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Thread: Introversion Software Closes their doors ... again

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    Cool Introversion Software Closes their doors ... again

    Bleh, The text that you have entered is too long (10294 characters). Please shorten it to 10000 characters long. Yes it is long - Sue me.

    As it turns out, my all-time favourite indie developer, Introversion Software (maker of Uplink, Darwinia, DEFCON, Multiwinia), actually closed their doors in March 2010 without many people even knowing a thing about it.

    Starting with the release of Uplink in 2001 Introversion grew to a small successful company with a steady cashflow that kept them afloat till about 2003 when they were getting ready to file for bankruptcy. They started selling their own possessions to keep the company afloat while they developed their next game Darwinia that eventually released in early 2005. Sales of Darwinia was not as good as everyone expected it to be. At least not high enough to allow them to sustain themselves in the longer run. At the end of 2005 they once again found themselves living from government grants, ready to file chapter 13.

    They eventually thought about contacting steam to try and get their games distributed through them - a great move that provided them with enough income till the release of their 3rd game, DEFCON, in September 2006. Introversion Software spent their last £1500 the day the pre-orders for DEFCON went live. Perfect timing if I have ever seen it. The rest is history, until March 2010 when they once again stood before the Chapter 13 door I suppose. With Darwinia+ not doing good on XLBA they did not have a choice. They made repayment agreements with their creditors, let the people on their team go, sold a last few things and finally cleaned out the offices and closed their doors for good. Sad turn of events indeed.

    Mark goes on to explain how they managed to reopen their doors with the help of Steam (again).
    A wise man once told me that sometimes it’s better to seek forgiveness than ask for permission. That stuck with me and it characterises my approach when speaking with the press or being asked about Introversion. I tend to tell the truth and get shouted out afterwards for putting my foot in it. I’m not going to apologise though, because I believe that honesty is the best way to communicate important lessons about the reality of running a company. I also hate it when the big boys think they can throw their weight around and silence you if your experience is different to the glossy / shiny view they wish to project. So it was unusual when I found myself avoiding conferences and turning down interviews for the first half of 2010.

    This came about because Introversion nearly closed it’s doors in March. Any one who knows anything about the history of Introversion know that in the past we have complained about running out of money pretty regularly, and the thought of another tale of financial woe leaves them cold. This time though it was very different. It wasn’t just the cash reserves that were depleted it was our will to continue.
    To understand a company you have to understand it’s board and although we are a team of four, Chris and I have the strongest personalities, the loudest voices and are most stubborn when we don’t get our own way (interestingly Chris and I are both only children). Chris wants to make new games. Mark wants to grow a stable company that has the capability to bring Chris’ games to multiple platforms. Now when we got the opportunity to bring Darwinia to XBLA I saw a great opportunity to step forward. We started off trying to get into Microsoft’s good books by releasing a custom version of Darwinia for Vista. Then we decided that the Multiplayer component of Darwinia+ was worth a whole PC launch and we got tied up with Multiwinia. Than Darwinia+ spun out to about three years longer that our original estimate. Throughout this whole time, Chris had been trying to get back to Subversion. He was committed to working on the other projects, but his heart wasn’t in it and in the back of his mind was a burning desire to work on his next game idea. As we neared the D+ launch the future of Introversion looked really rosy. We were lining up for DEFCON PSN, but we’d learnt our lessons about console porting and knew what we were getting into. Chris new he would get a good chance to work on Subversion and I knew we had a great portfolio of products to get us through the next three – four years.

    Internally we knew within about an hour of Darwinia+’s launch that it hadn’t done well enough. It took us about two weeks to really accept that and the awful realisation that we didn’t have enough to continue with the office or the staff. We had a bunch of creditors knocking at the door, but worse than all of that we were absolutely shattered. Darwinia+ had been really drawn out and I’d spent a lot of time selling the future to the team and when the rug was pulled away from my feet I really didn’t want to continue. Critically, neither did Chris. He’d had to spend a lot of time on Darwinia and decided that we had failed to live up to our original mission of making “Original Video Games”. Striking out on his own made most sense given IV’s failure: “We tried it your way, Mark – didn’t work”. So we started shutting things down. We reached out to our creditors and (amazingly) they accepted our payment plans. We closed the office and sold the tables and chairs. We let Gary, Leander and Martin go(another three that can be officially added to Nicholas Lovell’s redundancy tracker). They were amazingly stoical about it and I’m glad to say that they are all doing well. Then we closed the door on Introversion, rewrote our CVs from scratch, and started applying for jobs.
    I guess this was rock bottom. We’d been through crises before, but we’d always wanted to solve the problem and find a solution, this time it was a bit like there was nothing left to save.

    A couple of weeks rolled by and I found myself unable to accept the end. Chris too wasn’t actually ready to jack it in. We put together a rescue plan involving creating Steam achievements for DEFCON so we could convince Valve to run a promotion with it. We’ve flogged Darwinia to death over the years, but we thought that DEFCON would benefit from some spit and polish. Chris was working every afternoon on Subversion and every morning on DEFCON. It was as if that small amount of Subversion work was refuelling him. I didn’t need to keep justifying a project that I had been pushing for four years and could start being a lot more collaborative and analytical about the business decisions that we could make. It was like a weight was lifting.

    Valve okayed the promotion and even though it didn’t focus on DEFCON we were happy that we had achieved our core objective. This was the game-changer. When we started Introversion we’d had a string of successes and believed we were undefeatable, but it was a long time since we’d had a victory and we really needed one. Right on cue, Valve delivered. The promo exceeded all of our expectations and when combined with our low burn rate (no office or staff now) we had gone from being fearful about paying our mortgages to having a year’s operating capital in the bank. This was good, but paled in comparison to the fact that we were working together as a team again. Just like the old days. Just me Chris, TJ and Johnny – laptops, bedrooms and plans for global domination. The difference this time was we have a lot more knowledge and experience about what works and what doesn’t. On the face of it we are less capable than we were six months ago, but personally I believe that we are ready to rebuild the company bigger and stronger in a different mould.
    Subversion is our most ambitious and epic projects so far. It’s a complete return to our roots. It’s as immersive as Uplink with the production values of Darwinia+ and it’s affordable when I run my three year cashflow (you wont find Chris talking about that in his blogs anywhere!). We’re also really hoping to have the opportunity to release DEFCON on the PSN and we should know about that in a couple of months.

    We rebelled. We evolved. We look and feel human. Chris is programmed to think he is human. There aren’t any copies. And we have a plan.
    Introversion's Mark Morris has recalled how a Defcon sale on Steam kept the struggling developer from closing down.

    The response was "phenomenal", Morris told - resulting in a cool $250,000 for the (recently reduced to) four-man team.

    "For the first time in a long time we've got a cash flow that extends out for two years at our size, which is nice," said Morris. "We've got two projects on the go at the moment - Subversion, which we're talking a lot about at the moment. It's new IP, very interesting stuff, but still not fully worked out in terms of which way the game will go... even on a daily basis Chris [Delay] decides more about what the game is going to look like, but we're still not quite at the point where we can put together a production plan and say, 'It's coming out in two years.'"

    The conclusion, for Mark Morris, is that "if you're not on Steam, you're not an indie developer of note".
    +1 For Steam I guess.

    Introversion is currently working on their next game, due out in 2011, named Subversion. It uses procedurally generated content and its engine is currently capable of building a complete model city, with buildings, roads blah blah blah - the whole shebang. They are still hard at work and you can follow the development diary on their website here:

    Long Live Introversion!

  2. #2


    Damn, I love their games, and own legal copies of just about every single one.

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