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Spicy Horse cuts staff in move away from "brutal" F2P market

American McGee's Shanghai studio will continue with a core team, new projects to be announced soon

American McGee has dismissed rumours that his development studio, Spicy Horse, is closing down for good.

The notion that the Shanghai based company was closing its doors spread from a post on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform. As news stories about the demise of Spicy Horse began to appear online, McGee clarified the company's position on Twitter.

In short: Spicy Horse has downsized, and it's in the midst of a transition away from free-to-play.

McGee also posted on NeoGaf, where he claimed that the remaining team at Spicy Horse will support its existing free-to-play mobile titles while it prepares to announce new projects.

"The F2P space has become quite brutal in recent years," McGee noted, "and after 5 years and 7 titles, I feel it's time we pivot to something new."

McGee founded Spicy Horse in 2007, and debuted the PC episodic series American McGee's Grimm the following year. The company then released three games for iOS devices before launching its first console title, Alice: Madness Returns, with EA in 2011. But it would also be the last console title, the release of BigHead Bash in 2012 signalling a new strategy focused on free-to-play games.

"Earning out on a console title is like digging out from under an avalanche. If you don't get out from under the advances within a very short period of time it's all over," McGee said at time. "Free-to-play offers an opportunity to release something into the wild and improve it continually until it returns a profit. Making good on the opportunity is in no way guaranteed, but the option is there."

McGee told the full extent of the company's new direction would be detailed soon, but he did reveal one new Spicy Horse endeavor, Pirate Jam. A 10-day game jam on the Andaman Sea south of Burma, the Pirate Jam mixes dev time with fishing and diving. McGee is trying to work with sponsors to make the trip affordable (or even free) for selected participants.

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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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