Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Point of Clarification: We're Debt Free

The fact that Arcen is debt-free is an important point, and I wanted to make sure that didn't get lost in the larger posts from the other days.  Why is that so relevant?  It means that, in the grand scheme, the company as an entity is in no danger of disappearing whatsoever.

Even in this super slow period, even after the royalties it owes staff, Arcen makes about five times what it needs to in order to continue operating the website, pay our LLC fees, and that sort of thing.  That means that AI War and Tidalis and so forth would still be on the market a year from now, two years from now, and so forth.  Rumors of our impending bankruptcy are greatly exaggerated, in a manner of speaking -- one only has to declare insolvency if one can't pay one's debtors and has no assets.

What Stands To Be Lost, And What Doesn't
So what's the big deal been?  Well, the problem was never about Arcen-the-entity.  The problem is about Arcen-the-team-of-people.  Myself, Pablo, Keith, and Phil, primarily (Lars is happily employed elsewhere fulltime, anyway, and has only ever worked part-time with us).  The financial challenge that we've been facing was that we wouldn't be able to keep paying the actual staff, providing benefits for those who have them, and that sort of thing.  In other words: laying everybody off, including myself.

That would be the end of us doing much work for you, but the prior work that we've already done would live on.  That said, many of us have decided that we'd still try to do some stuff part-time in the off hours even if we had to look for other work (we all love what we do), but it won't be the same at all, especially for me -- as a new dad, I can't put in nearly the hours I did back in 2008 or 2009 when I was working two jobs.  I have no idea what we'd be able to accomplish and in what timeframe, but it would be just a tiny fraction of what we do now, I'm certain.  And if one or more of us found other employment with other game developers (a few have offered, over the last year or so as well as recently), then odds are we wouldn't be able to do much with Arcen aside from selling what we'd already made.

So when I was saying that would be the end of Arcen Games as people know it, that's what I meant: that we'd go into sort of a shadow half-life, like Voldemort did after his curse rebounded upon himself.  Like the dark lord, we might then be able to claw our way back into full life, but it wouldn't be the same and it would take a long time at best.  Okay, perhaps I shouldn't be comparing us with an arch-villain of a fantasy work, but it was the only analogy that came to mind -- I've been re-reading the Harry Potter series lately, so I'm sure that's why.

Things Have Improved, A Bit, The Last Couple of Days
None of this makes the situation any less serious, of course, but at least it does mean that the products themselves won't completely disappear, and that we'd have some hope of making a comeback even if we did completely go under.  The outpouring of support and help over the last few days has been absolutely amazing, though, and has helped at least push our dead-end date out by a good half month so far already.  That's pretty stunning for a couple of days without anything even being on discount -- we're extremely grateful.

We've also had a number of businesses offering us support in various manners, and for that, too, we are extremely grateful.  "No man is a failure who has friends," to be sure.  I've felt alternately a bit like George Bailey and Kathleen Kelly lately, which is not something I'd ever expected.  Of course, the main thing on my mind with Kathleen Kelly was how it turned out for her despite the outpouring of support, but that's just cynicism.

I think that, if it's possible for things to work out, we'll find a way with the help of those who have rallied to support us.  We've got a few things brewing in the works for after AI War 4.0 at this stage and even before, though we can't talk about most of them yet.  There hasn't been a magic bullet to solve all our problems yet, but every bit helps and things are moving in the right direction for the first time in months -- that's all we can ask for.  I'm certainly filled with a sense of hope, and it's all thanks to you.

We can still use all the help people care to throw our way, though, to be sure.


  1. We do what we can for the community for it comes back to us in the end.

  2. Well I'm glad things are looking up a bit at least :). Hopefully it won't be a one-off thing!

  3. You're an indie with a luxury problem. Look at Introversion.

    Start letting staff go now while you have money in the bank. Niche indie games like the ones you make are not games you can grow a studio on. Hell, even Uplink and Darwinia weren't enough for Introversion.

    Then start thinking about GAAS (Games as a service) rather than the old school indie model.

    Or, ignore all this advice and go under.

  4. We're not trying to grow a big studio -- six staff maximum is not a huge studio. Point is that it's not sustainable to create games with only a couple of staff members unless you use contractors all the time and lowball them constantly.

    Introversion cut back to their "skeleton crew" after multiple rounds of layoffs and wound up around the size we are now. Apples and oranges.

    It's not unreasonable for us to expect to be able to sustain ourselves on the amount of income we normally make -- that would normally more than cover it. However, what we have here is a shortfall based on a game that few people know about at the moment, etc.

    Staff will be shed if things don't improve -- there's no other alternative -- but at this stage we have a few things cooking that look extremely promising. Too early to tell, but also too early to jump the gun and harm the people who helped make this company what it is.

  5. Your company is pretty new. From what I understand you wrote AI War basically by yourself, and Tidalis was with your newly acquired crew. Not much of a company heritage to harm there.

    Anyway, you'll figure it out. Post for an opinion on Indiegamer, I think you'll find the only people that have full time crew are the guys cranking out HOGs and various casual games with a pretty much direct publisher relationship.

    I'm not speaking out of my ass here. I remember when you appeared with AI War, and it was long after I'd started as an indie.

    Also - Introversion is back to the equity holders, not equity holders + employees.

  6. I've enjoyed AI WAR so I went ahead and picked up Tidalis today from Gamersgate. Seems fun and I can always use a casual puzzle game.


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