A Point of Clarification: We’re Debt Free

The fact that Arcen is debt-free is an
important point, and I wanted to make sure that didn’t get lost in the
larger posts from the other days.  Why is that so relevant?  It means
that, in the grand scheme, the company as an entity is in no danger of
disappearing whatsoever.

Even in this super slow
period, even after the royalties it owes staff, Arcen makes about five
times what it needs to in order to continue operating the website, pay
our LLC fees, and that sort of thing.  That means that AI War and
Tidalis and so forth would still be on the market a year from now, two
years from now, and so forth.  Rumors of our impending bankruptcy are
greatly exaggerated, in a manner of speaking — one only has to declare
insolvency if one can’t pay one’s debtors and has no assets.

What Stands To Be Lost, And What Doesn’t
what’s the big deal been?  Well, the problem was never about
Arcen-the-entity.  The problem is about Arcen-the-team-of-people. 
Myself, Pablo, Keith, and Phil, primarily (Lars is happily employed
elsewhere fulltime, anyway, and has only ever worked part-time with
us).  The financial challenge that we’ve been facing was that we
wouldn’t be able to keep paying the actual staff, providing benefits for
those who have them, and that sort of thing.  In other words: laying
everybody off, including myself.

That would be the end
of us doing much work for you, but the prior work that we’ve already
done would live on.  That said, many of us have decided that we’d still
try to do some stuff part-time in the off hours even if we had to look
for other work (we all love what we do), but it won’t be the same at
all, especially for me — as a new dad, I can’t put in nearly the hours I
did back in 2008 or 2009 when I was working two jobs.  I have no idea
what we’d be able to accomplish and in what timeframe, but it would be
just a tiny fraction of what we do now, I’m certain.  And if one or more
of us found other employment with other game developers (a few have
offered, over the last year or so as well as recently), then odds are we
wouldn’t be able to do much with Arcen aside from selling what we’d
already made.

So when I was saying that would be the
end of Arcen Games as people know it, that’s what I meant: that we’d go
into sort of a shadow half-life, like Voldemort did after his curse
rebounded upon himself.  Like the dark lord, we might then be able to
claw our way back into full life, but it wouldn’t be the same and it
would take a long time at best.  Okay, perhaps I shouldn’t be comparing
us with an arch-villain of a fantasy work, but it was the only analogy
that came to mind — I’ve been re-reading the Harry Potter series
lately, so I’m sure that’s why.

Things Have Improved, A Bit, The Last Couple of Days
of this makes the situation any less serious, of course, but at least
it does mean that the products themselves won’t completely disappear,
and that we’d have some hope of making a comeback even if we did
completely go under.  The outpouring of support and help over the last
few days has been absolutely amazing, though, and has helped at least
push our dead-end date out by a good half month so far already.  That’s
pretty stunning for a couple of days without anything even being on
discount — we’re extremely grateful.

We’ve also had a
number of businesses offering us support in various manners, and for
that, too, we are extremely grateful.  “No man is a failure who has
friends,” to be sure.  I’ve felt alternately a bit like George Bailey
and Kathleen Kelly lately, which is not something I’d ever expected.  Of
course, the main thing on my mind with Kathleen Kelly was how it turned
out for her despite the outpouring of support, but that’s just cynicism.

think that, if it’s possible for things to work out, we’ll find a way
with the help of those who have rallied to support us.  We’ve got a few
things brewing in the works for after AI War 4.0 at this stage and even
before, though we can’t talk about most of them yet.  There hasn’t been a
magic bullet to solve all our problems yet, but every bit helps and
things are moving in the right direction for the first time in months —
that’s all we can ask for.  I’m certainly filled with a sense of hope,
and it’s all thanks to you.

We can still use all the help people care to throw our way, though, to be sure.

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6 Responses to “A Point of Clarification: We’re Debt Free”

  1. Spikey00 says:

    We do what we can for the community for it comes back to us in the end.

  2. Red Avatar says:

    Well I’m glad things are looking up a bit at least :). Hopefully it won’t be a one-off thing!

  3. Jason says:

    You’re an indie with a luxury problem. Look at Introversion.

    Start letting staff go now while you have money in the bank. Niche indie games like the ones you make are not games you can grow a studio on. Hell, even Uplink and Darwinia weren’t enough for Introversion.

    Then start thinking about GAAS (Games as a service) rather than the old school indie model.

    Or, ignore all this advice and go under.

  4. We’re not trying to grow a big studio — six staff maximum is not a huge studio. Point is that it’s not sustainable to create games with only a couple of staff members unless you use contractors all the time and lowball them constantly.

    Introversion cut back to their “skeleton crew” after multiple rounds of layoffs and wound up around the size we are now. Apples and oranges.

    It’s not unreasonable for us to expect to be able to sustain ourselves on the amount of income we normally make — that would normally more than cover it. However, what we have here is a shortfall based on a game that few people know about at the moment, etc.

    Staff will be shed if things don’t improve — there’s no other alternative — but at this stage we have a few things cooking that look extremely promising. Too early to tell, but also too early to jump the gun and harm the people who helped make this company what it is.

  5. Jason says:

    Your company is pretty new. From what I understand you wrote AI War basically by yourself, and Tidalis was with your newly acquired crew. Not much of a company heritage to harm there.

    Anyway, you’ll figure it out. Post for an opinion on Indiegamer, I think you’ll find the only people that have full time crew are the guys cranking out HOGs and various casual games with a pretty much direct publisher relationship.

    I’m not speaking out of my ass here. I remember when you appeared with AI War, and it was long after I’d started as an indie.

    Also – Introversion is back to the equity holders, not equity holders + employees.

  6. Michael says:

    I’ve enjoyed AI WAR so I went ahead and picked up Tidalis today from Gamersgate. Seems fun and I can always use a casual puzzle game.

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