What It's Like To Watch Your Game Studio Financially Fall Apart

Illustration for article titled What Its Like To Watch Your Game Studio Financially Fall Apart

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Illustration for article titled What Its Like To Watch Your Game Studio Financially Fall Apart

It’s never been easier to publish a game, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to run a successful company. Arcen has been making strategy games for years now, and while they haven’t been breakout hits, they’ve been enough to let the studio keep making new games. That’s in danger of no longer being true, as Park outlines how creative stumbles and a mediocre launch are spelling doom for the company’s future. It’s a sobering and honest portrait of a studio in crisis, and while Arcen isn’t about to close their doors yet, it’s not looking good right now.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

To some of them it’s just a disappointment. To others it’s the loss of a dream job. For two of them, this disruption comes at a time when they have new babies on the way. For Pablo, he’s a new dad as of less than two months ago (his paternity leave is why there isn’t more music in the Starward Rogue track list, but he is adding more since returning to work). On the flip side, and what I have to remind myself: nobody is dying, and most of them have spouses that either can or do work; and/or they have other job prospects beyond just Arcen.

But still. These people are my friends, my colleagues, and people whose livelihoods are my responsibility. I have made all the choices I have in good faith, and usually in lengthy consultation with the rest of them. But there’s been a lot of trust that they put in me that I knew what the hell I was doing.

It just so happens that I may not know what the hell I am doing. Either I never understood the market as well as I thought I did, or the market changed while we had our heads in the sand developing SBR, or both. Whatever the case, it’s something I deeply regret. The fact that they are all being so nice and understanding with me makes it all the worse, honestly.

Illustration for article titled What Its Like To Watch Your Game Studio Financially Fall Apart
Illustration for article titled What Its Like To Watch Your Game Studio Financially Fall Apart

Image Credit: The Guardian

Everything about this is terribly upsetting. Even when I knew where the story it was going, I wanted to bury my head in my hands, and hope there was a twist that would send it in another direction. In short, a child came to worship someone they met online through a game, which lead to a fatal encounter. Really, you should read the story. It’s admirable Lorin LaFave had the courage to step forward and say what happened, hoping it might help another parent.


God damn. Anyway, here’s an excerpt from the piece:

“I’d ask why he wasn’t out with friends on a Friday night and he’d say he was too tired. My fear was that he was some 40-year-old paedophile sitting in his underpants.”

As the months passed, Dayne’s presence loomed larger. “I’d get a lot of ‘Lewis says …’,” Lorin says. “‘Lewis says I don’t need to finish school as he can get me a Microsoft apprenticeship when I turn 16.’ ‘Lewis says as I don’t drink or smoke and do well in school, I should be allowed to game as long as I want …’”

It became harder to get Breck offline, to do his homework or his chores. (“Lewis says I shouldn’t have to do chores as it’s the triplets who make the mess.”) When Lorin walked into Breck’s room, Daynes now sent images of wicked witches or goose-stepping Hitlers on screen. “I’d be telling Breck to get offline and he’d literally have Dayne’s voice in his earphones telling him not to listen. I could see Breck’s face, torn between me or his cool mentor who had the whole world going for him.”


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Oh, And This Other Stuff

  • Deanna Van Buren explained the work she contributed to The Witness as an architect. (If you’ve played the game, you can tell how much it paid off.)
  • Todd Van Luling investigated the longstanding myth that Michael Jackson contributed music to Sonic the Hedgehog 3. The story is unbelievable.
  • Sean Phipps interviewed the man behind the infamous ASCII Matrix torrent.
  • Wes Cherry, who created Solitaire for Windows, shared some inside stories about making one of the most popular video games of all-time.
  • Cameron Kunzelman waxed nostalgic about Left 4 Dead 2, pointing out the design lessons that still resonate, seven years after its release.
  • Thomas Rivas profiled actors who’ve found new life in voicing video games.
  • Wes Fenlon figured out why Final Fantasy VI on PC, notoriously derided as a horrible version of a classic JRPG, is secretly great for modders.

Contact the author at patrick.klepek@kotaku.com.

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This is the Great Game Collapse of 1983 all over again, except more granulated.

I know others have said it, but TOO MANY VIDEO GAMES ARE BEING MADE.

It doesn’t matter if your game is unbelievable- if you don’t have an insane marketing budget or insane luck, your indie release on Steam is going to get lost in the other 9 million games available.

It’s like writing today- I could be the most gifted wordsmith alive and craft a staggering novel of life-changing genius*, but unless I have a major publishing house on my side, willing to spend time, effort, and more importantly, a ton of money promoting my book, my chances of success are laughable. There’s 50 million other hopeful authors out there, all pecking away at their self-published Great American Novels.

I feel for Arcen, the same as I feel for anyone who produces a labor of love, only to see it fail. But the fact remains that until we stop making so many games, even the fantastic ones will fall by the wayside.