Nachdem die Gerüchteküche durch die Decke gekocht ist, was es mit einigen personellen Abgängen bei Catalyst Game Labs auf sich hat, hier mal die bisher einzige semi-offizielle Aussage dazu, die sich hauptsächlich mit Shadowrun beschäftigt, aber natürlich auch Battletech, Eclipse Phase und CthulhuTech betrifft. [Die Quelle, sprich das Dumpshock-Board ist aktuell – 23:28 – gerade down].
„OK, as you may well have been able to surmise from release schedules, Catalyst Game Labs is in a bit of a financial pickle, and it is somewhat unlikely that they will retain the license to make Shadowrun products. This is not because Shadowrun hasn’t been selling enough to cover expenses, but merely because a significant quantity of money is missing outright. Reliable sources put this figure at roughly $850,000. Which sounds like a lot, and it is. It is roughly 40% of Catalyst’s entire sales for last year, missing over a three year period. There will of course be lawsuits, and there are already people drawing up legal documents accusing Loren Coleman of having hired people to construct an extension on his house through the company as „freelance writers“ and somehow reporting an estimated $100,000 of convention sales as $6,000. Whether that is actually true or not is – of course – a matter for the courts to decide. And decide they presumably will.
But what that means for Catalyst as a company is pretty bad. It costs several dollars to print a book even when the pdfs are finished and ready for publication. A print run of say, 50,000 books (like the print run of Runner Havens) would cost somewhere between $150,000 and $250,000 to print and ship to distributors. And while it eventually sold to distributors at ~$15 a book (a total take home of $750,000), it did so over a period of three years, during which time they were paying interest on loans and paying for storage, and advertisement and so on and so forth. A book like that isn’t actually taking home half a million in profits. Which is a bad thing, because it means that even if there was a complete book printed and ready to sell, even a total and rapid sell through would not pull the company out of the financial hole it is in – and the shortfall means that it does not have the cash on hand to start the ball rolling with a new major printing.
The tiny amount of drachmas that are left in the coffers are being used to print up tiny print runs of books that have sold through – another 3,000 books of Runner’s Companion for example (~$15,000 to start up, maybe $30-40k towards paying creditors if it sells out). There simply is not the startup cash to bring upcoming books like the SR4 sixth world almanac or corporate guide forward. The writing is there, but the printing costs are not. Beyond that, the freelancers have not been paid, and some of them are withholding copyright until they are – meaning that even a tiny print run of these new materials is simply not possible.
Many SR writers are quitting, have already quit, or have handed in notices contingent on demands which – word on the street – will not be met. And CGL does not even own Shadowrun, it leases the intellectual property from Topps. It seems unlikely that they will be able to make their licensing payment when the contract comes up for renewal – in a couple of months. At that time, CGL will cease being able to print Shadowrun or Battletech materials (they would presumably keep the license to Cthulhutech and Eclipse Phase for at least a little while longer, because those are separate contracts).
So what does this mean for the future of Shadowrun? It probably means that someone else will create a company and start making Shadowrun again. After all, freelancers work for very little, and a well selling book can bring in tens of thousands of dollars in profits. $850,000 of embezzlement is seemingly enough to sink the company (whoever ended up with the credsticks), but I must point out that there was indeed eight hundred and fifty thousand dollars to steal, so Shadowrun is not – as a concept – insoluble. And I also point out that something similar happened to Shadowrun before. Indeed, twice before, as both FanPro and FASA before it collapsed under the weight of people not paying debts and having bags with dollar bill signs vanish mysteriously in the middle of the night. It’s somewhat… poetic considering the subject matter of the game itself.
It is entirely probable indeed that when a new company comes to take the licence, many familiar faces will appear in the new company as if they had never left. Certainly back when FanPro collapsed back when I was working for the company, I simply started working for the new company as if nothing had changed. This happened back when FASA collapsed as well – those members of the team that were not extracted by Microsoft simply started turning in writing assignments to the new boss.
And yeah, I regularly go on shadowruns against Catalyst to find out what new releases are in store. Don’t you?
-Frank“ [Trollman, Ex-Shadowrun Freelancer]
In den folgenden Stunden und Tagen wird es dazu sicherlich mehr offizielle Antworten geben. Für die nächsten Produkte in Deutschland hat dies erstmal nichts zu bedeuten, aber je nachdem wie es nun weitergeht, könnte und wird es wahrscheinlich zu einer neuen Lizenzsituation kommen. Stay tuned…
CGLs Twitter Account vermeldet bisher[23:51] nur: „I know rumors abound on the internet right now, but I’d like to ask people to stay calm and wait for official word before panicking. jmh“
Catalyst Game Labs recently completed a detailed financial review of the company. We learned that over the past several years the company has achieved dramatic growth in terms of demand, increased total revenues and strong sales with an increasing market share in the gaming industry, despite a lackluster economy. We are thrilled by that news and are eager to move forward with our upcoming original game Leviathans, along with our other new casual games. We also remain committed to plans for our beloved licensed games: Shadowrun, BattleTech, Eclipse Phase, and CthuluTech.
While we wish the review had only uncovered positive news, we also discovered our accounting procedures had not been updated as the company continued to grow. The result was that business funds had been co-mingled with the personal funds of one of the owners. We believe the missing funds were the result of bad habits that began alongside the creation of the company, which was initially a small hobby group. Upon further investigation, in which the owner has willingly participated, the owner in question now owes the company a significant balance and is working to help rectify the situation.
The current group of owners was presented with this information on Monday. Administrative organization for the company is under review, and accounting procedures have been restructured, to correct the situation and provide more stringent oversight. We feel the management team at Catalyst did the responsible thing by seeking this financial review and we will continue to restructure as needed. We are in discussions with our partners and freelancers to remedy any back payments that may also be due as a result of this review.
We are embarrassed that this situation did occur but we hope our eagerness to make these changes, along with our reputation for making great games, will encourage you to stand by us. We understand that for a few employees the news was too stressful and we wish them all the best in their new endeavors. However, the majority of the team remains and will continue to bring great entertainment to you all. We appreciate the support our friends, freelancers, and fans have provided us in the past and look forward to a successful future“.
Das CthulhuTech RPG wird über Catalyst Games vertrieben.
„We terminated our contract with Catalyst Game Labs right after the beginning of the year, primarily due to non-payment of royalties. Since that time, we have been negotiating a provisional contract with Catalyst to keep CthulhuTech under their banner while getting all payments caught up. During that time, we have also been looking at other homes for CthulhuTech and there are several possibilities. […] Legally, we are not allowed to comment on anything regarding Catalyst Game Labs, other than what I’ve said here.“ [Quelle]
Posthuman Studios vertreibt Eclipse Phase ebenfalls über CGL. Rob Boyle ist ehemaliger Shadowrun Line Developer.
„I am waiting to see what Catalyst has to say before I make a public post. In the meantime, it’s fair to note that the Operations Manager, Accountant/Office Manager, and Adam Jury (layout ninja) have all resigned. Catalyst didn’t actually employ me, so I can’t resign, but I will no longer be freelancing for them.“
Über die Vorgänger-Implosion von Fanpro, Rob Boyle, damaliger Shadowrun Line Developer [Quelle]
„FanPro US essentially shut down for two reasons. First there was the implosion of Fast Forward Entertainment. FFE was handling all of the fulfillment for FanPro US, which means that all of FanPro’s income was funneled through it. The folks running FFE apparently had no idea how to keep their financial books in order. They experienced a burst of growth and hired multiple employees … much of it with FanPro’s money. When their house of cards finally collapsed, it took months to figure out exactly how much of FanPro’s money they had spent, and the accounting was such a mess I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure. In any case, FanPro lost a significant amount of money, but managed to creep along in debt for a few more years.
The second was FanPro Germany. While separate companies, both FanPros essentially had the same owners. FanPro Germany was doing poorly financially, and so they propped themselves up by taking large amounts of stock from FanPro US for which they never paid. (FanPro US had taken over FASA’s backstock too.) The owner also made some business decisions and deals that were good for FanPro Germany but damaging to FanPro US.
FanPro US might have recovered from the FFE debacle if FanPro Germany hadn’t dragged it down. Combined, however, they effectively did the company in. Eventually, the staff at FanPro made an attempt to buy the company out, but the owner refused. So we all quit and went to Catalyst, which picked up the SR and BT licenses.
Having now worked with FASA, FanPro, and Catalyst, and also having dealt with Fast Forward and WizKids, I could write a book about the slimy, unethical, and bullshit business practices of certain business owners in this industry. I can point to certain people and point out specific decisions they have made that benefited their companies financially while screwing over the hardworking freelancers that produced the games they profited from.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s just this industry, I think it’s capitalism in general. However, the game industry does have a problem with good-intentioned people who care a lot about games but know nothing about running a business. Or worse, it has ruthless business people transplanted from other areas who care nothing about the creative folks behind the games. So, freelancers beware. „