Two Points of Speculation

Usually when I read about rumors, I generally ignore them because they can it can lead to false hope and potentially puts trust into people who have no real connection to the people responsible for the games we love. I’d like to discuss two articles I came across a month ago: One article that describes Stardock’s plans and an article that briefly describes what the Activision’s studios are working on.

Alexander Sliwinski from wrote an article about Brad Wardell from Stardock announcing that they are currently hiring people to work on various projects.  It gave vague descriptions:

CEO Brad Wardell tells us the company is currently looking for "experienced" devs to work on:
  • "Turn based fantasy strategy game" -- Likely, Elemental.
  • "Real-time space strategy game" -- Speculation: More Sins of a Solar Empire, the diplomacy pack?
  • "Party-based, single player, role playing game"
  • "Real-time land-based strategy game"
  • "Turn-based space strategy game" -- Likely, Galactic Civilizations III (but, could be Master of Orion or Star Control.)

While I believe that Stardock does have plans to publish different strategy and role playing games, none of five descriptions would fit Star Control II or a sequel. Although the first Star Control 1 does have turn-based elements, Star Control is a mix of action, adventure, science fiction, RPG, strategy and space combat.  In addition, Atari still owns the rights to the name “Star Control”, while Toys for Bob own the game’s content such as the characters, ships and the plot itself.  If Stardock is planning on a game similar to Star Control, I’d love to see what it would be like.

A California-based magazine company by the name of Variety wrote an article about Activision’s studios.  They are fully aware of Activision’s tendency to push sequels and movie tie-ins:

The publisher's business model is based entirely on brands that it "exploits" (sequelizes and spins off) on a regular basis. Once in a while a studio gets to make a new property, like Raven is doing with "Singularity," but most of the time, they're working on a franchise. Infinity Ward has "Modern Warfare," Neversoft took ownership of "Guitar Hero," Vicarious Visions does Wii versions of "Guitar Hero," etc.

I completely agree with them.  It’s the classic “low risk, low investment, high sales” formula that is geared towards family audiences.  Here is the list of what Activision’s studios are working on as of April 22:

This list is based on publicly available information and my own reporting, but is probably a bit incomplete. And certainly doesn't include any potential new franchises that haven't yet been announced or uncovered.
Toys for Bob: DreamWorks Animation games

While the author admits that this is based on public available information and his or her reports, it’s the only thing I can think of that Toys for Bob is working on that isn’t Star Control. DreamWorks Animation does have Madagascar 3 planned for 2012. Activision would definitely appoint TFB to work on the third one because of their experience with the first two. It makes me shudder a little bit because we’re not the target audience and only have good sales because of the movie’s success. I definitely agree with Variety’s article which points out how the different studios constantly have their responsibilities switched around sequels and movie tie-ins. Every time I think about the video game industry in this way, I constantly remember Fred Ford’s words about how it is important to have food on the table.

I’ve read about how Activision was once a struggling company until Bobby Kotick took over, eventually into Activision Blizzard.  I have no experience or professional knowledge of the video game industry; I can only offer my opinions and hope that it’s worth reading.  Every form of entertainment is constantly being worked on in such a way that it pushes sales with a low investment and it’s not just video games.  While people describe Prototype as an original IP, it too is based on the open world genre trends such as Grand Theft Auto, Saint’s Row, Infamous, Crackdown and True Crime.  One of the reasons why Prototype received so much attention is because it is a big-budget project, has been delayed a few times and is one of the few games that wasn’t scrapped when Activision merged with Vivendi Universal.

In conclusion, Stardock has various games planned, with no solid evidence that it is remotely close to Star Control other than Brad Wardell’s previous interest in purchasing the rights from Atari.  The Star Control news has been quiet lately and hopefully, new information will come in the future.

Joystiq - Stardock hiring lots of devs, hints at upcoming projects

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