In late February, Iron Lore Entertainment made the announcement we were optimistically hoping would never come - the young development studio was shutting down. Despite releasing both Titan Quest and Titan Quest: Immortal Throne to favorable reviews and contributing to THQ and Relic's popular Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War: Soulstorm expansion, the team simply found themselves without the financial backing necessary to continue operating. To learn more about the circumstances surrounding the closure and how the state of PC gaming may have contributed to it, we had a quick chat with Iron Lore co-founder Paul Chieffo:
GB: Iron Lore Entertainment's closure came as quite a surprise, at least to those of us on the outside. What exactly went wrong?
Paul: The short answer is that we were unable to secure a follow on contract to Dawn of War - Soulstorm and were therefore unable to continue as a company. We essentially got caught in the gap between projects, which is always a risk for developers because any potential backend revenue due to royalties comes long after a project ships, if at all, while payroll is needed immediately, of course. So to survive, a developer must bring in a steady stream of projects, and if the gap is slightly too long between the ending of the current project and the start of a new one, you're toast. That's essentially what happened to us. We had a very exciting project we were pitching to publishers and getting a lot of interest in, but late last year several interested parties abruptly dropped out for various reasons. There was still interest from other parties, but we were unable to close a deal with them before the money ran out.
GB: When did it become apparent that you might be forced to shut the studio down and how were the employees notified? What was the general mood around the office in the days leading up to the closure?
Paul: We kept the employees in the loop with regular meetings and special meetings whenever there was a significant event in the sales process. Our experience is unfortunately not that atypical for a developer - it can be a risky business. We all knew that, so we tried to keep everyone up to date as much as possible on the ups and downs as we went along. It was quite a roller coaster in the last few weeks, as we were pulling out all of the stops to find interim projects and any other sources of funding to bridge the gap. Our team was absolutely fantastic, as always, and stuck with Iron Lore until the very end. We didn't lose a single person, even when things were looking grim in the last few weeks. It's one of the things I'm saddest about in this whole thing - that such an incredibly talented, dedicated, and passionate team had to break up.
Given all of that, the mood of the company was all over the place. We were all hoping we could pull it out, and when we would get good news or it looked like we unearthed a project that was going to save us everyone was pumped. But then there would be a snag, or the project would fall through and we'd be disappointed. This continued right to the bitter end, as we were doing everything we possibly could to save the company. When time finally ran out, I think we were all a little bit in shock.
GB: With Iron Lore shut down, what's next for Brian Sullivan and other long-time veterans on the team? Have Brian or any other key members already secured jobs with other video game developers?
Paul: Almost everyone on the team has found positions with other developers. They are top-notch developers so there was little thought that this would be a problem. In addition, the Boston area game development community is doing quite well right now, and there are a lot of open positions. Brian and I will still be working here at Iron Lore for awhile. There's actually a lot of work involved in shutting down a company and we'll be at it for a couple more months at least. After that - who knows?