The last time I talked to Gas Powered Games CEO Chris Taylor, he was about to launch a Kickstarter campaign
for a game concept called Wildman
But this wasn't like your typical Kickstarter campaign. Taylor was candid when he said his Kickstarter, with a $1.1 million goal, had to be successful, or else the 15-year-old studio behind games like Dungeon Siege
and Supreme Commander
would go under.
"We're all in on this," he told me in January. "We spent all the last dough that we've had, and the last several months working on it. So we're betting the company on it."
So the campaign for Wildman
launched, support gradually dwindled, and seeing the writing on the wall, Gas Powered officially canned the effort on February 11.
Taylor didn't have a plan B. He believed he was witnessing the final days of his studio. But late in the Kickstarter campaign, he was approached by Wargaming, the free-to-play online game developer behind the highly successful MMO World of Tanks
. Wargaming expressed its interest in buying Gas Powered.
"It was clear that the Kickstarter wasn't doing well," Taylor told me in a recent phone interview, "and people were saying, 'Don't give up, don't give up.' ...We saw the writing on the wall, and it was clear that the game's concept wasn't resonating with people. We stepped back and we saw one door closing and another door opening. Then the decision was pretty clear."
What of independence?
When the news broke on Valentine's Day that Wargaming had acquired Gas Powered
, essentially saving the studio, the first thing that sprung to my mind were all the times I've heard Taylor advocate studio independence. Gas Powered's philosophy as a studio seemed to hinge on independence. Taylor never said it was easy though--but damned if your staff is working with hardware that's outdated by three years
, he would not sell out.
Of course, when you're facing a studio closure, you'd probably change your tune a bit. However, Taylor says Wargaming is different from other buyers who've approached him in the past: the companies had some things in common. Wargaming is very online PC-centric, both companies' games deal with military themes, and Wargaming's boss Victor Kisly was a fan of Total Annihilation
, a game Taylor designed when he was with Cavedog Entertainment.
But most importantly, Taylor says, Wargaming is a developer, too. "[Independence] has been a flag I've been waving over the last 15 years, because it was the right time to be independent. We had offers. We had publishers talk to us in the past. But in this case, Wargaming's very much a developer."
Taylor recently said publishers did express interest in bringing Wildman
to market--on the condition that the Kickstarter was fully funded. Wargaming didn't come along with that stipulation.
"[Wargaming] is very different than a publisher," he says. "What we saw in those previous discussions that came up, there wasn't really a great match in the leadership, if you will. You just have to be patient, wait till the right partner and team comes along."
Now, Taylor says Gas Powered is in much better shape, and is actually looking to expand, with some people who were laid off coming back on board. Gas Powered has tabled the original Kickstarter Wildman
action-RTS concept and is falling in line with Wargaming: Right now, the studio is working on a prototype for a "big free-to-play MMO under the Wargaming name."
Taylor says, "We're just getting going on it, and there's a lot of groundwork to do. But we're barreling ahead."
He's known as an affable guy, but he has the tendency to get kind of deep, wearing his feelings on his sleeve, whether it's about one of the multiple times his studio has faced closure, or if it's one of the more joyous times when things just work out.
"People say to believe in your destiny," says Taylor. "I really feel like it was destined. When you look at 2012, if all of those things didn't happen the way they did, then we wouldn't have ended up at this conclusion. I think it's remarkable. It's pretty fantastic."