Flagship At Half-Mast But Still Afloat

By Alec Meer on July 16th, 2008 at 11:00 am.

Those of us hoping for a fairytale ending to the snowballing Flagship Studios saga aren’t going to get one. But we do get one of those ambiguous movie endings where whether the hero lives or dies after the credits roll depends on the viewer’s rationalisation/wishful thinking. Yes, a weird story gets weirder: despite reports of their demise since Friday, the troubled studio behind Hellgate: London and Mythos still functions.

After a half-week of silence, a chap from Flagship’s publishing subsidiary Ping0 appeared on the official forums to share the good news.

Well, not all that good, actually:

San Francisco, CA (July 14, 2008) — Flagship Studios has announced today that despite rumors to the contrary, the company is still operating.

“It is with deep regret that I must announce that Flagship Studios has laid off most employees. However, the core management and founding team members are still at Flagship.” said Bill Roper, CEO of Flagship Studios. “The past five years have been an incredible experience for us, but unfortunately, we couldn’t sustain the size of the company any longer.”

Flagship Studios owns the rights to all its technology and IP, including Hellgate: London and Mythos. Due to the current situation, Flagship will not be taking any new subscribers for Hellgate: London, and all current subscriptions will not be billed.

Given that Flagship’s lost most of its employees (the people who actually made the games, by the sound of it), it’s impossible to treat this as glad tidings. That the studio still owns its IPs is a surprising surprise however, as Flagship’s Asian partner Hanbitsoft had claimed they were inheriting both Hellgate and Mythos. Presumably there’s been a lot of backstage shouting and money-juggling to get to this point.

And what of Hellgate meanwhile? If they’re not billing current subscription, does that mean they’re getting ready to wind it down or to relaunch it as free-to-play? Can a staffless Flagship really recover enough to make money out of Mythos, or are they clinging on to life in the hope of a buy-out? Really, Flagship’s future seems as uncertain as before this announcement.

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19 Comments »

  1. propanol says:

    You know something’s wrong when a company has an exec on with the title of ‘Chief Visionary Officer’. The ‘too much daydreaming, not enough getting shit done’ paradigm claims yet another victim…

  2. Mark-P says:

    It sounds like legal tomfoolery to buy them time to barter with the IP, whatever it’s worth now. I’d assume that they’re pretty much dead, and this is a formality.
    I feel really sorry for the staff. Hopefully they saw this coming.

  3. Optimaximal says:

    Its amazing how Bill Roper still has the gaul to stand as the figurehead of his abortive mess of a company…

  4. Meat Circus says:

    If you’ve laid of all the staff but retained the IP, there’s only really one reason to do that: make yourself an attractive sale.

    I imagine that Roper et al., want to cash in for as much as they can get for Mythos, bundle Hellgate in as a sweetener (for what little it’s worth) and then get the hell out of Dodge.

  5. Nny says:

    Now I really feel sorry for those folks with lifetime subs…

  6. martin says:

    so basically, the core team is still there, in their current situation they are not able to get anything done, they are bleeding money, they need money for their current and future projects, publishers shall ignore their past failures and give them money or someone shall just buy their not successful IP (HGL) and their maybe sucessful IP (Mythos).

    If they somehow should survive and are allowed to make Mythos, i guess by the time it is finished diablo 3 is released and until then you can play Sacred 2, released August or September 2008.

    Flagship is flagshipped!

  7. Noc says:

    Well, that surprising surprise certainly came as a surprise.

  8. Heartless_ says:

    Someone call Sony Online Entertainment, another set of has-been online games are ready for purchase!

  9. Myros says:

    Im tempted to follow along with the herd here and say something witty and cutting towards Flagship … but tbh Im sorry to see any PC centric dev studio run into problems these days.

  10. Noc says:

    Myros: By which you mean . . . looks like the captains are trying not to go down with the sinking Flagship? Eh? Eh?

    I think I’m done.

  11. KindredPhantom says:

    They will have greater success with a free2play model, even one where you can buy cool weapons with real money ala Maplestory. (yes i forgot what the system is called)

  12. amishmonster says:

    Yeah, if anyone out there looking to acquire Mythos, they’d be stupid not to. The game’s shaping up to be great, and the RMT/microtransaction model that they’d been working towards has legs, I think.

    As for the management acting selfishly – did you miss the part where Roper and Schaefer paid their employees’ a month’s extra salary, out-of-pocket? They may have made some bad decisions along the way but that doesn’t mean they’re bad people.

    Also, in some posts on the Mythos boards, the dev team made it sound like there was at least a hope of re-forming the team in the near-ish future.

  13. Ginger Yellow says:

    So what’s happening to Mythos? I was really looking forward to that game.

  14. Xyzzy says:

    But it is a shame that the whole Mythos team has been laid off as of now, including Travis (the project leader).

  15. amishmonster says:

    The Mythos beta servers are still up, but we haven’t received any solid news on how long that’ll last (though we haven’t received any word that it WON’T last, either).

  16. Nick Halme says:

    Argh. Hellgate was not a bad game; I enjoyed it much more than my time with Age of Conan. It just shouldn’t have tried to compete as an MMO.

  17. Phil H says:

    Yeah, we’re at that part of the movie where the main character is sailing midair over the cliff and you’re not sure whether or not they’re going to make it across, and its looking more and more like we’re in a Looney Toons episode than a Big Action Movie, not good.

    For now, when I have the heart to play, I’m trying to finish up the bits of content that I haven’t quite gotten through, just for the satisfaction of having done them. And yes, I’m one of those poor souls known as Founders.

  18. James Egan says:

    HG: L has/had some good aspects to it. The quest and character dialogues were extremely cheesy, but the game itself was (is?) great for the occasional: drop-in, summon various minions, slaughter demon hordes. Good, clean fun, and the graphics (albeit glitchy at times) are nice. Personally I never subbed, and am now glad I didn’t pony up for the Founders Offer (lifetime sub). It’s not happening, but were HG: L to end up at SOE, it might be that little extra bit of incentive I’d need to get a Station Pass.

  19. Dreamhacker says:

    We need to have a poll!

    Q: Is Flagship “really” still running?

    alt 1: Yes, they are dead
    alt 2: No, they’re not alive

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