Castaway sends out SOS

Studio founded by Diablo devs suspends operations, looks for a publisher to pick it up on the cheap.

While sales figures show the US gaming industry has weathered recent economic uncertainty well, analysts have warned that no industry can be considered truly recession-proof. Evidence of that can be seen in the fates of Perpetual Entertainment, Iron Lore Entertainment, and Stormfront Studios, all of which have closed up shop or suspended operations since the beginning of the year.

Another name can be added to that list of developer casualties, as Castaway Entertainment president Michael Scandizzo told GameSpot today that his studio was suspending operations due to financial troubles.

"If somebody came in tomorrow and said, 'Here's a whole bunch of money. Can you get back up and running,' then Monday we could be back up and running," Scandizzo said. "But a couple of weeks from now, as we slowly wind down, there will be a point by which we will not be able to get back up and running."

The company--one of a handful of studios formed by ex-Blizzard developers after the success of the Diablo series--had been in negotiations on two projects, both of which fell through. In one case, the would-be publisher opted to have an internal studio make the game instead. In the other, negotiations stalled when the publisher became the subject of recent mergers and acquisitions activity and slowed operations until the corporate dust settled.

Castaway has trimmed its payroll from a staff of about 25 to the six most senior members and stopped development activity. The studio was founded in 2003, but was the primary developer on only one released game--the Xbox Live advergame Yaris--due to a series of unrelated project cancellations and shifting market demands.

As a result, the studio is still most closely associated with the Diablo series of games. At one time, the company boasted a cumulative 75 man-years of experience on that franchise alone. Now Castaway finds itself about to go under, but still holding out hope for a lifeline.

"It would have to be soon, but if anyone wanted to come in and save us, we'd give the whole kitchen sink to them on the extremely cheap," Scandizzo said, adding "Otherwise after almost 10 years of this group working together, we're going to have to dissolve."

[UPDATE]: Curious about projects Castaway worked on besides Yaris? After the publication of this story, Castaway Entertainment vice president Stefan Scandizzo commented on the article with a link to a YouTube video from an early 2005 build of the studio's unreleased Diablo-style game, Djinn.

"After five years of secrecy, I'd like to show the public what we were working so hard to develop," the Castaway executive and creative director wrote. "Djinn is an action-RPG in the spirit of our former work, but with full 3D [graphics], interactive environments, [non-player character] companions that aided the player and told the story as the game progressed. The video is of a fully playable demo from early in 2005 (so it was developed before the current consoles were available)."

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101 comments
raahsnavj
raahsnavj

Maybe with a little more cash it could become a nice dated PS2 game and Wii port?

cooldude03
cooldude03

I can't complain about Yaris it was free. In 5 years only one game released and it was free over Xbox Live. That sounds like bad business. I guess that proves there's no money in advertisement games.

russian_takeout
russian_takeout

how can some one even consider byuying a company that didnt do anything at all...accept YARIS:) just out of curiosity i tracked that game... and i couldnt believe that in the past 5 years some one would even release a game like that. pentium 2 quality, if not worse. anyways, even if some of these guys did work on diablo before, doesnt mean much. they didnt finanse the game, they didnt advertize the game, and didnt come up with the idea. most likely some of them did work on the graphics and visual aspect of the game... and opening your own studio doesnt mean saccess. big companies dont have a point to buy them. they are not a competition, they dont have any project for the near future, and no one would give them a game to develope, if in the past 5 years they came up only with YARIS:) basicaly, poor business decision in the first place. in the perfect world, some one may give them a job in their own studio, on hourly base salary.... no one would hand them money to start some thing that will not work....... sorry,

Autolycus
Autolycus

Hint, When you own a company and pay your employees poorly and never raise their wages to meet the cost of living, (thats not even a raise, thats just consideration for employees well being) you are kicking yourself in the face. Now when EVERY company does that, people(you know the actual employees that make company xyz stay in business) dont have extra money to spend because they are busy purchasing, gas, electricity, heat, groceries etc and all of their prices have raised because cost of living has raised. Simply put, besides the necessaties (gas, food, electricity) the rest will all be hurt for decades to come because employers got greedy and failed to follow the first rule of economics. Take care of your employees.

Nineball2112
Nineball2112

Stefan Scandizzo - Hey, I just noticed on your profile that you gave Yaris a rating of 9. I like company loyalty, but based on everything else I've read about it... that rating might have to be taken with a grain (or a pound) of salt.... :D Sorry to hear about your company's problems though... Best of luck to you.

hitomo
hitomo

"Here's a whole bunch of money. Can you get back up and running?" haha... this guy is a genius...

Luchance221
Luchance221

There is a rumor going around that Blizzard may start development of Diablo 3 in 2010. Thought it is unlikely I think.

jknight5422
jknight5422

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, A tale of a fateful trip That started from this tropic port Aboard this tiny ship. The mate was a mighty sailing man, The skipper brave and sure. Five passengers set sail that day For a three hour tour, a three hour tour. The weather started getting rough, The tiny ship was tossed, If not for the courage of the fearless crew The minnow would be lost, the minnow would be lost. The ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle With Gilligan The Skipper too, The millionaire and his wife, The movie star The professor and Mary Ann, Here on Gilligans Isle.

dark13string
dark13string

well i hope this put other developers on notice, if u drag your feet on projects you will have to pay the price down the road.

IBEX333
IBEX333

These guys have nothing to do with the development of Diablo 3. Blizzard will be making it if it will ever come out. I personally don't care if their company dies or not. These guys can always find jobs elsewhere. Maybe even in Blizzard again. I don't see how the fact that they were some of those that worked on the original Diablo matters. Diablo was a great game, and it is a classic, but it is a thing of the past. Just because these guys made a great game then, doesn't mean they are capable of making one now. Let's not forget about all those who worked WITH them to create Diablo. Many guys who worked on Diablo started their own projects such as Hellgate: London and Guild Wars which both suck in their own way. Both games don't feel as "polished" as Diablo was. Nether of these games has introduced anything really NEW or GROUNDBREAKING into the genre. They are sticking to what works and milking the franchise instead of giving us something as unique as Diablo was. There is no reason to think that just because they worked on Diablo, it makes them any more special than other game designers. If Castaway goes under, so be it. It's a dog eat dog world... If someone buys them, that's good too. ;)

Dubsac012
Dubsac012

We need Diablo 3!! Somebody pay them!!

aygol
aygol

I wish them good luck!

DragonMage2k4
DragonMage2k4

The graphics look like a Neverwinter Nights 1 module. Too bad we can't see what the 2008 version of Djinn looks like (if there had been any further serious development on it before shutting down). Too bad if some company like Blizzard doesn't opt to fund them, it's not like the WOW group doesn't have any spare change.

Acagold20
Acagold20

Actually, I'm wondering where the survival on a tropic island mod for Crysis is now? Anyone want to start making this with me?

_Peoples_Champ_
_Peoples_Champ_

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

zeecorner
zeecorner

wow, for being three years old that game looks pretty legit Just a little funny thing I noticed though, the character in the video casts a spell where he yells and then slams the ground producing a shock wave. The yell is the exact same sound clip from the Barbarian war cries in D2!

Karmacodelc18
Karmacodelc18

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

dontcare5454
dontcare5454

This recession stuff sucks its so depressing.

Simple_malk
Simple_malk

How can they necessarily blame this on recession? Little indy game companies die randomly all the time.

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

DrKill09 Lol, for a sec I thought they were making a game of that horrid movie. . .Me too lol

Timbydude
Timbydude

Pssh. They went from Diablo 2 to Yaris? Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

endocrine
endocrine

Who would buy a studio that only made yaris? For as much talent as these guys proclaim to have (diablo 2 only took what, a decade to make?). they really have nothing to show for it. Don't get me wrong, I liked Diablo 2, but there was no reason it should have taken that long to produce.

modem22
modem22

WILLSSSOOOOOOOOMMMMMM

ScottEFresh
ScottEFresh

That Djinn game actually looks REALLY good. Too bad it never saw the light of day.

StSk8ter29
StSk8ter29

What i want to know is, where is Activision-Blizzard now?

DrKill09
DrKill09

All that film was, was two and a half hours of Tom Hanks crying by himself. By the time he got back to civilization, I wanted him to kill the guy his wife ended up marrying, just so SOMETHING would be going on. I was bored as all hell. Don't get me wrong, drama is fine, and can be done well, but some guy sitting around for two and a half hours is not drama. He goes from Forest Gump and Saving Private Ryan, which were actually interesting, to a movie with a character I just didn't give two craps about... at least not enough that I wanted to pay $8 and two and a half hours of my time for.

thepyrethatburn
thepyrethatburn

@RageSet: Not really when you think about it. You say that they're more concerned with their bonus checks than keeping a "quality developer" intact. However, look at the facts. All that Castaway has produced is Yaris and an unfinished Diablo clone. With that track record, I wouldn't be looking at accquiring them either. Successful companies do not accquire deadweight and that's what Castaway would be here.

As for being founded by ex-Blizzard employees who worked on Diablo, that doesn't necessarily mean "quality developer". Sometimes a company gets bad breaks but sometimes the people in question shouldn't have started the company in the first place. Start-ups are risky and a start-up has to have a proper business plan that covers the first few years of "What will we be able to produce and how can we cover costs until we can produce?" The fact that they were not able to get Djinn out the door after 5 years indicates flaws in their business plan. Not everyone can pull a Duke Nukem Forever and stay in business.

Head-Cruncher
Head-Cruncher

HEEEEY!! THAT FILM WASN'T HORRID!! IT WAS REALLY GOOD!

specialed
specialed

DRKill09, that movie wasnt horrid. I act liked it.

DrKill09
DrKill09

Lol, for a sec I thought they were making a game of that horrid movie.

tony1968
tony1968

Sad to see some of the developers of one of the games I love (Diablo2) fall on hard times. Good luck guys hope you find financial support.

mattcake
mattcake

Yeah no offence to them, buf if the only thing you produce in 5 years is Yaris - a game that looks like a 14 yr old made it in his bedroom in "Crap 3D Game Creator", I wouldnt expect much interest. It's the results that matter to potential buyers. And if they've been working on "Djinn" all this time, why is the video from 3 yrs ago? Show something recent...

dryden555
dryden555

lots of blizzard staff left after diablo to start their own different companies but that doesnt mean all of these former staff has what it takes to develop a successful game on their own.

tig1979
tig1979

The Djinn game looks quite good for saying its a few years old, anyway of a link to the playable demo Stefan? That could help you if its a good demo :) Look at the date the system said i posted this.......i've been waiting forever for a reply.......Posted Jan 1, 1970 12:00 am GMT loool

dn3datomiced
dn3datomiced

The studio was founded in 2003, but was the primary developer on only one released game--the Xbox Live advergame Yaris... Hmmm... I had almost garnered pity for them, until I read that... Sorry, boys, but if crap like that is all you can produce, mayhaps you should pack it up. There was no excuse for that misery.

RaiKageRyu
RaiKageRyu

The title led me to believe there was a Castaway game.

desolation00
desolation00

Just hope they spread the love to alot of other developers. There are alot of things that even Diablo 1 got right, that some games in the same genre still havn't copied/stolen.

Jebbers
Jebbers

Rofl, just finished playing yaris, hey Mr Scandizzo, heres $75, go make a chevrolet malibu game, consider yourself saved :)

RageSet
RageSet

@jakob_187, EA is only interested in acquiring their competition and/or a company that is nearly done with a hit franchise. Seriously, EA is only looking for "successful" developers to gobble up. Doesn't matter that these guys at Castaway have the potential to develop a game that rivals the Diablo series (and thus create tons of revenue). This message by the studio head is a shout to the big publishers like EA, but none will listen. They are worried more about what to do with their bonus checks then keep a quality developer intact.

man_alive
man_alive

obviously they took the Yaris game to try and pay some bills. yeah, it sucked, but if you're running a company and realize you can't make payroll next week, you might take some work you might wish you could avoid. diablo was an awesome game and it's too bad these guys weren't able to buy enough time to do something cool.

JamesSoprano
JamesSoprano

I LOL'D at Jamie_1987's Comment yea i agree .. that's what you deserve for making the game Yaris

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

Man thats a bummer, maybe Flagship studios will aquire some of them as many of them were co-devs for the diablo - warcraft series of games. :S poor news though.

Jamie_1987
Jamie_1987

thats what the get for making Yaris

waza000
waza000

i'm sure they will go for 10$ games for XBLA and PSN ... just an easy and faster way to get back on track what i'd find cool would be some Diablo 2 remake for PSN ...

Mehfuz
Mehfuz

i thought the same - that someone making a game on that movie