The dream is over
It looks as if Hellgate: London developers Flagship Studios have finally bitten off more than they can chew. After numerous rumours of employees leaving in droves and customers dissatisfied with the quality of the game and/or the support being provided with it, the final nail has been hammered into the studio’s creaky coffin, with Flagship apparently closing its doors following the laying off of the entire staff. Financial support from Korean distributor and co-owner of the intellectual property HanbitSoft has reportedly dried up, with the implication being that HanbitSoft will, from now on, take full control of the franchise and continue to develop it themselves:
HanbitSoft states that the reason it is pursuing this course of action is because “It is hard for us to accept Flagship Studios’ requests for continued support in capital and funding any longer and because Flagship was being difficult”, and because it co-owns a direct stake in the IP, it therefore “has a say in reviewing and determining any course of action to be taken with Hellgate: London.”
HanbitSoft is expected to take full control over the IP. HanbitSoft goes on to state that in doing so, it will be able to “properly manage and develop Hellgate: London into a good game with proper content”, with its own in-house team of developers.
I’m not entirely surprised, but I’m disappointed nonetheless. I would have liked to see Flagship Studios succeed. The games industry is coming ever closer to mirroring the movie business in the sense that all the power these days is in the hands of a small number of megacorporations, and something about the idea of Flagship striking out on their own as an independent developer appealed to me. Theirs was a worthy attempt to deliver a triple-A game as an autonomous company, but ultimately they failed to pull it off. I still like Hellgate: London, in spite of its myriad flaws, and I genuinely hope that HanbitSoft are able to salvage something from the wreckage, but it’s a damn shame that its creators will no longer be involved with the project they poured their heart and soul into, whatever you might think of the end results.
No creator, regardless of the medium in which they work, likes to see their baby dragged away from them, particularly under circumstances such as these (shades of the 1992 Nickelodeon takeover of Ren & Stimpy, methinks), and I can only hope that the Flagship people are able to bounce back from this in some form or other. Hmm, I suspect they’re probably greatly regretting walking out of Blizzard Entertainment back in 2003.