Becoming a proper company....

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Becoming a proper company....

Postby Tom » Mon Jan 29, 2007 10:49 am

Now that Marky boy’s on board, it’s time to become a proper company. I say proper, because until recently every day was another stressed-out fire fight. Until recently, every cash flow I’d conjured up always showed that we would be flat broke (again) in 2 months…. Some perspective:

We started out in October 2001 with £600 – that was £200 each. Mark was at the MOD, Chris was full time at another development company, and I’d just taken voluntary redundancy from my graduate employer who announced plans to fold, the day before I joined full time. On October 1st, we launched Uplink, and orders started to come in. Chris and I were making the CDs ourselves but after a couple of days, sales had escalated to 10 units a day and we were falling behind. We’d made enough in the first week to order 3000 pressed CD’s, so we held orders until this big batch had come in. Sales steadily grew, until 4 months in, PC Gamer gave the game 80%, and then sales rocketed. We’d made £40k in a single month, and £120k over the previous 4.

Clearly (duh!) we were on the road to riches and it wasn’t long before Mark and I had moved into a really swish mews house close to London’s fashionable Camden Market. Then we went to E3 and rinsed £10k in a week on speedboats and fast cars, and when we got back we learned the hard way that in the games industry, you make 75% of your total revenue for the product in the first 6 months. Luckily we had a staggered retail release which kept things ok for another 5-6 months, but come Christmas 2002, the mews house was gone and things were looking somewhat bleak. Strategy First weren’t paying us for US retail royalties, but we were sure that it would work out, and that the money would be coming soon.

It didn’t. Within anther 6 months (by Summer 2003), the company was flat broke and there were no more salaries. Chris and I signed up on benefits and I started to sell everything I’ve ever owned (bar my laptop) on eBay, right down to the 5 mains plugs I rescued from the skip outside my parents house (which I’d now been forced to move back into). Darwinia slipped relentlessly, Strategy First went bust, and 2004 was, financially, awful. We were making about £3k / month from continued Uplink sales, but all of that went into essential things like accounting fees and web-servers.

Fast Forward to March 2005, and we released Darwinia! Initial sales were great – in fact in the opening weekend, we outsold Playboy Mansions in many of the big retailers. However, despite a 90% PC Gamer / Format review score sales slowed faster than we’d hoped (due to our over optimistic £29.99 price point), within 6 months, it looked like we’d start 2006, back on benefits. Fortuitously, Valve put Darwinia on Steam in December 05, and we were in the running again...

…but only just! By 15th September, the day DEFCON pre-orders were launched, I wrote a cheque for our last £1,500. With all the launch preparations, we were completely drained of cash - absolutely nothing left. Luckily for us, and those of you who’re looking forward to Subversion, DEFCON did much much better than we ever imagined, and the cash rolled in.

Finally now, after 5 hard years, I can rest in bed at night, sound in the knowledge that we have enough cash to keep us going for another 12 months (by which time something juicy should be out ;-) ). Mark, Vic and I now have to use this opportunity to tidy up all the loose ends and outstanding issues that were abandoned in a desperate attempt to bail us out of sinking – and there’s a lot that needs to be done if we’re going to remain stable and viable in the future – better product support – better financial control – storing marketing assets so that we can actually find them – better chance of actually getting a build within 6 weeks of asking for it...

Surprisingly for our size, we’re a games company where only 50% of our team makes games; the other 50% makes making the games happen. The guys making games are on top form… it’s time for the rest of us to buckle up!
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Postby martin » Mon Jan 29, 2007 12:55 pm

yay! first post ;)

well it's nice that introversion aren't always on the edge of being broke any more :D

...resumes waiting for subversion :P
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Postby Crook » Mon Jan 29, 2007 1:02 pm

The games industry is a hard market, but it seems that IV have carved a unique selection of games to choose from. I hope Subversion does as well as DEFCON - better even as that'll roll the company on for another year or two, and another game or two. Keeping the faith is a difficult thing :)
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Re: Becoming a proper company....

Postby Darksun » Mon Jan 29, 2007 1:56 pm

Tom wrote:Then we went to E3 and rinsed £10k in a week on speedboats and fast cars


But it was totally worth it, right?
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Postby jelco » Mon Jan 29, 2007 2:05 pm

It was funny how Mark tried to get his fast car to work last year at San Fransisco!

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Postby KingAl » Mon Jan 29, 2007 2:11 pm

Did Tom get an avatar especially for this blog post?
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Postby Montyphy » Mon Jan 29, 2007 4:46 pm

KingAl wrote:Did Tom get an avatar especially for this blog post?


I think so, because I don't remember seeing it when I read the blog earlier.

EDIT: The following needs to be pointed out!

Tom wrote:we have enough cash to keep us going for another 12 months (by which time something juicy should be out :wink:)
Uplink help: Check out the Guide or FAQ.
Latest Uplink patch is v1.55.
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Postby xander » Mon Jan 29, 2007 4:53 pm

Montyphy wrote:EDIT: The following needs to be pointed out!

Tom wrote:we have enough cash to keep us going for another 12 months (by which time something juicy should be out :wink:)

The Mac version of Defcon?

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Postby Darksun » Mon Jan 29, 2007 4:53 pm

Montyphy wrote:EDIT: The following needs to be pointed out!

Tom wrote:we have enough cash to keep us going for another 12 months (by which time something juicy should be out :wink:)


No, don't point it out! I was hoping prophile had missed it!
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Postby Montyphy » Mon Jan 29, 2007 4:55 pm

xander wrote:
Montyphy wrote:EDIT: The following needs to be pointed out!

Tom wrote:we have enough cash to keep us going for another 12 months (by which time something juicy should be out :wink:)

The Mac version of Defcon?


Oh how you jest, xander. :P
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Latest Uplink patch is v1.55.
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Postby MrBunsy » Mon Jan 29, 2007 5:08 pm

Something on the Xbox Arcade, methinks. And a Big Defcon Patch hopefully, but that's not exactly going to make money.
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Postby recover » Mon Jan 29, 2007 6:42 pm

Darwinia Multiplayer! ;)
And... DEFCON patches, darwinia patches, uplink patches... and maybe Subversion :D
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Postby Mas Tnega » Mon Jan 29, 2007 6:42 pm

Montyphy wrote:EDIT: The following needs to be pointed out!

Tom wrote:we have enough cash to keep us going for another 12 months (by which time something juicy should be out :wink:)
A music editor for a propriety format that's almost like a really awesome version of midi, only too awesome, so we can show our devotion with tunes that will only play in Subversion or the editor and <the fifth game>, and they their appreciation by selling it as a tribute album!

Or more Dev CDs, or... something.

I don't have a clue :S
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Postby prophile » Mon Jan 29, 2007 8:02 pm

<I'm an idiot.>

It's true!
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Postby sirvoks » Mon Jan 29, 2007 9:09 pm

Prophile: ew.

I'm waiting for that juicy stuff 8)

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