As the original creators of the Far Cry series and Crysis, Crytek knows a lot about making first-person shooter games. Now the game developer also knows a whole lot about the Chapter 11 process, thanks to THQ's bankruptcy and auction.
Crytek's Nottingham, UK studio had been working on Homefront 2 for THQ. As the publisher collapsed, Crytek moved to acquire the intellectual property rights to the Homefront franchise from the publisher. The developer was successful, and now the 140 people working on the game can breathe a little bit easier, knowing that the fate of the game is more in their hands.
We spoke with Crytek general manager Nick Button-Brown and CEO Cevat Yerli about what's next for the company, and for Homefront.
A month ago when THQ went bankrupt, could you have ever imagined that you'd buy the franchise that you were working on in an auction?
Nick Button-Brown: No not at all. Our relationship with THQ is really good, and we like all the people we worked with. And no, we certainly didn't predict that it would happen this way. We were very surprised when it went into Chapter 11 at all. It felt that they were making a lot of progress, and the games were coming along really well. It was a bit of a shock before Christmas. ... Then we get back, it all kicks off, lots and lots of lawyers are involved, and we've learned a lot about the Chapter 11 process now! A month ago, we knew nothing.
$500,000 for a franchise that sold over 2.5 million units... that's a pretty good deal, isn't it?
NBB: It was a little more than $500,000--I think about $540,000, or something like that...that was really pedantic, wasn't it? [laughs]
Anyway, we think we've got a pretty good deal. We're very happy with the outcome for us. Obviously, the friends that we had working on Homefront on the THQ side, we're a bit sad for them. They all seem to be finishing today.
In the end, the reason why we were interested [in buying the property] was because our team had worked really hard on it. The last little bit they showed, the milestone, was really good. They've made a huge amount of progress, they put their heart and souls into it. And we just wanted to make sure that didn't get thrown into the bin.
So we've achieved our goal [in regards to the THQ auction]. The team can finish the game they were working on.
It's hard to imagine any other option for the survival of the franchise, aside from you guys making an attempt to buy it.
NBB: It would've been very difficult for someone else to take our code and bring it over. But yeah, the Chapter 11 process, it seems that anything can happen. You've got some really random outcomes--people who you didn't expect to buy were buying studios. It could've gone very differently. Who knows who we would've been working with.
Was anyone bidding against you for it?
NBB: No. In the initial bid round, it was only us. In all honesty, it was quite difficult for anyone else to pick it up, because they needed us to work on it. So nobody bid against us. By the end of the process, we were bidding against the stalking horse bidder for the last few rounds. But in the end, that worked fine.
Do you feel that you can breathe a little bit easier now that the fate of the game is in your hands? I remember someone from Crytek saying how the December bankruptcy made them nervous.
NBB: It's almost like it hasn't settled in it, because it happened so manically. We really were on the phone through the night as the auction proceedings were happening in different time zones from ours. We know it's happened, but it hasn't settled.
The great thing was telling the team. The team is really happy. Being in control of our own destiny is something everybody likes to have. They reacted really well--they were worried that they wouldn't be able to carry on with the game.
So there really was a point where people thought the game would be canned, and it'd be over with.
NBB: Yeah, definitely. The whole process is a bit strange, but there were times when it could've happened where the game was put in the drawer.
Cevat Yerli: Just to be clear, we did not stop in the meantime. We always thought that this [development] would continue. However, there were some concerns. But it was more that [the team] was concerned because [management] couldn't talk about it too much--what we were planning to do. So we had to keep quiet, internally. We told the team to keep working on the project, but the silence also created a feeling of "What's management going to do with it?" though there was never any intention to stop it.
I understand the relationship you had with THQ was good. But now that THQ and the folks on their side are no longer involved, is there anything that will change with the development or the vision of the game?
CY: For one, we are going to look strategically how this might be modified to fit with the direction of the company, to be more aligned with it, because before there were certain things that we would like to do. But THQ would say that it doesn't fit in their strategy. Now this is a different situation, where we can apply a different direction--not necessarily from the game content perspective, but more from a business perspective, and flexibility in general.
Now we can do whatever we want. Before, effectively, there were some business constraints. Not creative constraints, but business constraints from THQ.
I know one of your strategies is free-to-play. This seems like a packaged type of game, but is there some way the Homefront IP could be incorporated with free-to-play?
CY: It's too early to say that. But, every normal human could probably conclude that there is some research being done on that right now. For now the team is continuing what it started. The team has started a retail game, and the chance that it will ship as a retail game is very high.
I know that this is really early on, but have there been any talks with new publishers for the game? Has there been any headway there?
CY: It's all too early. [laughs] I can't give you the names, sorry!
NBB: Obviously, a lot of people are interested in it. We've got a to think about it and be certain about what we want to do.
How has the date of release been affected?
CY: The date right now has not been affected, and we have not announced a date yet.