Jumping on the bandwagon: From 'Arcade is Dead' to AAA
A year ago, we announced that “arcade is dead”, at least for Housemarque, ending our long-standing commitment to creating arcade inspired games. Many thought that surely the studio must be in peril and that we’d be closing our doors soon, however this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Instead of shutting down we have made the jump to AAA development and are working on a new, unannounced IP. This is the biggest and most ambitious game that Housemarque has ever worked on. Our team is approaching 70 people now, and we are still staffing up for the new project. But our commitment to keeping the spirit of arcade alive is stronger than ever, despite no longer working on straight arcade-inspired titles. To further explain our stance here, let’s look back at what was happening a year ago…
Housemarque is very fortunate and grateful to have passionate fans that have supported us through more than two decades of arcade inspired and arcade hybrid games that lean heavily on fast-twitch gameplay. The development of our last “pure” arcade game, Nex Machina, took nearly three years and up to 30 man work years for the team that grew to almost 20 people at its peak. The critical reception was phenomenal. The game was one of the top 10 reviewed game of 2017 and achieved a spot in Guinness World Records as one of the most critically acclaimed twin-stick shooters of all time.
Commercially, however, the story is different. We have no regrets whatsoever about taking the risk, as it taught us a great deal and we had a chance to work with our hero, gaming legend Eugene Jarvis. We also had the opportunity to film the whole process from the initial design phase to launch, the result of which is the recently released documentary, “The Name of the Game”, which is available in online video stores such as iTunes, VUDU, Microsoft movies and TV, Amazon, Vimeo and Steam. Regional restrictions to services may apply and more services will be added to the list later.
Earlier this year we announced our new multiplayer-focused title, Stormdivers, which seemed to dismay our fans, as many thought that we were “jumping on the battle royale bandwagon”. However, we initiated this project back in early 2015 and started prototyping with a small team after finishing Alienation during the Summer of 2016. For a long time, we have wanted to explore PvP gameplay in “our” way and think that the game is shaping up great. But you don’t have to just take our word for it - you can participate in our closed beta tests now and eventually join the open beta next year by signing up at www.stormdivers.com.
A couple of years ago the future of the company did look uncertain. It looked like we should either scale down our development efforts significantly, letting go of great team members, or start thinking much bigger and ambitiously to survive beyond 2017. We had to make some difficult decisions and some serious changes or Housemarque would not be around for long. We wanted to continue making great games but first, we had to survive.
So, we started working on new, more ambitious concepts, but of course we had some challenges to face there as well. It took time to convince ourselves that we could be up to the task of developing a much bigger game than we have done in the past, as we were only around 50-people strong, working on two projects simultaneously. We knew this wasn’t enough people to create a AAA game, so we dug in and took the plunge. We started working on new, creative concepts to present to potential partners and eventually, we landed a great opportunity to start working on pre-production for a new, unannounced AAA IP last year. At the same time, we truly started to rethink our company culture. What is really needed to build up AAA game development capabilities, and how should we approach our overall development process and the future of the company.
Our purpose has stayed the same: to develop unique game experiences for our fans and create a great workplace for our employees. As we face new challenges, we have developed a new dialogue internally of what all of this means for the company. We want to continue to build an open culture where different voices are welcome, and people can express their creativity in a friendly and open environment. We are also actively recruiting more talent from all backgrounds and every corner of the world (interested in joining us? Check out housemarque.com/careers).
By the time we made our “Arcade is Dead” announcement, Housemarque’s change in direction had already been on its way for quite a while, as we could no longer sustain the company on our beloved arcade genres. Arcade is indeed dead for Housemarque, but we salute and applaud the developers out there who are keeping the genre alive with great new arcade experiences.
As for Housemarque, we are building both Stormdivers and our new AAA game on our strong foundations in understanding how to create great second-to-second gameplay experiences. You might say that we are actually jumping on two bandwagons, but our dedication is the same as always - we want to make great games. And we will always love arcade. So perhaps arcade is not completely dead - the spirit is still alive at Housemarque - but as everything must evolve, it is changing, and we dare say that you will still see elements of our love for arcade in future titles.
For now, we at Housemarque wish all of our wonderful fans a very happy holiday and a successful New Year. We are and always will be hard at work to keep your trust, and we are all looking forward to the great times ahead in 2019!
- Ilari, CEO