Couple Darwinia+'s longer than expected development with a "poor performance" on Xbox Live Arcade, and it's no wonder Introversion has decided to focus its future on Steam.
"Do we regret working with Microsoft? No, but it's unlikely we'll work with them again," Introversion's mouthpiece Mark Morris told PC Gamer.
"[Microsoft] make you work harder on the production value, but they don't back it up with sales."
Darwinia+ is a combination of Darwinia and Multiwinia - a project bossed by Microsoft that took Introversion down a frustratingly long and winding development path. Darwinia+ was eventually released in February 2010, nearly four years after Darwinia - and a precocious, naive Introversion - won top honours at the Independent Games Festival.
The poor sales of Darwinia+ almost ruined a fragile Introversion. What saved the once bastion of British independent gaming was, coincidentally, Steam, and the sale of nuclear warfare strategy game Defcon.
"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 in August 2010.
With that cash, Introversion can hoist its sails; and with creator Chris Delay reinvigorated to be finally working on his beloved Subversion - comes the wind to fill them.
I was worried that people haven’t had an opportunity to complain that we write too much about Minecraft for a bit. So here’s two Minecraft things at once. First up, yesterday developer Notch released a screenshot of the Hell dimension that’s appearing in the Halloween update. You can speculate for yourself what the various block types in here might be – there’s five new ones being added overall. Click on that pic above to see it all biggerised. And below, there’s something special. A video of the biggest Darwinian you’ve ever seen.
If ever proof was needed of how important Valve's Steam platform has become to many PC developers, look no further than the tale of Introversion, the developers of Defcon and Darwinia, whose company was saved by a Steam sale.
Despite a string of cult successes like Uplink, Darwinia and Defcon (pictured), the British developers had run into some tough times recently, and had gone from being a "proper" studio, with an office and staff, to having to fire most of their workers, sell their furniture, move out of their office and code from their bedrooms.
In desperation, one day they decided to add some Steam achivements to Defcon. Doing so meant Valve gave the team some promotion on Steam, and that promotion turned into sales.
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.
Great news for Introversion, as they thoroughly deserve it. It'll also hopefully give them the coin to continue development on Subversion. But for everyone else...Valve may be in most people's good books, but it's still a little frightening to think that a single company can play Kingmaker with the fortunes of developers across an entire platform, so dependant have so many PC publishers become on Steam for legitimate sales.
When Introversion do one of their sporadic candid posts, it’s normally worth reading. Mark Morris’ latest one is no different, talking about their last six months. They knew within an hour Darwinia+ hadn’t done well enough, and eventually they realised they couldn’t go on. Instead, they ended up selling the office, going back down to 3 staff, selling tables and chairs and working from their bedrooms again. However – and for me, the key thing in the story – they still needed some operating funds. Defcon had Steam achievements added, in hope that Valve would let a promotion go ahead. And they did…
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.
In other words, on with Subversion. And Chris is continuing his development diaries here. It’s the second time Steam saved Introversion, of course, with Darwinia’s original launch there changing the course of a game which seemed to be not finding an audience.
Lewie, when marching into the purely-conceptual RPS office to deliver his beautiful Bargain Bucket also brings news that Introversion have made their source code for Darwinia and Multiwinia available. For thirty quid at the Introversion store you gain access to the full source code to nose at and mod to your heart’s delight, the ability to add your own branches to share, access to the dev-forum. Also, there’s going to be a meta-server for Multiwinia. I have no idea what that means. I hope it means there’s a superpowered server. That’d be amazing. Anyway – good news, I think. Those interested can buy here.