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Flagship At Half-Mast But Still Afloat

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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