Every gamer on the planet is aware of the drama which unfolded between EA Partners, Double Fine, and Activision over Tim Schafer’s gaming homage to metal, Brutal Legend. When the game was dropped from Activision and picked up by EA, everyone assumed it was a case of the little guy being stepped on by the bigger guy when the game’s former publisher moved to block the release of the game, subsequently branding Activision as the Evil Empire with Darth Kotick at the helm.
However, despite the legalities and all the verbal back-and-forth between all parties involved, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick as finally broken his silence on the matter, and if what he says is true, the decision was made by Vivendi during its merger with Activision and Kotick had never even so much as laid eyes on the game.
Relaying the events which unfolded according to his side of things, Bobby Kotick told Joystiq Brutal Legend was dropped from the publisher’s list after the game had exceeded its budget and went well over its development schedule. In fact, according to the CEO, he has never even met Tim Schafer and was not the one who made the decision to axe the game, nor sue to recoup the money handed upfront to develop the game.
“I don’t know him. I never met him. I had no involvement in Vivendi’s decision to go into business with him. I had very limited knowledge of what we were even doing with him. The guy went off and signed a deal with Electronic Arts for millions of dollars and owed Vivendi money,” said Kotick regarding Schafer. “Vivendi had advanced him like 15 or 20 million dollars. He missed all the milestones, missed all the deadlines, as Tim has a reputation of doing.
“I don’t know if it was a decision not to publish it. I don’t even really know where we were in the negotiation and discussions about what was going to happen to the product. Unbeknownst to everybody, they didn’t have the rights to sell. So all we’d said is: ‘Look, if you go and do a deal with somebody else, pay back the money that was advanced to you.’ That was all we were looking for. We ultimately got a fraction of the money that had been advanced to him, and as far as I know, that was the end of it. But I don’t even know if there was a lawsuit from my recollection.
“I was not the person that was making the assessments of this. I probably wouldn’t have been most qualified to do so.”
According to Kotick, an assessment was made, by people other than him, the game would not do well in the marketplace thus making the shareholders very unhappy should the firm knowingly release a title which it does not expect to do well.
Projects are deemed to likely not be successful when milestones are “repeatedly” missed, when directions are changed “multiple times”, and “where lots and lots of the folks who are involved in the game leave”, Kotick explained.
“The likelihood that that project is going to be turned around and be successful is very low,” he said,”so I think that maybe nobody was able to clearly articulate that this is not a judgment about Tim Schafer. There’s no personal animosity between Bobby Kotick and … I don’t know the guy. Never met him. I could honestly tell you, sitting here, I never saw Brutal Legend and so the judgment of the people who I trust and respect about the quality of the game, and whether or not audiences would be excited and enthusiastic about this game, was ‘No.’ And that’s why it was not a commercial success.”
Brutal Legend went on less than 250K units during launch, and has been deemed a bit of a commercial failure in some respects, yet it hit stores the same day as Uncharted 2 and it’s hard to compete with a juggernaut like Nathan Drake.
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