Outerlight, the Edinburgh-based studio best known for FPS titles The Ship and upcoming Bloody Good Time, is on the verge of closure according to its co-founder Chris Peck.
In an interview with gaming website Big Download, Peck describes the financial arrangements his studio had with BGT publisher Ubisoft as a major reason for the potential closure.
“The traditional publishing model is awful for developers, it's their gilded cage. Publishers are motivated by greed, but restrained by fear of risk, and thus seek sure deals, licenses and sequels, which makes pitching innovation almost pointless,” he said.
“Should you get a deal, the usual is 20 percent royalties, but after the retailer takes their share of 50 percent, you are getting 20 percent of the 50 percent left (so 10 percent of retail price).
“That doesn't sound too bad, until you realise that the developer is the one that actually pays for the development, the publisher has just advanced the developer their share of the royalties to pay for making the game.”
As a consequence, Peck describes the current Outerlight operation as skeletal at best.
“Outerlight has all but been dissolved. The team and the office are gone, all that remains is myself working unpaid in the hope to recoup some royalties from the game,” he explained.
“It's been a pretty brutal period, losing the team being the hardest part, as they were the biggest asset for the company, and we shared a lot of good times together.
“At the moment, the life line for the company is ongoing Ship sales, which have meant we can keep trading until we hopefully see some BGT royalties.”
Peck is also damning of the Ubisoft business practices that he sees as endemic to his studio’s collapse, and rails against the publisher/developer relationship in general, using the example of his experiences as an argument.
“While people often compare the games industry to the film industry, I'd rather compare a games team with a band, trying to come up with a new hit album,” he said.
“The publisher being the guy that sits in the corner and suggests you maybe change the lyrics to mention lady Diana... oh, and have you thought about hot backing singers, and maybe wearing monkey suits, marketing says they are both big right now. Not ideal.”
Peck remains philosophical however, looking to the future of what could prove to be Outerlight’s final game.
“When all is said and done, I'm just happy it's being released. However, as Outerlight's raison d'être was to make good games, now is the most nervous time for me, waiting to see what the press and gamers think of it!”
Big Download sent the interview to Ubisoft and asked for any response they wished to give. As of now, the studio has not replied.