Over at Kotaku, there’s an interesting story about the reported demise of Darkside Game Studios, a game-development firm that thought it finally had a shot at the big time… only to collapse once its project requirements spun out of control.
Darkside Game Studios had spent much of its existence as an outsourcing firm for other studios’ games, handling development tasks that the clients didn’t have the in-house bandwidth to finish on their own. Darkside got a chance to show off its own stuff with a proposed remake of Phantom Dust, an action-strategy game that became something of a cult favorite.
Microsoft, which offered Darkside the budget to make the game, had a very specific list of requirements for the actual gameplay. The problem, as Kotaku describes, is those requirements shifted after the project was well underway: “What was once a $5 million multiplayer reboot of Phantom Dust had become a $5 million multiplayer reboot of Phantom Dust with a six-hour single-player story mode attached.”
Darkside needed more developers, artists, and other skilled tech pros to finish the game with its expanded requirements, but (anonymous sources claimed) Microsoft refused to offer up more money to actually hire the necessary people. As a result, the game’s development imploded, reportedly followed by the studio. (Although Kotaku and other gaming websites report the company has indeed shut down, Darkside’s website and social-media handles are still up, albeit not updated in at least six weeks; calls to Darkside’s main office number, also still active, went directly to voicemail.)
What’s the lesson in all this? It’s one of the oldest in the book: Escalating and unanticipated requirements, especially without added budget to meet those requirements, can have devastating effects on both a project and the larger software company. While many companies try to structure contracts in order to prevent such scenarios from happening, there are always stories about firms that couldn’t quite manage clients’ needs and expectations. Darkside Game Studios seems like just the latest of those stories.
Image: Darkside Game Studios