The founders of the shutdown game studio GRIN are claiming that one of the factors that contributed to their closure was due to misconduct from Square Enix. GRIN, which closed in August of 2009, was working on a game codenamed Fortress for Square Enix. The game was a contracted Final Fantasy spin off which GRIN had been working on for 6 months.
Founders Bo and Ulf Andersson claim development with Square Enix (SE) started out smoothly. SE’s president Yoichi Wada had visited the studio and praised the concepts “northern art style”. GRIN began working on the title, but after 6 months of development the costs had grown to high. SE, who was supposed to pay $100 million (its unclear if this is USD or Swedish Krona) for work on the game, did not follow through. SE claimed that promised development milestones had not been met. While Bo and Ulf Andersson claim that SE made increasingly ridiculous demands, such as faxing the assets to them, including music files. “It is as silly as it sounds. It is an impossible requirement, you can not send ascii or binary codes on the fax. It is backward. Really retarded. It was almost a criminal activity.” SE purportedly also told them they sent material to the wrong people, and asked it to be re-sent to their legal department, and that they grew displeased with the art style they originally praised.
The Andersson’s worried if payment would ever be received, and did not know how to tell their employees they had no money for them. They also became suspicious that SE had no intentions to pay them at all. Testing their theory , they sent SE a picture from their own game, Final Fantasy XII, to which SE replied, “it does not look like ‘Final Fantasy'”. They decided not to pursue legal action because it would only put them more in debt. The company closed down in August 2009, with 148 million in debt.
This report, from Swedish site Aftonbladet.se, is a very incriminating story. The business practices SE purportedly carried out are as the Anderssons said, “almost criminal.” The claim that SE failed to recognize their own art as suitable Final Fantasy material is especially telling of their demeanor toward GRIN.
However this report is only one side of the story, and it is odd that they would wait so long to tell it. It is not aware yet how much of this is true. It also seems that GRIN had more problems then just missing payment from SE. With operating costs of $12 million per month, the 6 months of development on Fortress would only have cost them $77 million, a far cry from the $148 million they had at closure. SE has not responded to the Anderssons claims, and it will be interesting to see what the outcome of this story is.
History of GRIN:
The original report places a very favorable tone on GRIN, probably because they were a Swedish developer. But the real truth of GRIN’s history is not so positive.
In 2009 Swedish Developer GRIN emerged into the public spotlight out of nowhere. Despite being founded in 1997, the company had few games to its name and was not very well known. It started at the end of 2008 when they released the XBLA remake Bionic Commando: Reloaded which was very well received by fans and critics who loved its authenticity to the original. They then started getting lots of press for their upcoming game Wanted: Weapons of Fate, based on the movie.
Despite decent hype, the game ended up selling less than 200,000 copies. It also received unfavorable reviews, currently holding 62% average on metacritic.com. This was the first of three games they would release in 2009, and was their first major failure.
In May they released two more titles, Bionic Commando, and Terminator: Salvation. Despite releasing on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC both games were huge bombs. In their opening months Bionic Commando sold just 27,000 units and Terminator sold 43,000 – far below the number required to be profitable. Both games also received poor reviews, citing short campaigns, bad AI and overall generic gameplay, the same complaints Wanted: Weapons of Fate had received.
After that GRIN went silent and no new games were publicly announced. In August word then came that they had closed for good. Ex-employees reported they had two titles in development. Fortress, was a Final Fantasy title. The other, called Cult, was supposedly a Wanted sequel.
In 2007 they had opened two studios, one in Spain and a second one in Sweden and had swelled to 300 employees. Less than three years later the whole company was closed. GRIN expanded too much and too fast, and got into a situation they did not seem to be able to support, especially when their products ended up being of very poor quality.