Wayfinder – A Crazy Journey

How did one of the most anticipated games of 2023 manage to have barely 100 people playing on Steam? What were the reasons for their publisher dropping them in cold water? Could we be looking forward to one of the most incredible turn-around stories since No Man Sky?

If you’d like more information about the state of the game on release, check out this article about our 2023 Gamescom Wayfinder experience.

The Hype!

Wayfinder was a match made in heaven for me. As a huge fan of Vigil Studios and, by extension, Airship Syndicate as the evolution, I was really excited about the project. The studio that created Darksiders, The Ruined King, and Battle Chasers was flexing its creative muscles once more!

Digital Extremes, renowned Warframe creators, would launch their publicity department with Wayfinder as their maiden game and would be involved in supporting the project as a live service model no matter the difficulties. 

“A match made in heaven!” was a phrase I read in an article when the hype for the game was at its peak, and honestly, being the usual naive idiot that I am, I was starting to believe that.

The end of summer was approaching, and an opportunity appeared.

I actually got the chance to try the game at the 2023 Gamescom event in Cologne, and the results were… underwhelming. The game needed polish, and unfortunately, it was for all the wrong reasons. 

The number one reason being that no one could run the damn thing.

The Release…

Constant crashes, lag, slow hit registration, disconnects—the game had more issues than a teenage introvert raised solely by anime, and in my opinion, that was very unfortunate since the game’s bones were really good. 

The game was launched on August 15, 2023, and the aforementioned issues still persisted. Thousands of people trying to log in would only end up looking at the queue that would reach the dozens and then reset them at the end of the line. Even those who could play it for a bit were unable to receive a complete experience since disconnects were more common than Blizzard’s sexual harassment lawsuits. 

The last nail in the coffin was that Digital Extremes was creating and supervising all the live service elements of the game and with their actions only one thing was clear… they wanted to squeeze out of the players as much money as possible. 

Multiple paid editions reached up to 100 EUR for a game that was half-broken and had not released a major content patch yet. 

A shop that could be used to purchase every piece of equipment and all the Wayfinders with real money, as well a Battle pass that offered XP boosts and exclusive currencies.

Drop rates for rare items that were absolutely abysmal and bloated XP bars that needed dozens of hours to be filled.

The offences kept piling up, and people did what they do best when they can’t enjoy a medium: they moved on.

The Betrayal!

The moment Digital Extreme realized what exactly was happening with the project and the fact that players were leaving in droves, they pulled a disappearing act. 

On November 10 2023, Digital Extremes announced that they would be closing their publishing division to focus on their own projects, leaving Wayfinder and Airship Syndicate caught with their pants down and in a very vulnerable position. 

A very important fact about Airship Syndicate was that they had no idea how to develop a live service game. All of their previous works, solid pieces of art if I may add, were linear single-player experiences. So how the hell would they continue developing a game in a genre that they knew nothing about?

At that point, I think that no industry insider watching the situation agreed that Airship Syndicate would continue with the development of a project that even their ex-publisher thought was a stillborn.

But then… things changed.

The Redemption?

On November 8, 2023, Airship Syndicate would start a progressive series of patches for Wayfinder. Their content and changes were insane. 

The start came with a 300% massive boost of XP gain for all Wayfinders across the board, which surprised many. Quality of life improvements were rampant among the patch notes, and player-friendly changes were being implemented left and right. 

It felt as if, the moment Digital Extremes left the building, Airship was allowed to create an experience more in line with what they had been offering with their previous projects. 

Some players came back, but it seemed that the studio was preparing something way bigger than anyone expected.

The Next Phase of Wayfinder

On May 15, 2024, Wayfinder announced its new update called “Echoes” after a long three-month drought in content. 

The Echoes update would completely change the game’s archetype from a free-to-play live service model to a paid peer-to-peer single-player. 

In all essence, Airship Syndicate saw the dealer’s hand… and they decided to go all in instead of folding. It seems like the studio is willing to save the Wayfinder ship or go down with it since the resources required to do something like this should be monumental for the already strained budgets. 

The game will be 25 USD on release, all online microtransactions will be removed, and players who already own it will not have to buy it again. It seems that the studio envisions an experience closer to Remnant 2 from the perspective of content development and wants to return to its roots.

This is a decision that I find brave, if understandably very daring. 

As of May 5 2024, Wayfinder has less than 40 players online.  This number is incredibly small compared to the players that were joining in droves at launch. Nevertheless, it seems like Airship Syndicate is willing to go through with this no matter the consequences.

Wayfinders’ success may ultimately be what makes or breaks one of the most iconic single-player game studios, and no matter your thoughts, the journey this game has been on is interesting in its own right. 

After all… we still haven’t seen the end of this story.

Jason Dimitratos

Posts published: 28

Teacher and a videogame masochist. Will probably be found dead after playing Monster Hunter for 21 consecutive days. Has realized that for creative output, in the absence of passion, vitriol is an entirely viable replacement.