shut down Zachtronics once before, in 2015, when I went to work at Valve for what ended up being 10 months. It gave us the opportunity to cash in some of our capital, re-engage with the rest of the gaming industry, and rebuild from the ground up.

“I’m not saying the same thing is going to happen here, because we’re really closing Zachtronics, but when you deliberately make those decisions for yourself, instead of letting circumstances dictate them, it’s easier to get the results you want in the long run.”

But why? Why now, why like this? “We felt it was time for a change. It may sound weird, but even though we’ve become very good at making “Zachtronics games” over the past twelve years, it’s been hard for us to do anything else. We were lucky enough to carve out a special niche for ourselves, and I’m grateful that we were able to occupy it and survive it, but it also allowed us to do something that we didn’t want to do forever. .

The studio’s latest game, the aptly titled Last Call BBS, was recently announced, but if you had scanned the reaction to its first trailer online, you would have seen that in addition to the usual excitement, there was also a lot of sadness, something the team was in the rare position of being able to acknowledge before it closed.

“Since we announced Last Call BBS as our final game, I’ve received countless emails from fans thanking us for the games we’ve made,” Barth says. “A lot of them cite games as one of the reasons they became professional programmers or engineers. It’s hard to say anything in return other than ‘thank you’, but that’s really it. what I mean. A game without someone to play it isn’t really a game, and it’s only because of our players that our games have a meaning and a life of their own. We all enjoy really that!

With the decision made and announced, so what comes next? For Barth, he hopes to work on something else, while other members of the team are also looking to try their hand at new challenges. “My original plan was to wrap things up at Zachtronics and then find a new job teaching high school computer science, but the timing just wasn’t right,” he says. “I just finished my first year of teaching and Last Call BBS hasn’t even come out yet! I was hoping that I would really like to teach and stick with it for a few years, but I’ve learned that’s definitely not the case and I find it hard to imagine anything other than games in my future, under a form or another. ”

“What we do next as individuals or collaborators is something we’re discussing very actively at the moment. I’m particularly interested in freelancing and weird side projects, while other team members are drawn by the idea of ​​a steady job with more growth potential than a small indie studio making what is essentially the same game every year.

Last Call BBS will be released on July 5 on Steam, and will be the studio’s latest new game. You can check out its very cool trailer below. Their official final version, however, will be a bundle bringing together their different Solitaire games in a single packand as mentioned above, it will be released later this year.

Last Call BBS, by Zachtronics


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