How Nightdive Studios Brought Back System Shock

A feature article on GameInformer takes a detailed look at how a small indie team, Nightdive Studios, has managed to acquire the rights to the System Shock franchise. What started as just a desire to play System Shock 2 on a modern computer led to some controversy, a successful Kickstarter campaign, and an amicable deal with OtherSide Entertainment who are now working on the third part of the System Shock series. Thanks to Nightdive Studios we went from no System Shock to more System Shock than we know what to do with.

Read the article to find out how that happened. Here's an excerpt:

Kick spent some time researching why System Shock 2 was unplayable on modern systems. He discovered both a growing demand for a playable version of the game as well as the identity of the company that owned the rights to the series. Star Insurance Company had obtained Looking Glass Studios’ assets after the company closed its doors in 2000. Curious about the status of the series’ rights and whether Star had any plans for them, Kick sent them a cold email. Surprisingly, he received a reply the next day. “They wrote me back asking what I wanted to do, if I wanted to make a third game,” he says. “I’m in the middle of the jungle at the time [with] no money, and Star Insurance had me on a phone call with their head council.”

According to Kick, Star was wary about doing anything with the rights due to how expensive it would be to create a sequel. Kick went another route, pitching them on re-releasing System Shock 2 in a playable state on Steam and (GOG). He showed them the sizable wishlist for the game on GOG as evidence that there was a demand for such a re-release. He eventually persuaded Star with the potential profit and borrowed money from friends and family to pay for the licensing fee.

Around the same time, Kick discovered an anonymous modder had created a patch that made System Shock 2 playable on modern systems. “I had already been in contact with friends and programmers to create a team to make this work, and this person in France had basically released this file so that all you had to do was stick it in the system directory of System Shock 2,” Kick says.

Controversy struck when Kick and Bane gas launched their version on Valentine’s Day, 2013. “It was kind of strange when we released because the System Shock 2 community was like ‘How dare this company come out of nowhere and take the work from modders and claim ownership of this stuff?’ It was a big mess,’” Kick says. “I didn’t intend for any of that to happen, and we did not claim that we did the work. We tried to reach out to this person, but they wished to remain anonymous.”

According to Banegas, the first sales report revealed good news in spite of the controversy. “At the end of the month, it was abundantly clear from our first sales report that this was a viable business, a sort of niche that we could hit the ground running with and that’s what we did,” she says. “So here we are.”