Brash Entertainment Goes Down

Several sources have confirmed for me that Brash Entertainment is ceasing operations as of tomorrow. Not too surprising given its many problems, as I reported last week. In a nutshell, the few games it managed to put out sold poorly, it wasted money on some ill conceived ideas, and talented executives fled as they saw how things were going.
Since co-founder Thomas Tull left the board, I understand that the investors who had committed $400 million when Brash launched last year had pulled out. So Brash was simply out of cash.
Now the question is what happens to the many projects in development, from “Saw” to “Superman” to Night at the Mueseum 2" to “Tale of Desperaux,” which was supposed to come out next month. I’ll be following that for sure, as well as continuing to report on how things managed to go so very, very wrong.

Colour me unsurprised.

This result was obvious even at their official launch party.

Sounds juicy. Can you elaborate?

Yes Jeff, please do elaborate like crazy. Now that you’re no longer an EIC, all journalistic detachment can be tossed out the frickin’ window. Right? Right???

Really? It always seemed like a pretty good business plan to me; in a nutshell, churn out all those shovelware licensed games under one roof so they can share resources and avoid turnover. They weren’t looking to make art, or history, or (to be blunt) good games. They were looking to make a profit. The equivalent of working for a crappy sitcom instead of feature pictures; dependable revenue without the risk. I always figured their biggest problem would be morale.

Well, if you have shit morale, and shit game design, and shittily reviewed games, it turns out that your sales are shit.

Which is fine, if you’re not massively overcapitalized and overhyped, and if your backers aren’t expecting you to make tens of millions in profit in your first wave of titles to pay them back right away.

Video games are a hit-based business just like the movies, and if you’re going to spend hundreds of millions, you’d better be going AAA, because that’s the only way to make your money back. Brash seems to have had an AAA funding strategy but a C-level production strategy. Which makes no sense at all, but has been done multiple times before. Will Hollywood ever learn? Magic 8-ball says PROBABLY NOT.

Edit: Just read the complete blog series about Brash. I forgot one other major risk: if you tie ALL your games to unreleased movies, and the movies underperform, then even if your game is good you’re fighting the negativity from the movie. Movie licensing cuts both ways, and it’s damn hard to match the AAA movies with the AAA games. You’d better not make an AAA game for a C movie, not if you want to make serious bank. And making a C game for a C movie is no way to get rich, not venture capital rich anyway.

Well the idea is to sell the same game multiple times. You reuse all your code and assets from Jumper in the From Justin to Kelly, Norbit, and Elektra games, with minimal effort to change a couple of models, maybe grab some voice clips from the movie, and voila you’ve turned a My Boss’s Daughter game into a Kangaroo Jack game for a couple of grand, and can then foist it onto the general public for $40 at Target and Wal*Mart. The business model always made sense to me. I mean I would hate to work there, unless they offered profit-sharing, but I expected the profits to materialize. My thought is that they failed more due to mismanagement or lack of funding than a bad model.

That reminds me of Seven studios, except they are still around.

One of the guys who moves equipment during office moves stuck his head in my office a few weeks ago and asked me if I’d played Jumper. I thought he was going to rail on it, but it turns out he LOVED it. Had to be the game’s biggest fan. He wanted something that wasn’t a shooter…

My kid is going to be really sad if the Despereaux game doesn’t come out. He loved that book.

Brash did Space Chimps, right? That actually wasn’t a terrible game for the six-year-old crowd. (Which means it was a perfect adaptation of the movie, since that pretty much describes the film as well.)

Hope they can all find jobs!

Except people don’t generally want to buy half-baked movie tie-in games even one time.

Then why do they keep making them when the vast majority are terrible? People are stupid, they’ll buy what you tell them to.

I didn’t know anyone was working on a Superman game. Damn! I’m one of the few remaining fools that holds out for a good Superman game. Superman Returns actually got a lot right, but unfortunately was screwed up in some key areas, most notably combat.

Basically, everything in this post is what was going on in the heads of those of us in attendance at the launch party. Games based on movies it was clear no one was gonna give a shit about? Games that looked/played like shit? A whole biz strategy centered around this prospect? I don’t think there was one journalist in attendance who wasn’t thinking “I’ll give these guys a year.” The whole thing just reeked of failure.

This goes against eveything we’ve seen in sales figures for games based on the movie licenses for Cars, Harry Potter, Ironman, and Spider-Man.

Crappy tie-in games can sell well, if the movie does good box office. It’s when both suck that you run into problems.

Edit: See above ^^

Well, it’s worth noting that most major movie tie-in games these days are usually competently produced (if uninspired). The Cars and Harry Potter games you mentioned, for instance, garnered solid high 60s/low 70s scores.

No SAW game? Sounds like wishes do come true!

Superhero games are a little different, because they get made anyway (see thousands of Spider-Man games and probably a dozen games that feature Iron Man not tied to a film release). The other two are kids’ games, which are the obvious exception; they make game tie-ins for direct-to-video Barbie movies and tv-only Dora the Explorer specials, and they presumably sell. I don’t think teenagers and adults go for games that a clear cash-ins on movie licenses.

Although this company’s marketing efforts don’t help, it would seem. From their site:

Set to release in October 2009, in conjunction with the next installment of the film series, SAW the videogame will give fans of Jigsaw and these films a reason to live. The game will have its own unique storyline, while answering questions left unanswered by the SAW films.

And that’s for the one semi-decent license they had.

I wonder if this has created a void in the marketplace that someone committed to mass producing bland games at low prices can exploit. I’ve always thought this would be the fun end of the industry to get into. That or dating sim games.

you and me, man. we’re going to own this town. well, the budget side of it