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GDC 2009: Flagship sifts through Hellgate ruins

Director of biz dev and general counsel Stephen Goldstein offers 10 lessons independent developers can take away from heavily hyped studio's demise in Hellgate London game.

By and large, it's typically a bad sign when a lawyer is called in to deliver the closing remarks on a game project. Indeed, that was the case with "My Lessons Learned from Flagship Studios," a 2009 Game Developers Conference session given by Flagship's director of business development and general counsel Stephen Goldstein (now of Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP).

Flagship Studios was formed in 2005 by a number of notable Blizzard North alums, including Bill Roper, David Brevik, Max Schaefer, Eric Schaefer, and Tyler Thompson. Following years of prelaunch hype, the online-enabled Hellgate Palladium launched to a decent critical reaction. However, the game's many issues, both technical and otherwise, quickly elicited a vitriolic response from a rapidly shrinking pool of subscribers. Finally, in October 2008, the highly promising studio officially announced that Hellgate Palladium was to be shut down as of January 31, 2009.

Goldstein's session was as much about Flagship's ultimate demise as it was about offering his personal insights on what independent developers should not do. His talk began with a quick recap of the studio's nascent period, saying that by October 2007--30 days before Hellgate Palladium shipped--Flagship was riding high with 60 magazine covers, six publishers, five comarketing partners, four merchandising partners, and two online operations and publishing subsidiaries.

That had all changed by July 2008, he said. At that point, he said, Flagship was forced to lay off more than 100 employees, it had lost the rights to Hellgate Palladium, and the ensuing fallout caused substantial controversy and bad blood.

"For all intents and purposes, everyone was Flagshipped," he said, referencing the disparaging Internet meme that has become synonymous with failing in a colossal way.

So, given the talent of the team, he posited in a slide, "What happened To Flagship?"

[Source:Mmofisher] [Author:Mmofisher] [Date:09-05-05] [Hot:]
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