This week's game industry news has been dominated by two things: the rare release of a contract between a major developer and publisher to the public, and the sad demise of 38 Studios. Read all about it right here on The Weekly Dish.
Bungie Pulled Into Activision Drama
Many gamers remember when former Halo developer Bungie signed on with Activision back in 2010, but of course nobody knew the terms of that contract. Now, thanks to the Activision/Infinity Ward lawsuit, details of the Bungie contract have been made public. According to the original terms of the contract, Bungie is required to produce four sci-fi shooter games for Activision, published every other year, starting in the fall of 2013. The studio also needs to create a downloadable expansion pack for each of the games. In return, Bungie will receive royalties from Activision and will be eligible for 2.5 million dollars in bonuses during development if quality and production milestones are met. There's even a dreaded aggregate review site bonus clause in the contract, with a possible extra 2.5 million dollar bonus if the first game receives a 90% or better on Gamerankings.com.
Bungie has exclusive rights to the new IP it is developing for these shooters. In return, Activision has the right to terminate its contract with Bungie if the first game fails to sell over five million copies after the first six months, as well as for any reason after the release of the second game. Activision was obviously smarting over the Infinity Ward incident (see last week's column) at the time the contract was signed, because it was very careful to lock key Bungie employees into non-compete clauses and stipulate that these same employees would lose their equity in the company if they were to leave the studio before the release of the second game. Activision also has the right to assume control of the new IP if over 33% of Bungie's staff leaves the studio over any twelve-month period during the contract.
It's interesting to get this inside look into a game publishing contract, something that the public usually doesn't see. Do you think it's fair to Bungie, or that it's too restrictive? What do you think of the Gamerankings bonus and the ability for Activision to terminate the contract if the first game sells under five million copies?
38 Gets Eighty-Sixed
Last week we discussed the travails of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning creators Big Huge Games and 38 Studios. On Thursday, sources with the company leaked that all BHG and 38 Studios employees had been laid off. Although 38 Studios technically still exists, it's nothing but a shell without any employees, and seemingly has no way to go forward. Will the Amalur IP revert to the State of Rhode Island? If so, will the state auction it off, and will anybody be interested in buying?
In the meantime, other MMORPG companies such as Turbine and ArenaNet have put out the word that they're hiring, hoping to scoop up some of the best talent from the dissolution of 38 and Big Huge Games. Lots of industry insiders are also Tweeting job leads under the hashtag #38jobs. We wish the former employees of both companies the best of luck in their job search.
Microsoft Gives Minecraft Refunds
Let's tie up this gloom and doom with a more positive story. When SD TV owners who bought the Xbox 360 Edition of Minecraft discovered they couldn't play in split-screen multiplayer mode, many asked for a refund. After some time, Microsoft has decided to offer that refund to those customers, and has altered the Minecraft product description to make it clear that only HD TVs support that mode. It's nice to see that kind of action from Microsoft, which isn't exactly known for customer-friendly behavior. Now my only question is why so many people own an Xbox but don't own an HDTV? Save up some dollars for the next HDTV liquidation sale, people!
Date: May 25, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*