Mastertronic’s Andy Payne on the publisher’s survival

There’s a quote which goes something along the lines of ‘we learn about geology the morning after the earthquake’, and I must admit it does feel rather apt today.

Since last October we have had to fight tooth and nail to keep Mastertronic alive. We’ve learned loads along the way and, frankly, much of it I wish we did not have to actually learn.

Today, at our high noon, we faced our creditors and learned of our fate. The decision was in their hands and it was that simple. We worked on a plan for the next three years which needed to be credible and realistic and put it to all of them. We laid everything bare. They alone decided if we would be allowed to fight on, with their continued support, or whether we would have the ignominy of administration followed by possible bankruptcy.

It’s been a frantic, intense, emotional and an absolutely exhausting 12 days since I wrote about ‘the toughest year of our lives’, in which I outlined the challenges we have faced recently. A rapidly changing business model and the harsh reality that we carried too much cost with too much reliance on an outdated packaged goods retail offering, was killing us.

As Aneurin Bevan famously said, "We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road, they get run over."

And so we had no choice but to fix our problems and in order to do that we needed to face up to them and admit to them; and that’s exactly what we have done. There’s something pretty primeval about facing these truths and I hope the acid test of battle will actually bring out our pure metal.

I am proud to say that the team who remain at Mastertronic have all done their bit to prove we are up for this challenge. Indeed, it is not just those who are staying. I was humbled by the reaction of many of those who we were made redundant at very short notice.

There was an enormous amount of shock amongst the team, which was to be expected, given some of them thought we were invincible. And there was plenty of anger too. To be put out of your job, often after years of loyal service, feels like a betrayal – especially when it is as a result of poor strategic decisions taken by the so called ‘leaders’, of which I am one. I cannot and will not forget those who stood loyally at our side for many years, through thick and thin, and always went beyond the call of duty. I cannot forget the feeling that I was betraying them and their families. That’s something that time will never heal, I am sad to say.

I was also massively humbled by the sheer weight of support that we have received, by phone, in person, by email, and via Twitter and Facebook. Rather than trying to bury the news, we decided to be open. After all, there is no hiding place and it’s better to face the flak and deal with thinking through and delivering a solution.

That means that friends, family and even people who live in my street have all been made aware of our problems, such is the power of social media. Amongst all the kind words of support, and there have been so many it has been mind-blowing, there are also those knowing looks, the one-to-one messages and the expressions of sympathy and downright pity. That is something I am simply not used to and I admit it has been very difficult to deal with.

But for all of that, I am very pleased to say that at noon today we were given another chance by our creditors and every single one of them has voted to support us. To be fair, I don’t see this as anything to be proud of, after all we got ourselves in a mess and have caused our creditors, many of whom are or were friends, a load of discomfort.But it feels like a win after all these months of turmoil and turbulence.

Now we are a leaner team, with a single office and focused entirely on serving developers and gamers digitally and I believe that gives us a very good chance of repaying that faith and support shown by so many. We could have simply thrown the towel in, but that is not the Mastertronic way. For those of us left in the team, we have a pretty big task ahead, to rally and rebuild our reputation. But right now we are hoping to be judged not by the height we have fallen, but by the depth from which we will climb.

One of my very good friends, on seeing my blog in Develop, which was shared on Facebook by another friend and games developer, reminded me of what Clarence wrote to George, in one of my favourite films ever, Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Dear George

Remember no man is a failure who has friends.
Thanks for the wings.

Love Clarence.

I feel like I have had my very own army of Clarences looking out for me and the team at Mastertronic. To each and every one of you, all I can say is thank you for the wings, we won’t forget that support, ever.

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