Squeenix Seek Anachronox Pitches (If You Fund & Make It)

Square Enix want indie developers to make a new Gex game! Wait, no, that’s not exciting. Let’s go again. Square Enix want indie developers to make a new Fear Effect game! Alice, look, come on. Buck your ideas up. Square Enix want indie developers to make a new Anachronox game! Lawks!

As planned, they’ve had a root around in the Eidos back catalogue and pulled out three IPs they don’t really know what to do with. If you have an idea and want to do the work of crowdfunding then actually making the game, Square Enix might let you (in return for a small share of profits). You could even propose making Gex into a turn-based strategy game because… reasons?

Square Enix say in today’s announcement that they’re not strictly “looking for straight-up sequels – we’d love to see different takes on those universes.” They ask “What would Gex look like in a side-scrolling adventure, or a turn-based strategy?” Pointless and awful, probably.

It’s an odd selection. Gex was a generic late ’90s 3D platformer starring another anthropomorphic animal. Fear Effect I didn’t play, but a quick look of YouTube suggests it’s an unexciting futureshooter in Hong Kong with demons. They’re not especially strong, interesting, or missed, and are generic enough that someone inspired by them could perhaps make their own thing anyway.

Then there’s Anachronox.

Made by Ion Storm, Anachronox was a sci-fi JRPG-y thing with wonky combat but was funny and charming and- wait no, would I even want a fan follow-up to that knowing it’s highly unlikely to get anywhere near enough money to do it justice? No, probably not. I don’t know. I don’t understand. I don’t understand any of this.

This is part of the equally-baffling Square Enix Collective crowdfunding service thing. How it works: developers submit game ideas, then Square Enix check the devs aren’t just chancers, the Internet at large leave feedback and vote on whether they’d back a game, if it’s popular Squeenix will help the devs launch a crowdfunding campaign, and finally Squeenix take a slice of the crowdfunding cash and a share of the profits. Bizarre.

With these Eidos games, they plan to take 5% of the net crowdfunding cash, then from sales they’ll take 10% of net revenue plus 10% as a license fee for using the IP.

It’s all just so odd. Developers get a small amount of profile from association with Square Enix but still need to raise the money themselves, and the feedback they get from Collective is just random Internet folks. Backers still take a chance on games being finished and turning out well, like with regular crowdfunding models, as Square Enix don’t guarantee anything. Even Square Enix are only getting a small slice of what have so far been small sums. Why would people use this? What is this? Why?

50 Comments

  1. Viroso says:

    I think this works kinda like how some big name from years gone by returns on kickstartr and nostalgia-funds a game, only that Square allows anyone to be the big name, as in, it’s not the developers who matter but the franchise. The franchise’s the big name and there are people who want a new Gex game.

    • loquee says:

      Known IP + solid game + still small fan base + free visibility during crowdfunding.
      As a relatively unknown Dev who knows they are able to deliver what needs to be pitched to make the crowdfunding successful, I’d say that proposition is much more interesting than setting aside 30 -50% of the budget for marketing, hiring PR, Marketing persons or get a publisher that usually takes a much larger chunk of the pie than Square Enix does here.

      Sure, this model will not grant you complete creative freedom, but that is also rarely the case with Kickstarter games where your backers act like a publisher and also jugde the game at release. If you can´t make them happy, your game will start its day 1 steam presence with an ugly user review score that basically kills most of your sales.

      And if you make a decent game with this IP, I bet Square Enix would help with some PR and their distribution network at no extra costs.

      To me this is clearly a WIN-WIN situation for Dev and Publisher.

      And having the crowd as part of it could help to produce the best outcome for players too.

  2. rebb says:

    Get on it, Tom Hall ! :)

  3. karthink says:

    This is so weird.

    What I learn from this is exactly how much Square Enix thinks the name Anachronox is worth. I think they’re highballing it somewhat. And what exactly is the point of taking 5% of the crowdfunded pot? That amount would be disproportionately more valuable to the developers than it would to Squeenix.

    • Shuck says:

      By taking 5% up front, Squeenix are guaranteed to make some money, even if the game doesn’t get made, even if the game doesn’t sell. Squeenix makes money, everyone else assumes the risk. This is all pretty lousy – and rather defeats the whole purpose of a publisher. It seems like the whole industry is moving towards a model where developers (and crowdfunders, to a much smaller degree) shoulder all the risk, every other entity is just there to skim some money off of the process of other people making and selling games.

      • MadTinkerer says:

        You say “moving towards a model” as if publishers weren’t already quite happy to shut down developers whose products were profitable but not profitable enough, made billions in profit but the one dev didn’t kowtow to the publishers enough, or it’s simply already been decided to shut down the studio the minute the product is on shelves regardless of how it does.

        Video game publishing has always been a scam for the most part. Yeah, there are good publishers like Paradox and Stardock, but being a ruthless fuck is what gets you the most money and elevates you to the position of one of the biggest fishes in the pond. Or so certain people think. Rather, what really happens is that once your company gets big, professional fuckers from anything other than game development, and usually not even game publishing, and certainly no engineering experience, will be hired in to make publishing decisions and usually also design decisions. That’s how it’s been since the early 90s.

        • Shuck says:

          Sure, I know a number of developers who were totally screwed over by some seriously corrupt and unethical publishers, but even then publishers were part of the process, making risks by investing in projects/developers. The new model seems to be that they stand off to one side, unconnected to the actual development process except where they can leech some money from the developers who are actually taking the financial risks. This is so much worse than it has been, and that’s saying something.

          • Siana says:

            Mhmm, developers screwed over by publisher…. remember how Square allegedly caused Studio GRIN’s bankruptcy?

  4. Urthman says:

    Basically Squeenix is licensing IP on a contingency basis. Probably a better deal than trying to license or buy the Anachronox IP outright.

    I’d rather have “new IP from devs who made Anachronox” than “new Anachronox game by who knows,” but “new Anachronox game by who knows” is probably more likely to get press and kickstarter funding than “new IP wacky JRPG by who knows.”

    • Shuck says:

      “Probably a better deal than trying to license or buy the Anachronox IP outright.”
      Well, you know what would be an ever better deal for the developer? If Square acted like a, you know, publisher and paid to have the game developed, even if they took all the profits. As it is, the developers have to fund it (crowdfunding will only go part way to making up the budget) and Squeenix take part of the development money and a good chunk of the profit while contributing… a not-very-well-known name.
      Although you’re right – the name is worth more than the names of the developers who made the game. Developers are an anonymous bunch (and some of those who have some name recognition haven’t done anything to deserve it), completely unknown to the majority of game buyers. Plus, it’s almost impossible for the original devs to have come back together to form a new team anyways. At most you end up with two or three people from the original team, and if they were leads it’s tempting to give them all the credit, but that’s rarely true.

      • April March says:

        But in order to do that, Squeenix would have to know what a good Anachronox game would be like and direct whatever dev was working on it towards what they believed was a proper outcome. I think it’s very clear they don’t understand why Anachronox got its modest fame, nor how they should go around remaking it.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          It’s just not on their radar of IPs they want to work directly with. Why would it be, they have some HUGE IPs to work with for their developers. This is just a cynical cash grab because they don’t want to do anything with the IP due to it not being well known enough.

    • Premium User Badge

      Henke says:

      “I’d rather have new IP from devs who made Anachronox”

      Then I suggest you play Lost Planet 3! It’s written by Richard Gaubert, who wrote Anachronox, and the second writer and the lead designer on it also got their start working on Anachronox. And much like Anachronox, it’s a game with great story and characters, but kinda mediocre and a bit wonky gameplay. Highly recommended anyway!

  5. fuggles says:

    How about you contact the original makers, of anacrhonox, you know the ones who wanted to make a sequel and wrote the first game intending for a sequel, but got closed. Bet they have some ideas.

    Anyway, anachronism is blooming brilliant. Gex could go into evolve as a dlc monster.

  6. nillenille says:

    I wouldn’t call “Anachronox” a series… More like half-a-game. :/

  7. Lars Westergren says:

    Obsidian (Or was it inXile?) said big publishers had contacted then and offered to publish any future crowded projects, and when checking what they were offering it was like –

    – “So we do all the work of running the Kickstarter in our name, then you take the money and ownership all the IP rights and pay us (or maybe someone else) to make the game, and you take all the profits?”
    – “Yes.”
    – “Ooh, tempting, but no.”

  8. HypercaneSanvu says:

    My last Square Enix game was Deus Ex. They released the game, and then ~2 weeks later they “updated” the game to add advertising during the loading screens.

    In the article you asked “Why?”, and the answer is that they’re shite-birds. Please stop buying their games so that they can finish going bankrupt.

  9. yogibbear says:

    20% of revenue seems AWFULLY high. 20% of profit, then maybe, because then SQUEENIX are actually taking on some risk… but 20% of revenue is a joke. That’s probably closer to 50-80% of profit. Totally BS.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Yeah unless it is phenomenally successful the devs get screwed. They also take all of the risk involving the kickstarter etc. I wouldn’t do this in a million years, it’s just not worth it so you can use an IP like Anachronox that honestly, not enough people remember.

    • slerbal says:

      Yes absolutely. 20% of *revenue* would more than kill most studios and also would be an auditing nightmare. I would never sign a deal like that in 1,000 years. This is actually pretty similar to all the horrifying payday loans companies out there.

      If you are an indie dev thinking about this please take some advice from someone who was in the games industry for over 15 years: stay the hell away from this it will screw you.

  10. PsychoWedge says:

    Getting some percentage of the revenue as some kind of licence fee is understandable but for fucks sake, why would they even think of taking 5% of the crowdfunding pledges? What does that even accomplish except making the budget even tighter than it already inevetably is?

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      All it really does is make people not want to pitch in. I would probably back an Anachronox crowdfunding campaign. But if I’m going to pay a 5% sales tax to Squeenix right out of the gate then no way. They’re welcome to their piece of the pie later on, but the point of crowdfunding is to facilitate the development — not to start paying a publisher who hasn’t even done anything yet.

  11. GameCat says:

    I’m gonna pitch a game exactly like Anachronox but reimagined as a mobile modern multiplayer shooter with microtransactions.
    They will buy it.

    Yeah, I’m eating puppies for breakfast too.

    • solidsquid says:

      Shooter? That’d take far too much in time and resources! Just make it a puzzle game, we can call it Anachro-Jewelled or something

  12. emperor_nero says:

    I loved Anachronox, but this sounds like a completely shitty idea.

  13. Turkey says:

    Kicking a dead horse in the balls.

  14. Philomelle says:

    Well, for one, Fear Effect games were actually pretty amazing for their time. The second suffered from its entire marketing campaign focusing on how it has two playable lesbians than on the game itself, but they were both interesting games that deserved to be played.

    However, I’m not sure how SquareEnix even expects people to know about that franchise. The development team shut down ages ago and the games can now only be obtained through the European PSN or by running an illegal rom on a PS1 emulator.

    The other two are similarly baffling. Anachronox isn’t actually finished, it was supposed to be episodic series that died when Ion Storm collapsed; they are essentially proposing for someone to make a spin-off to an unfinished story. The crack about “Gex reimagined as a side-scrolling adventure” is dumb as bricks; the original game was a side-scrolling 2D platformer in the vein of Rayman, only the sequels went in the 3D direction.

    So we have two misfires and one franchise that only ancients like me remember. It makes me wonder if SquareEnix even knows anything about the IPs they own.

    • tiltaghe says:

      Yes, i was waiting for someone to say something about dear old Fear Effect :-) 13 years old me had a blast playing it. Really weird atmosphere and cool characters! Ha Deke that maniac. The cuts between the different sections of the game controlling each time a different character were great. I remember when one dude wake up prisoner in a cold meat room, hanging like a pig or something. Was disturbing at times. The control today… I think it feels even more awkward than a Resi. We sure had a lot of patience to learn to play at the time :)

    • Jalan says:

      I proudly owned and finished the Fear Effect games (I wished I still owned them, in fact, and regret selling them off in favor of playing console upgrade leapfrog all those years ago). This article plays the brushoff game way too unfairly with that and Gex (Enter the Gecko was a great platformer) as far as I’m concerned.

    • Seraph says:

      I adore Fear Effect. I never understood everyone’s focus on the sexy bits, the game’s aesthetic – part 80’s action movie, part dystopian science fiction, and part Chinese mysticism, was the obvious showpiece for me – and that game’s world remains one of the coolest settings I’ve experienced in a game. As an aside, Matt Furniss, one of the sound guys for the first Fear Effect, put a remastered OST for that game up on youtube (link to youtube.com) ; it’s a very fun listen, and I think would do a pretty good job giving the uninitiated a sense of the game’s appeal.

      • Emeraude says:

        I really liked the male characters. Maybe I’m misremembering a bit (and with Shadowrun Hong Kong coming, and me being on PS1 marathon replay, might be the right time to pop it up) but they felt more grounded, less icons glam, more noir-ish tired and even kinda ugly than the common video game main character.

  15. vorador says:

    Not only the developers need to get their own funding, but also Squeenix get a cut of such money, and a 20% cut of the sales for lending them an IP that’s been dead and buried for more than a decade.

    The fuck.

  16. commentingaccount says:

    Gex was a series that was always so close to awesome, but something got in the way. The first game was too difficult. The second was too repetitive and the controls weren’t the best. Never played the third.

  17. Emeraude says:

    In case people needed a reminder that at times stupidity is indistinguishable from evil.

    Seriously though, that’s one hell of a shitty proposition. And the worse is that I’m totally seeing the clueless people who spawned it thinking it *is* a cool gesture to the indie/fan community, while wondering why the mini-backlash.

    • April March says:

      To be honest, if they didn’t charge the 5% fee over the crowdfunding and took less money from sales (or, as someone above me suggested, took 20% from profit instead of net revenue) it would indeed be a good thing towards indie devs. They’d essentially be licencing their old licences they weren’t using to small studios that could make cool and different things instead of large mercenary studios that would just rehash whatever is the famous genre of the day (something that doesn’t even work any more these days). But they had to get greedy and charge for all these contingencies.

      • Emeraude says:

        That’s a huge *IF* isn’t it ?

        And still, the problem remains: what’s the point of a publisher and editor that would rather not publish nor edit ? Which is what we have here when you’re down to it.

        For that matter, what’s the point of a intellectual monopoly law which allows to dispossess creators and let a third party that had nothing to do with the creation hold the right hostage with no intention of creating itself ? Wasn’t one of the argument in favor of of those laws that we’d temporarily give up a bit of he public space in favor of fostering creation ? Not preventing it.

        • LionsPhil says:

          I think the writing was on the wall that modern intellectual property law only serves the public interest as a side-effect the moment someone figured you could uphold a patent on software.

          • Emeraude says:

            The way the software industry has been lobbying to benefit from both copyright and patent laws (while actually fulfilling the constitutional mandate of neither) is really sobering, yes.

    • slerbal says:

      Agreed. This is a terrible idea on so many levels, not least that it will never be financially viable for a small developer

  18. RARARA says:

    Well, Squeenix has been fleecing their mobile customers with their exorbitant IAPs, and now they are trying to do that to devs too.

    I hope no one is dumb enough to bite. I love Anachronox, but let’s face it, it wasn’t popular even back when it was released a decade and half ago.

  19. Jollyman00 says:

    Fear Effect was an awesome game to teenage me. I would love to play them again.

  20. Werthead says:

    In the comments to the news article, the Squarenix rep said they’d consider Tom Hall taking a run at a new ‘NOX game. Which isn’t exactly the attitude you’d want to hear (they should have got him on board at stage one), but I suppose is vaguely hopeful?

    This is going to suck, isn’t it?

  21. SuperTim says:

    I can see mr. Molyneux or similar people bidding on this. This is a great idea to generate huge publicity for your indie company, and if you never finish the game, it doesn’t even cost you a dime! It’s even legit, too!

  22. Danda says:

    “Who wants to make an Anachronox game?”

    NO WAY. NO. Only Tom Hall and Richard Gaubert can make an Anachronox game.

    • Mollusc Infestation says:

      If memory serves, Tom Hall has said that the second and third game have already been written. I would part with just about any major organ to see Anachronox 2, but i think i’m too jaded to actually believe that there’s any chance of it happening. At best, i could see it being revived as a gritty third person shooter with little regard for the original.

      • Jackablade says:

        A glance at Tom Hall’s twitter page suggests he’s not in any particular rush to go after the IP.
        “maybe someday when I’m not busy at a job! Heh.”

  23. solidsquid says:

    So when are they planning to licence out a sequel to The Bouncer?

  24. Jakkar says:

    Gex 3d: Enter the Gecko was genius, philistines. PSX 3d platformer crushed and suffocating under the weight of its load of rapidfire popculture references, while remaining an entertaining play. Not as finely tuned as Super Mario 64, but a game in the same mold and one that I found a lot of fun to play. It felt ‘right’; responsive, kinetic, alive. And it made me laugh.