Following the near-shutdown of Hellgate: London
developer Flagship Studios, David DeMartini of co-publisher EA Partners has discussed the game's failure, saying EA had staff "actively working" on the title and suggesting that the game "lost the fanbase" by the time it improved sufficiently post-release.
The EA Partners label of Electronic Arts announced in late 2006
that it would co-publish the much-heralded PC title with Namco Bandai Games.
But the game, created by notable Blizzard veterans, never built up enough steam with the audience, and this led to Flagship's near-entire layoffs
this July, as its expenses and borrowing significantly outweighed subscription revenue and retail sales.
When asked about the title, one of the few notable blots on EA Partners' publishing slate, which also includes hits such as Rock Band, Crysis
and The Orange Box
, DeMartini explained:
"We're certainly sad with the results for Flagship and what's happened with Hellgate, because at the time we signed it, we were trying to get involved in a very complicated relationship between Namco and Flagship.
We were coming late to the party, and trying to do whatever we could to sprinkle the game magic on the project and get it headed in the right direction.
I think that's an example where all three parties had the best interest of the game in mind, and sometimes the game doesn't work out. Hellgate is still an incredible concept."
Asked to detail further the situation in which EA Partners published the title and the eventual outcome, DeMartini added:
"We were co-publishing with Namco. I'm not going to dodge a bullet -- we had people who were actively working with them on the title.
We thought it would have been slightly higher quality than it turned out to be, and I think the problem with the game was that by the time it got really good, we were four to six months post-release. That was too late; we'd lost the fanbase.
It was strictly an issue of the gameplay and game quality needing to be higher at the start. Unfortunately, Flagship was in a situation where they weren't in a position to hold the game any longer, and the situation kind of took over."
Finally, DeMartini offered a tribute to the creators at Flagship who labored long and hard on the project:
"The guys who worked on it spent thousands of hours trying to make that concept work, and sometimes we just don't see something. Sometimes, we just didn't take enough time. Sometimes, things don't work out the way you expect.
It's kind of like a film with all big stars -- on the script, it should be successful, but the movie doesn't turn out as good as everybody hoped.
That's why EAP takes a portfolio approach with its games. You have to place a lot of bets, and hope for a lot of hits."
The comments came as part of a major new interview with DeMartini
, also discussing new EAP deals such as Epic/People Can Fly and Grasshopper Manufacture, plus much more.