I’ve been procrastinating on buying Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, mostly because since giving birth I just don’t really have the time to pour hundreds of hours into video games any more. I’m only halfway through Mass Effect 3, and the 200-odd hours I’ve spent with Skyrim mostly consist of the game on pause while I change another nappy. Still, I did (and still do) plan to play it through at some point, which makes me very sad to hear about the reported closure of studio Big Huge Games.
According to Kotaku, it’s not just Big Huge Games, but the whole of 38 Studios that is closing down. Apparently, staff have not been paid since 30th April. That’s the side of it that’s heartbreaking – the human cost, if you will. I don’t know how game developers compare to other industries in the US in this regard, but the manner of it seems particularly brutal.
Fans on Kotaku and its ilk are already casting around for someone to blame, but the reasons behind such sad moment are numerous and complex. You can blame management, you can blame piracy or unrealistic revenue expectations from investors, but ultimately it’s just another visible symptom of the global economic malaise. People don’t have as much money to spend on video games so they don’t buy enough to keep everyone in business. I don’t know what the casualty rate is for game studios these days, but I bet it’s high, and now games are being made with movie budgets, the stakes are ever higher: even a hit can falter if you’ve spent enough making it. Kotaku reports that KOA needed to sell three million copies just to break even.
Much sympathy, as always, to the staffers involved in this. It’s little consolation to them now, but at least the “you’re only as good as your last movie” adage could work in their favour: it’s a game everyone’s heard of and most people liked, which should make them popular with other studios. Here’s hoping that the employees – and the IP – find a new home quickly where they’re appreciated and well funded.