Crytek Is on the Verge of Bankruptcy
Rumours have been swirling around the internet this week suggesting that Crytek may be on its last legs. Crytek started showing difficulties in paying employees during March of this year, and things have deteriorated significantly since then. Crytek employees initially started receiving their paychecks one or two weeks late, but at the time of writing things have become so bad that some employees have started receiving only a fraction of the salary owed them, while the employees of Crytek UK have not been paid in over a month. Now it has been revealed that roughly one hundred employees of Crytek UK have ceased work on Homefront: The Revolution, and have walked off the job. To make matters worse Crytek management decided that the best policy of dealing with the problem was to stonewall the media while forbidding employees to discuss pay issues via email. This appears to have worked for a time, yet putting a lid on things appears to have only lead to employee frustration reaching a boil, resulting in scores of employees leaking information to the press, and legions of the developer’s engine technicians exiting to greener pastures. Meanwhile, Crytek management appears to still be in a state of denial.
“Regardless of what some media are reporting, mostly based on a recent article published by GameStar, the information in those reports and in the GameStar article itself are rumors which Crytek deny. We continue to focus on the development and publishing of our upcoming titles Homefront: The Revolution, Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age, Arena of Fate, and Warface, as well as providing ongoing support for our CryEngine and its licensees. We have received a lot of positive feedback during and after E3 from both gaming press and gamers, and would like to thank our loyal employees, fans and business partners for their continuous support.”
This appears to be a classic case of an over-ambitious company that grew too fast without consolidating their operations. They are a company of almost eight-hundred employees spread over nine international studios, and yet Crytek Frankfurt is the only Crytek studio to have released a high profile game while under the Crytek banner. This is a problem for larger independent developers, which typically do not possess the capital to fund their own projects, as they are dependent on publisher funding to maintain operations, yet are too big to quickly graft together a viable survival strategy as a smaller studio might. Crytek’s gambit to decouple themselves from developer reliance appears to have been their push into free-to-play games, yet their success within this sphere appears to be quite limited on account of their games not being particularly enjoyable to play. Thus, Crytek’s downfall appears to have come over the course of 2013, when EA discontinued their involvement in the Crysis franchise and Microsoft cancelled the sequel to the critically lambasted Ryse – suddenly the only money that Crytek had coming in was from the development of Homefront: The Revolution, royalties from the licensing of their Cryengine, and revenue from their free-to-play titles; that is to say that Crytek’s chief source of income is from a game that is no longer being worked on by Crytek UK.
Nintendo Strongly Rejects Reality
Nintendo executives must think that their proclaimations are the very word of God. They claim that they are not competing against Sony and Microsoft and expect their words to make it so. They claim that they are not in competition with Skylanders and Disney Infinite and expect their words to make it so. The claim is its own proof in the eyes of Nintendo, it is a shame then that such useless chatter carries very little weight in the world beyond Nintendo’s walls. Reggie has this week claimed that Amiibo is fundamentally different from the Skylanders and Disney Infinite platforms on account of the fact that Amiibo is NFC-based, and thus can be read directly by the Wii U’s controller.
“What we communicated in the Nintendo Digital Event was that Infinity and Skylanders enjoy significant share on our platforms. For both of those products, more than 50% of the volume is represented on Nintendo platforms. What is not going to happen is cross usage play of amiibo onto those platforms. And that’s because the amiibo platform is completely different. Its different in that it’s NFC-based, so that’s why we’re able to utilize the technology built right into the GamePad. Their platforms are different.
You will see cross-platform play between the characters introduced for Smash Bros. And then be able to use these figures on other games. And we touched on that. You’ll be able to use the figures on Mario Kart. You’ll be able to use the figures on Captain Toad, Mario Party, as well as Yoshi’s Wooly World. So that’s the cross-platform play that we were trying to communicate.”
This is an utterly incomprehensible comment to make given that Skylanders‘ own Wikipedia page states that the “Games in the series are played by placing character figures on the “Portal of Power,” a device that reads the figures’ tags through NFC and “imports” the character represented by the figure into the game as a playable character.” So essentially you have one range of toys which act as keys to unlock on-disc DLC by placing them near the Wii U controller, and you have another two sets of toys which act as keys to unlock on-disc DLC by placing them near their own proprietary controller, and this somehow makes one method radically different from the other? These ludicrous claims are desperate and grasping and weak. This insane logical skydive is not however intended intended to convince prospective customers to purchase Amiibo along with Skylanders and Disney Infinite, rather it instead seems targeted to allay the fears of two of Nintendo’s last remaining major Wii U backers, whilst attempting to assert the narrative that the Wii U is not a third-party graveyard. Case in point, Reggie goes on to claim that:
“First, we’re doing much more second-party development. Everything from Bayonetta 2, which is an exclusive to Wii U game, Devil’s Third is an exclusive to Wii U game. Certainly, leveraging more second-party development is critical to us. The other thing we’re doing is much more with independent developers. And I would argue that this is a big industry shift that’s happened over the last couple of years.
You look at all of the developers that have left the large major third-parties to create their own small studio. We’ve been able to attract them not only with some of the tools made available, like Unity. But also the fact that these developers love having their content merchandised in our eShop right alongside Mario and right along Zelda versus putting them in separate area with all other Indie content. We merchandise it along with all of our other key games, which really helps the sell through of this independent content.”
Reggie has never closely adhered to the truth, yet this load of absolute nonsense is pretty spectacular even for him. Third-party studios are not attracted to the Wii U because their games get placed along-side Mario and Zelda, as that is frankly more of a liability, and the reason for the motto that people only buy Nintendo consoles for Nintendo games. No, studios like Platinum games have hung around because Nintendo is paying them to do so, while Indy developers likely see the Wii U as just another platform along-side the PC and PS4 – it is relatively open, so they may as well port their games and make a little extra money. If Reggie wishes people to think that it is easy and attractive to sell third-party content on Nintendo platforms, then he is going to have to furnish skeptics with evidence rather than waffle, because Nintendo look to be every developer’s fiercest competition on Nintendo consoles.
EA Starts Charging Gamers to Download Demos
Thanks Kojima, it was not as if the industry was a big enough toilet going into the eighth console generation, no, it also required you to validate the worst company in America’s ability to charge money for game demos. Yesterday the pricing for EA’s Fifa 14 and EA Sports UFC jumped from free to $4.99 to download on the Xbox One – this immediately caused a number of eyebrows to raise, stories were then written about it and EA reverted the pricing back to its original free status. EA explained that an error in their system had caused the prices to rise, which was explanation enough for game sites to announce that there had been no wrong-doing, with some of them even mocking the quickness of gamers to immediately think the worst of ea. One does not believe this to be the case at all.
EA is alleging that a glitch caused not one, but two different demos to suddenly start charging players for the download in every region of the world where the Xbox One is sold. Moreover, the price did not default to the more common prices of $60 or $15, it was pegged at the extremely targeted figure of $4.99 – or at least that was the case for American gamers, as the glitch was also region sensitive, charging £3.99 in the UK and $6.65 in Australia. Then there is the fact that EA appear to have been planning to implement paid demos as far back as 2010, as recounted by Kotaku:
“One of Electronic Arts strategies will be to release what they call “premium downloadable content” on the Playstation Network and Xbox Live for $10 to $15 and then later release the full game for a full price, EA Group General Manager Nick Earl told Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter during the recent meeting.”
It does not seem at all likely that EA were willing to flip the switch with these two items in question, but it does also seem like more than mere coincidence. One gets the feeling that EA were testing the waters with a couple of previously released demos that were no longer in high demand, and that they will not fully reveal their hand until they have the release of a suitably hyped game on the horizon. It seems quite likely that the early release of a Madden or Mass Effect paid demo could see EA making out like bandits.