It’s not a secret to say that Overkill’s The Walking Dead was a failure. From middling reviews to even worse sales, it was of little surprise when the console release of this game was delayed indefinitely. However, now the question remains, what exactly went wrong for publisher Starbreeze. Depending on who you ask, you’ll get some vastly different answers.
The former CEO of Starbreeze shockingly believes the developers are at least partly to blame for the current disaster the company finds itself in. The developers, on the other hand, have a different story. Eurogamer spoke with many of the developers, and one thing was clear: many of them knew this was a troubled project from early on.
Following his departure from Starbreeze, former CEO Bo Andersson sent an email that, among other things, claims the supposed low quality in Overkill’s The Walking Dead was a result of developers not “willing to put in the extra care.”
Personally though I lost all my money, my family in divorce and my kids custody through the toil over the last 2-3 years working 100 hour weeks for Starbreeze and keeping you devs paid and in the game. With less and less developers willing to put in the extra care in a product it clearly limits the possible result of enough quality in time. This is a new era and I did not leave the old one and adapt in time – my fault. Its ok—its new times.
It was a shocking dismissal of a team that seemed to continually lose faith in their game. The project was envisioned as an ambitious, ever-changing world (a la Destiny). But as development progressed, it became clear that the Valhalla engine (which Starbreeze purchased in 2015), was not equipped for a game of this scale. As a result, management decided to switch to Epic Games’ Unreal Engine. The only problem was that very few on the team had experience with Unreal, and the game was set to be shipped in a little more than a year. As one developer put it, “we were using tutorials to try and make a game.”
“Everyone knew it was going to tank,” a different developer told Eurogamer. Switching engines also meant that the entire game essentially had to restart from scratch. Despite what Andersson claimed, it appears that the developers put as much weight behind this seemingly doomed project as they could. Long nights and 100-hour weeks became increasingly common. Sadly, none of it would help a game that seemed doomed to fail.
The disastrous launch of Overkill’s The Walking Dead has led to a number of changes at Starbreeze. The company recently filed for reconstruction, and it also found itself under criminal investigation. The future is very much in limbo for Starbreeze, and with games like Psychonauts 2 and System Shock 3 on the way, one can only hope it finds its footing.