If you visit the website for Iron Lore Entertainment you’ll see they have two important announcements:
- Their latest offering, Titan Quest: Immortal Throne, just won Action RPG of the year at Gamebanshee. Also:
- They are going out of business, and in fact have already done so. Their doors closed Feb 19 2008.
In 2000, Looking Glass Studios went under. At the time the news sounded absurd to me. How could a company that did nothing but make incredible games go belly-up? Then I began to realize what should have been obvious, that making a great game is only one of many required steps towards solvency.
I’ve never heard a firm explanation of why LGS failed. Warren Spector isn’t talking. I’ve seen lots of guesses, but in the last eight years nobody has managed to come up with the goods. Maybe a lawsuit settlement is binding the related parties to silence. Still, it seems like we should have seen an anonymous leak by now. Eight years is a long time for the gossip machine to go hungry on a story like that one.
From my own perspective, I can’t help but suspect plain old fiscal indiscretion. They were based in Cambridge, MA. I lived near Boston (right here, actually) at the time and I remember being shocked that a game company would plant themselves in such a high-expense area. Boston ain’t cheap, and Cambridge is moreso. It would be easier to put a strip mall in the Vatican than obtain real estate in Cambridge during the dot-com bubble. I still wonder how much better they might have done if they’d put their office a half hour in just about any direction (excluding, of course, into the Atlantic Ocean, in which case the result would have been about the same) and hired a couple less MIT grads. That sort of thing might not have been what killed them, but they might have had the cash to survive whatever calamity took them out. Perhaps not. My speculation holds the same value as anyone elses. (Zero.) Still, being good with money is never a bad idea when you’re trying to run a business. (Sez the guy hauling half a year’s salary in various debts.)
The stories of Looking Glass Studios and Iron Lore Entertainment seem similar to me because both companies looked successful from the outside, just before they imploded for unexplained reasons.
Michael Fitch, Director of Creative Management at THQ (the company which published both Titan Quest titles) weighed in with his own opinions about what contributed to the ILE failure in this lengthy and interesting forum post. I’m going to talk more about that later. The problems he brings up nearly universal to the world of PC gaming, and I suspect this isn’t the last time we’ll see a PC developer that succeeds at making games and fails at staying in business.
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