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Starbreeze: Syndicate was "a lost battle from the get-go"

Starbreeze: Syndicate was "a lost battle from the get-go"

Wed 20 Jun 2012 8:39am GMT / 4:39am EDT / 1:39am PDT
Development

CEO Mikael Nermark says still proud of reboot, hints at budget

Starbreeze

Starbreeze Studios was founded in 1998 in northern Sweden. In 2000 the company merged with O3 games and...

starbreeze.com

Starbreeze's Mikael Nermark has attempted to explain some of the reasons behind the commercial failure of its recent release, Syndicate.

"We knew from the get-go that there was going to be a small but very vocal [group] of gamers and journalists that was going to hate us whatever route we took," he told Edge.

"If we didn't do an exact copy of the game, they'd hate us. If we did do an exact copy, they'd say we didn't innovate. They were never ours to win; it was a lost battle from the get-go."

Game sale estimations for worldwide sales stand at around 150,000 copies, and prompted publisher EA's Frank Gibeau to say the game "didn't work."

"I don't have any response to what Frank said," Nermark responded in the interview.

"I think both EA and Starbreeze can look back at it and say that we could have done stuff differently. [But] if you ask anyone about any game in production they probably would say the same thing.

He said he was still proud of the product, which achieved a Metacritic score of 69. 25 jobs were cut at the development studio on the completion of the title.

Nermark added that the budget for the game was significantly lower than other AAA titles.

"In comparison to other triple-A teams, in terms of people and money, we're very small. I'm not going to tell you exactly what Syndicate cost to make - I can't due to NDAs - but it was substantially less than what the big in-house publishing studios would have spent, definitely."

The studio's next project is a free-to-play title called Cold Mercury.

14 Comments

Daniel Leaver Creative Director, Ambient Studios Ltd

23 4 0.2
I'm not sure I agree with this statement: "If we didn't do an exact copy of the game, they'd hate us. If we did do an exact copy, they'd say we didn't innovate. They were never ours to win; it was a lost battle from the get-go."

In my opinion Blizzard did an excellent job of Diablo 3. Regardless of budget, the gameplay is familiar enough to be popular with those who played D2 over a decade ago, but with enough tweaks and innovation to feel like a strong sequel.

I should have been squarely in the middle of the target market for the Syndicate reboot, having spent many hours playing Syndicate Wars all those years ago. However, I feel there's a lot more to a game franchise than it's lore/setting, which from what I've read is all that was kept for the reboot.

Shame really because it looked like a well executed project and the world could do with more top down, small squad strategy games.

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,613 1,476 0.9
If we did do an exact copy, they'd say we didn't innovate
I seriously doubt this. So... Many... People... Just wanted Syndicate/Syndicate Wars with today's graphics. How many games are there like that nowadays? Innovative would've been taking the isometric mission-based squad system of the original, and refining it. Not making yet another FPS.

But, whatever... Inb4 "Videogames are art, and anyone who expects something other than an FPS in this day-and-age is just an entitled whiner". :p

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 20th June 2012 10:08am

Posted:2 years ago

#2

Russell Watson Senior Designer, Born Ready Games

86 34 0.4
@Daniel

I dont agree with that comment either. I would definately put money down for an updated Syndicate. I think this is simply a case of EA not understanding the IP or it's audience.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Russell Watson on 20th June 2012 10:26am

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Paul Smith Dev

189 154 0.8
@Morville Iv never played Syndicate or the new one but I dont think the problem was that it was a FPS, The problem iv seen with the game is that its just another FPS, if they did something cool with it and merged the two types of gameplay together to make something different I'm sure it would of sold al lot more copies.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Smith on 20th June 2012 12:10pm

Posted:2 years ago

#4

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,613 1,476 0.9
@ Paul

Yeah, that's true up to a point, actually. What they actually ended-up doing was going to please no-one - not good enough as a standard FPS; not unusual enough to stand out from the crowd; and not anything like the original games. It was, I think, the most shocking waste of an IP I've seen in years. :(

Posted:2 years ago

#5

Terence Gage Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
I think the problem was not necessarily with the game, but with calling it 'Syndicate' in the first place. It didn't really have a lot in common with the original instalments besides a general theme and setting, and rebooting a lauded RTS as an FPS was never really going to go down well.

I also think a lot of folk were sated on this particular genre by Deus Ex: HR, and thus Syndicate's release was pretty bad timing.

Posted:2 years ago

#6

Christopher Garratty European Counsel, Electronic Arts

86 109 1.3
Personally (you can call bias if you like, but these are my honest personal views on the game) I actually really enjoyed Syndicate. It was a nice change of pace and style, had some interesting mechanics and was far harder than most modern FPS's which these days I find are predominantly sight-seeing tours with some non-essential interaction.

Online Co-Op was where the game really excelled, and it bore more resemblance to the original Syndicate, 4 person team of agents, various infiltration / elimination missions and so on. It's a shame more people didn't get to experience it.

Posted:2 years ago

#7

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,613 1,476 0.9
The question is, why didn't EA do with Syndicate what Firaxis and 2K are doing with the XCom IP? If the budget for the FPS was substantially below what it would've been with another publisher/another IP, then they could have doubled up and hired another team to develop something more in keeping with the Syndicate name. Yes, more money paid out, but they could have done something resembling what CCP are doing with Eve/Dust514, and cross-promoted both.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 20th June 2012 3:34pm

Posted:2 years ago

#8

Kevin Patterson musician

187 103 0.6
I still want to play syndicate as I love Starbreeze's games, but they are right in that EA should not have made an FPS out of the original game. It would have been better to keep the gameplay and style and make a new IP.
I wish EA would reboot Crusader and keep the style, Diablo 3 shows that gamers still love the isometric view.
EA has so many classic IP's but they need to keep it the style of the original games, or at least close.

Posted:2 years ago

#9

Sam Maxted Journalist / Community / Support

155 65 0.4
"I'm not sure I agree with this statement: "If we didn't do an exact copy of the game, they'd hate us. If we did do an exact copy, they'd say we didn't innovate. They were never ours to win; it was a lost battle from the get-go."

In my opinion Blizzard did an excellent job of Diablo 3."
That's the thing, though. There's a small - but very vocal - part of the Diablo 3 community that hates the game (or claims to, but is probably still playing it obsessively), claiming it's not as good as Diablo 2 and that they don't like the changes made to it.

While I agree that Blizzard did a good job with D3 - as long as we ignore the launch - the game suffers from this same issue. Although with D3, it didn't stop it from becoming a commercial success. To be honest, I'm not sure that too many people playing games today would have played the originals to the extent that they'd be looking forward to a reboot, and particularly one in a different genre.

Posted:2 years ago

#10

Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany

837 671 0.8
For the 20-25 y/o FPS fans, the word "Syndicate" says nothing. It only says something to the original Syndicate fans, and the last thing that people want is yet ANOTHER FPS.

Really hope the people doing that X-COM shooter will get the message.

I Still find hilarious that EA's marketing people were unable to see this coming when most of us did from day 1... who hired them? Activision?

Posted:2 years ago

#11

Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer

582 322 0.6
What a goddamn cop-out.

If it was a "lost battle from the get go" why did they take the money?

If you think you can't do it, it's your moral duty to tell others that, so that others who think they CAN do it can give it a shot.

Posted:2 years ago

#12

Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer

582 322 0.6
By the way, since the topic is lack of products filling this niche, if you're looking for top-down shooter action, check out this project (shameless plug): Reduction.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Tim Carter on 21st June 2012 5:21pm

Posted:2 years ago

#13

Terence Gage Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
@ Tim
"If it was a "lost battle from the get go" why did they take the money?"

I doubt Starbreeze are a big enough developer to be able to refuse work from a mega-publisher like EA.

Posted:2 years ago

#14

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