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Clang sword-fighting game put on hold

Neal Stephenson-backed Kickstarter project hits a wall with publisher funding

The crowd-funded sword-fighting game Clang has been put on hiatus due to its developers' failure to secure additional funding.

The push to turn the concept for Clang into a reality was spearheaded by the celebrated author Neal Stephenson, whose fame and existing reputation helped push the project past its $500,000 Kickstarter target - it ultimately raised $526,000 from just over 9,000 backers.

However, the Subutai Corporation, the game's developer, has put development on hold after failing to find additional funding from a publisher. In a lengthy update on the Clang Kickstarter page, Subutai places the bulk of the responsibility for its financial difficulties on the wider issues plaguing the games industry.

"Loyal donors may be curious as to why an apparently promising game is difficult to finance. The answer has a lot to do with the current state of the video game industry," the post states.

"While we have been working on Clang, two major video game publishers, THQ and LucasArts, have gone out of business. Others have fallen on hard times. The current generation of consoles is coming to the end of its life cycle. Rather than invest in innovative new titles, the still-surviving publishers tend to keep their heads down, grinding out sequels and extensions to well-worn AAA franchises.

"The overall climate in the industry has become risk-averse to a degree that is difficult to appreciate until you've seen it."

Though Clang's Kickstarter campaign was only to raise money for a prototype, Subutai's position is likely to be divisive. The problems in the AAA industry have been rigorously documented for many years, and the emergence of crowd-funding platforms like Kickstarter was widely seen as a way for developers to avoid the difficulty of seeking funding through traditional channels. The money Clang has used so far was all pledged by the public, and while Subutai is not cancelling the project outright, it has suggested that there will be no finished product without additional financial support.

"Is the Clang project dead? At what point do you put a toe tag on an indie game and call it finished? Opinions on that might vary, but in our opinion, the project doesn't die simply because it runs out of money. Projects run out of money all the time. As a matter of fact, game industry veterans we have talked to take a blithe attitude toward running out of money, and seem to consider it an almost obligatory rite of passage.

At present, an undisclosed number of the development team have been forced to take temporary positions while new opportunities for funding are found. Clang will be an "evenings and weekends" project for a period, "of indeterminate length."

In the meantime, Subutai has pointed its backers to another Kickstarter campaign: the STEM motion-tracking system, which would allow Clang to be played in the manner intended. Subutai believes that the success of STEM - which has already doubled its stated target - will convince reluctant publishers to invest in Clang's development.

"Paradoxically, we feel better about the future of Clang now than we did when the clock was ticking down. Then, we were feeling under pressure to make decisions that might not have been in the project's best long-term interests. Now that the pressure is relieved, however, we can operate more calmly and look for ways to set this thing up in a sustainable way."

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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