Thursday, June 23, 2011

Piranha Bytes vs Jowood


Anyone who follows the Gothic series will immediately know what I'm talking about here, for those who don't:

Jowood was the publisher for the entire Gothic series, as well as flagship titles like Painkiller and Spellforce. For publishing these games they quickly received powerhouse status in the industry in Europe and even started making major headway into the american and even the Asian markets (their E3 booth was well-received for several years running)... but that was before every developer of worth jumped ship.

You see, Jowood had a little problem called greed. For years they straddled their developers with unrealistic development schedules and pressed them into releasing unfinished games, Gothic 3 being the worst offense in this thread.

Much to their credit Piranha Bytes still released quality titles, and made the Gothic series a go-to in RPG design that influenced many other titles in the early 2000s. Even Gothic 3 was eventually fixed due to the extreme loyalty of their fanbase, well-earned from their hard work on the earlier titles. This caused one Piranha Bytes developer to say "We have the best fanbase ever." Doesn't that give you a fussy feeling? No? Ok then...

Even with its early flaws, its difficult not to nostalgia hard every time I think about running around Gothic 3. (image taken with Gothic 3 gametool)

...but after the release of Gothic 3 they had enough with Jowood. The split happened mostly behind the scenes, but it was quite obvious to anyone what had happened. They Forced Piranha Bytes to release a title before it was finished, tarnishing their sterling reputation thus far with a buggy release, so they left.

Jowood even tried to milk Gothic 3 for more money with a horrible expansion pack. Way more buggy than the original game... but noone bothered to try to fix that piece of crap.

But then Jowood, being the greedy buggers that they are (or were, but i'll get to that later), forced Piranha Bytes into a legal battle that they were ill equipped to win, taking away the profitable Gothic series from the developer. This led to the release of a huge dissappointment of a sequel Gothic 4. This title, developed by Spellbound interactive, divorced itself from every aspect that made the Gothic series unique and good. Instead of the living atmosphere of the Gothic series thus far, fans had to sit through a 'wax museum' experience with as much life as a dry turnip.

An awful boring experience compared to any one of the other Gothic games. If you feel like running on a linear railroad train, then give it a try.

Jowood has a history of taking rights to their developer's own intellectual property away when they leave, trying to do it again with the Stargate SG-1 franchise less than a year later. Luckily for everyone involved Jowood was embarrassingly forced to admit that they had no legal right to that intellectual property, and never had in the first place. Perception Pty still holds the rights to that series, although the game that they first made for it (Stargate SG-1: Alliance) under Jowood has been held in lymbo ever since, with no sign of further development.

Shortly afterwards Gothic 4 came out. Amoungst poor reviews, sales only totaling 200,000 units (only 40,000 in america link ), and a whopping 10 million dollars in resultant debt... I wonder how hard the good people at Piranha Bytes laughed.

So in the end Piranha Bytes left and signed on with a new publisher, Deep Silver. Since then they have released Risen (which won critical acclaim and continued the 'true' Gothic storyline) with their biggest project yet Risen 2 (financially and otherwise) in development.

Risen 2 will be Piranha Byte's biggest project yet

Oh, and the greedy publisher? What of them? I'm happy to report that as of June they have announced their attempt to gain solvency and finance their massive debt failed. They are officially a defunct company in bankruptcy, which will soon be bought off by a European distributor with their executives that made those idiotic business choices all fired.

To add a note for the fans and a 'happy ending' if you will: Insiders say Deep Silver and Piranha Bytes have expressed interest in buying the Gothic property back from the now defunct company Jowood. This buy is thought to be dependent on the sales of Risen 2 after release. So, if you want to see the Gothic series back in hands that know what to do with it, go preorder Risen 2. Good guys should get rewarded, no?