Steam Rescue and Diablo 3

Found a couple interesting stories this morning…and no, they do not involve that little turd Justin Bieber (…who was in Ottawa yesterday…).

The first one is fascinating look at how Steam helped save a small indie developer, Introversion, from closing it’s doors:

A couple of weeks rolled by and I found myself unable to accept the end. Chris too wasn’t actually ready to jack it in. We put together a rescue plan involving creating Steam achievements for DEFCON so we could convince Valve to run a promotion with it. We’ve flogged Darwinia to death over the years, but we thought that DEFCON would benefit from some spit and polish. Chris was working every afternoon on Subversion and every morning on DEFCON. It was as if that small amount of Subversion work was refuelling him. I didn’t need to keep justifying a project that I had been pushing for four years and could start being a lot more collaborative and analytical about the business decisions that we could make. It was like a weight was lifting.

Valve okayed the promotion and even though it didn’t focus on DEFCON we were happy that we had achieved our core objective. This was the game-changer. When we started Introversion we’d had a string of successes and believed we were undefeatable, but it was a long time since we’d had a victory and we really needed one. Right on cue, Valve delivered. The promo exceeded all of our expectations and when combined with our low burn rate (no office or staff now) we had gone from being fearful about paying our mortgages to having a year’s operating capital in the bank. This was good, but paled in comparison to the fact that we were working together as a team again. Just like the old days. Just me Chris, TJ and Johnny – laptops, bedrooms and plans for global domination. The difference this time was we have a lot more knowledge and experience about what works and what doesn’t. On the face of it we are less capable than we were six months ago, but personally I believe that we are ready to rebuild the company bigger and stronger in a different mould.
Subversion is our most ambitious and epic projects so far. It’s a complete return to our roots. It’s as immersive as Uplink with the production values of Darwinia+ and it’s affordable when I run my three year cashflow (you wont find Chris talking about that in his blogs anywhere!). We’re also really hoping to have the opportunity to release DEFCON on the PSN and we should know about that in a couple of months.

Awesome. I was one of those who bought the Introversion package during that sale and I’m really at a loss as to why Darwinia and DEFCON did not live up to expectations. DEFCON is just insanely good for multiplayer and Darwinia has a really great concept behind it and plays really well. Both of these titles should have become cult or niche hits…at the very least, I would have never thought that they were not good enough to keep an indie studio floating while they worked on other titles. I’ve seen triple A studios publish a lot worse and still keep on trucking. Grats to the guys at Introversion!

Runic Games CEO, Max Schaefer, believes that they will have Torchlight 3 out the door before Diablo 3:

Schaefer told us, “[Blizzard has] an impossible task. Blizzard can not get away with doing a Torchlight 1. If they put out a single player game, an RPG that’s kinda stripped down for $20, people would say, ‘What the hell happened to Blizzard?’ They don’t have that luxury. Everything has to be super epic. More epic than anything that’s come before, more epic than World of Warcraft. They have to do that. It puts them in a really tough spot, I don’t envy them. It has to be perfect.”

True. What he failed to mention is that Diablo 3 will probably make three times as much as Torchlight 3 will. He’s thinking all wrong…Blizzard can totally afford to take the time to make Diablo 3 epic whereas Runic can only afford to make Torchlight engaging at most. Actually, I bet Blizzard could totally make a stripped down, $20 version of Diablo and still outperform Runic in most areas…cause that’s what they’re good at. The advantage that Blizzard has always had over the other studios since the launch of WoW has been that they now control their own destiny. When I see quotes from other studios that are framed in the same way as Schaefer’s, all it says to me is that they wish they had the same control over their own destinies as well.

D out.

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