Starbreeze and Overkill have had a lot of trouble over the years. Since their early success with The Chronicles of Riddick and a few other games, the intertwined companies have failed to capture much success. The only real exception to this being the pair of excellent shooter titles in the PayDay franchise. So it seemed like a sure thing that recreating that spark of success with zombies was going to be a hit. Only problem was, Overkill’s The Walking Dead was doomed to fail.
The game was plagued by production issues over it’s entire course of development. A switch to Unreal Engine mid-development, from the unfinished and useless Valhalla Engine, which Starbreeze bought by diluting their existing shares, didn’t help matters. OTWD was planned to be a live services title similar to that of PayDay 2, and for obvious reasons, that didn’t really pan out.
There’s a whole mess of complex financial issues and backroom deals relating to the relationship between Starbreeze, Overkill and the developers caught in the middle. Suffice to say, it was highly unlikely that given all these issues and more, that their latest game was likely to ever find commercial success. It certainly didn’t help matters that Starbreeze/Overkill sank tons of money into VR development which failed to recoup costs. The InfinitEye purchase alone cost the company $2 million, and that’s just the beginning. The Q4 2018 report shows a total loss of SEK 1.347 billion in 2018, which is roughly $145 million USD.
Even before that though, Starbreeze has been on the rocks. Many gamers and analysts point to titles like the 2012 shooter, Syndicate as a first big sign of trouble. This flop landed with a big “meh. . .” after troubled development saw most of the original team members, including Starbreeze’s founders, head off to start up the studio Machine Games. Overkill and Starbreeze inked a deal around 2012 that saw both companies flush with cash to work on new games. And that’s when early development on Overkill’s The Walking Dead began, and shambled toward where we find ourselves today, with the company on the brink of bankruptcy.
According to a new statement today from Skybound Entertainment, the company currently in control of the Walking Dead’s video game fate, it seems as though Skybound is calling it quits with this resounding dud of a title. Skybound wants better for fans of The Walking Dead, as such, they’re shutting down the project and pulling support. The console release was already delayed, and now it’s dead for good.
According to Skybound, the company said that it “did our best to work with Starbreeze and resolve many issues that we saw with the game,” but added that “ultimately Overkill’s The Walking Dead did not meet our standards nor is it the quality that we were promised.”
Since the release of Overkill’s The Walking Dead, the troubles have continued to mount for Swedish company Starbreeze. The publisher/developer was raided in 2018 over accusations of insider trading, leading to two arrests. The company filed for reconstruction earlier in 2018 in an attempt to renegotiate outstanding debt. They even sold off rights to the System Shock franchise to raise cash.
Could we be heading for another Telltale disaster?