Disclaimer: The opinions and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Neoseeker.
Let me preface this by saying I woke up early this morning, around 5:30, to cover the Wii U Nintendo Direct event and then spent all afternoon reading tweets and half-stories about THQ's auction. To sum it up, I'm rather exhausted. It's not because it has been a long day -- okay, maybe that's part of it -- but rather, because I'm sitting here realizing how heartbroken I am and how little that must matter to the industry I adore.
I wasn't a particularly large fan of Darksiders, though I always enjoyed listening to those more impassioned with the franchise's lore and gameplay express their excitement. To me, the original Darksiders was a fresh take on an old genre and its sequel was an awkward follow-up with some inspiring new ideas. Of course, those thoughts don't do either game justice, but it I just want to clarify that I wasn't sure if I even wanted to play a third Darksiders game.
This afternoon news broke that THQ would in fact be sold in pieces to multiple different parties, as that would prove more profitable than selling the company as a whole. Runic Games went to Sega, Volition went to Koch Media and Deep Silver, but not a single bid was placed for Vigil Games. The studio was to immediately close, all of its employees effectively laid off, and the Darksiders IP would be abandoned.
Abandoned. As in, Abandonware:
Commercial software owned by a company no longer in business: Often, no entity defends the copyright if such software is put onto abandonware websites. An example of this is Digital Research's original PL/I compiler for DOS. The rights to the software cannot be bought by another company, therefore there is no possibility for a lawsuit.
Initially, I was affected in an emotional manner, as most people in the gaming industry would whether they're a CEO, a freelance writer or a game tester. It's an unfortunate occurrence in our industry that the market is so volatile and studios come and go. I was inspired to find a social media campaign on Twitter (#THQJobs) had picked up quite the following. Vigil employees would find work, I knew. Life goes on.
It wasn't until I read a message posted on NeoGAF from Ben Cureton, Lead Combat Designer at Vigil Games, that I came to the point I am now:
"Did I like coming to work? Yes. Was I proud of the work that I did? Yes. More importantly, was I proud of the work that WE did? Absolutely. I knew, without a shadow of the doubt, that the project we were working on (Codenamed: Crawler) was going to blow people away. In fact, it DID blow people away. We did, in TWO months, what many companies haven't done in a year. The pride of knowing that no one was doing anything like us was so satisfying, it kept us coming to work and giving 100% every single day, even through the dark times.
... so maybe you can imagine what it feels like when you read the list of who bought what only to discover your name is not on the list. Why? Did we do something wrong? Were we not good enough? Were we not worth 'anything?' Imagine that."
Followed shortly by this tweet from Haydn Dalton, Lead Designer of Darksiders and Darksiders II:
"There was a shimmer on a slither of hope, that at one point, there'd be a Darksiders III: 4 Player Co-Op; It rode off into the sunset today."
And yeah, I broke a bit inside. I became angry, then sad, then spent fifteen minutes researching the possibility that Vigil or Darksiders could still be picked up by a late bidder, and finally just uncomfortably and irreconcilably disappointed. I'm still disappointed. I'll still be disappointed tomorrow, probably for weeks, or months even. Hopefully my disappointment will flare up and burn out like a dry grass, but I have a feeling this disappointment is the sort that smolders.
I'm disappointed in the industry. No publisher or investment firm in particular, just the industry in general. It's the idea that not a single damn one of them took a moment to ask, "Well, what happens if no one bids on Vigil? What happens to Darksiders? What happens to the fans?" and felt anything beyond apathy. Here we are, Vigil's office is empty, Darksiders is dust, and thousands of fans are out there, most of them probably unaware that there's a finality to one of their favorite franchises that doesn't involve four horsemen riding into the sunset.
Now, I'm not an analyst. I don't understand how much it would have cost to bid on Vigil or the Darksiders IP. I know that Turtle Rock Studios put up $250,000 to make sure their project Evolve didn't become abandonware. Just a $250,000 bid and there might still be a possibility that Darksiders III could be made. Of course at this point I'm just being illogical, but I think it's fair considering the disappointment myself and many fans are feeling across the world. Why couldn't anyone bid? Were the business risks too high? What's the price tag on hundreds of thousands of fans' disappointment?
Eh, but again, it's all over now. Again, there's no one to blame, and I doubt any of the bidders in the auction saw Vigil and Darksiders slipping through without a bid either. Instead, I'll just sit here heartbroken, angry at "The Industry," wondering how this could have happened. Sitting here hoping I didn't do my research very well and tomorrow will bring news that maybe, just maybe, a miracle will happen and we'll get the chance to see those four horsemen ride into the sunset.
Follow Rory Young on Twitter @bluexy, or check out his articles every day on Neoseeker.com