Castaway sends out SOS

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

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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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