Farewell, Working Designs; Grandma Loved You
Now, that company is no more. Vic posted a notice on the message boards at WD that the beloved company is shutting its doors.
Thankfully, there's more to it than that.
First, know that all this went down a little while ago in mid December. Grandma and I really didn't know what to say. We received your panicked e-mails, we saw the post over at The Escapist Lounge, but we couldn't reply with much more than "oh GOD; How could this shit happen!?!" When Grandma read Vic's message, she was heartbroken and confused. It was one thing when Grandma watched SNK die, the only connection she had was the games; besides- they got a second start, in a way. But Working Designs was different. When Vic sent Grandma Growlanser Generations he wasn't looking for press, he was proud of the WORK. He even sent Grandma e-mails about the best online strategy guide to use in case she got stuck; unpublished tricks and strategies that might help her on her journeys.
Grandma considers Vic a friend. So, when Working Designs fell, Grandma went looking for blood. Let's just say she took things personally. One does not fuck with Grandma's favorite gaming companies.
It didn't make sense to us. Growlanser was fantastic, excellent reviews all around; they had a new project opening up with Goeman- so what went wrong? Let me show you Vic's message to WD fans:
First of all, sorry for being incommunicado for such a long time. It's been a busy time, as you'll see.
There's no easy way to say it, so I just will. Working Designs is gone. All the staff has been laid off and the office is closed and has been for some time. Yes, the website is still here, and I am going to do my best to keep it tucked away somewhere on the 'net so it doesn't become an illicit domain. (Of course, some of the haters may be of the mind that it's been illicit all along, heh!).
The most frustrating part of all of this is that I know that our fanbase is still there. Growlanser Generations sold well, but of course not better than it would have sold as two separate titles. We just spent too much time fighting the good fight to even get it out, and other games approved.
Though almost finished and substantially improved from the Japanese release, Goemon is dead for the US, and that was really the final straw. If I can't guarantee that the games I personally choose for us to release in the US can actually get approved and come out, there's no business to be done. There is a possibility that it may be released in Europe (as well as Growlanser Generations), but nothing is finalized yet.
I know many of you will have lots of questions, and there will be some I can answer, and some I can't. Sony has made it clear that they do not want the details of their dealings with any publisher made public. Suffice to say that you would buy what we wanted to sell if we could sell it.
I want to thank each and every one of you personally for being a fan, buying the games we released, and telling your friends. You HAVE made a difference, because you bought the crazy things we did. Thanks to YOU, there are deluxe packs, pack-in soundtracks, better packaging, great hint guides, and better localizations in general. We said it a lot, but it really was true. We were nothing without you.
For the future, there are still great opportunities. I have been in touch with a number of other publishers and manufacturers and I will be working with some of the WD staff to do games for other publishers for the time being, but not as Working Designs. One thing that holds a ton of promise is XBOX 360 RPGs, and I've contacted Microsoft about getting what's underway in Japan out in the US and helping to get more done worldwide. We'll see what happens on that front, but please let them know that YOU WANT MORE JRPGs here. There's some amazing stuff coming for the '360 in Japan, and I know I want it - I think you will, too.
Thanks for everything. It's a tough road ahead for games that aren't of the least-common-denominator variety. The choices you make with your hardware dollars are more important than ever for the generation that is upon us.
With that, I bid all of us...
...Good night, and Good Luck.
So there it is. Did you catch it? There were three things in that message Vic wanted known but could not explicitly say. "Growlanser Generations sold well, but of course not better than it would have sold as two separate titles. We just spent too much time fighting the good fight to even get it out, and other games approved." Thus, Working Designs was FORCED to sell Growlanser II & III together as Growlanser Generations. It was the only way it could have been released. How could they possibly make money if they were not able to sell the games as they wished? It appears that WD did not drive itself off the bridge, as it were; it was a frantic passenger in the back seat of a limo; the glass divider blocking their pleas to slow down as the driver sped into a canyon.
Second item: "Sony has made it clear that they do not want the details of their dealings with any publisher made public." There. If you don't get it yet, the third and final item seals it: "Good night, and Good Luck."
That phrase made my skin go cold. Imagine: you are the director of a gaming company with a deeply loyal fan base. You see your work praised, the numbers look good, but somehow end up in the red on paper-
...and you know why.
You know, and it wasn't because of the incompetency of your accountants or the quality of your staff- it is the most frustrating thing to see everything fall around you; being blameless does not add comfort to the inhuman language spoken by advertising boards. "Marketing phases, demographics, page-ads; not flashy enough; too hardcore; not accessible; too old school; Generation Y doesn't understand; Generation X have become law students and retail managers; demos, magazine interviews, promotion, promotion, people don't want imports, promotion, cover art, promotion, we'll get back to you."
It doesn't long before you just stop listening; these people are not gamers; these people are vultures; your art will fill their wallets far more than it will ever fill yours, and they know it.
You see the end coming; but you have to post a final note to the fans. All the things that need to be said are so difficult to type when done delicately; holding your tongue; watching your words. Imagine how that feels, your phrasing almost like smiling through rage, with just a hint of exhaustion and defeat.
If you had been a fly on the wall of our game room last night you would have seen Grandma playing the demo for Final Fantasy XII trying to get used to the MMO style battles. As she played her most anticipated demo of the year, she only had one thing on her mind, and she made it very clear to me what that was:
"Vic NEEDS to go to Microsoft for help; the 360 is a system that is going to need WD style games to keep a lot of fans who don't feel a high-res ultra-mega version of '50 Cent's Bulletproof' is this shit. Just think- a 360 version of Growlanser! It could be 500hrs long with 75 playable characters, 10000 different types of rings and armor, 22 different endings, and a nudity cheat. If not, at least it would get MADE, and they HAVE to know there are a TON of us that just eat that shit up."
It seems Vic is doing just that (minus the nudity cheat) as he goes into the ether looking for prospects to bring those beautiful games to the US.
Something tells me this is far from over.
Something tells me we are going to see a lot more from Vic Ireland and the former staff of WD.
And so OUR final message is addressed to those who may make the decisions to accept or deny Vic's request for help, and indeed, to Vic himself:
You plan the wars you masters of men plan the wars and point the way and we will point the gun.
[More to come: AP spreads Grandma all over the globe; Grandma and Dragon Quest VIII; Grandma and Call of Duty 2: Big Red One; Hate Mail Grab Bag; T-Shirts; etc.,...]