In the world of video gaming it’s not uncommon to see studio mergers, closures, and buyouts; it’s the sad part of the business that reminds us all that one of our favorite hobbies is just that: a business. It’s always interesting, however, when a studio purchases a stake in another, especially when that stake is half of the company. That’s exactly what’s happened when Xaviant purchased a 50% stake in fellow Atlanta-based studio Blue Mammoth. After speaking with both studios it became clear why Xaviant, developer of the upcoming action/RPG Lichdom, would invest in Blue Mammoth, the group behind the free-to-play MMO Dungeon Blitz.
In April 2012 Dungeon Blitz was released after nearly three years of development and was done so by a small team of industry vets. Competing with games like World of Warcraft and the recently ended City of Heroes (of which some of the team actually helped develop) was not a battle that the team would win, but not for lack of passion. Instead Blue Mammoth focused on delivering the game with a free-to-play model and released it on Facebook in the middle of the browser game-craze. Matt Woomer, CEO of Blue Mammoth, notes that, “Since we shipped in April we’ve had 1.8 million people come in and create accounts. Just last month we still had over 600,000 active players.” Impressive, considering the rapid decline of companies like Zynga, famous for their collection of -Ville games. The problem with a free-to-play game is establishing a steady stream of money in order to maintain the game and ultimately expanding. The Xaviant deal will allow Blue Mammoth to “start expanding the game more aggressively in terms of releasing more content and releasing more zones” says Woomer.
But what about Xaviant themselves, what do they hope to gain from the deal? “The first title from Blue Mammoth, Dungeon Blitz, has seen some amazing success that stands on its own.” Michael McMain, CEO of Xaviant, said, “So it was really more about expanding our focus than it was about supporting Lichdom (their own in-development game).” Rather than looking for a way to immediately bolster their game Lichdom, Xaviant has taken strides to bolster themselves as a company. And it’s a move driven not by profits or ‘bottom line,’ but rather because of belief in the people that make up the company itself. “Investments at this level are more about people than they are about a company or organization. When I first met Matt (Woomer) and (co-founder) Lincoln (Hamilton) I knew right away they were each an amazing talent,” McMain doted, adding “If they were simply employed, I would have hired them. If I was seeking a job, I would have tried to work for them.”
It’s a breath of fresh air when two companies work together in the gaming ecosystem. When one company, boasting a successful online MMO, gets an injection from another company looking to build their own stable with successful studios and, to get more granular, passionate people, it can help them reach their goals without the unscrupulous business practices that we see as commonplace today. With smaller studios using staff as opposed to profits as the driving force behind reaching financial agreements, it allows them to feel a sense of pride beyond delivering fun games to their community. When asked what the key factor was to reaching this agreement, McMain said, “they focused on building something people would genuinely enjoy, rather than simply focusing on something that would drain money from a player's wallet … these guys nailed it”
You can play Dungeon Blitz for yourself at http://www.facebook.com/DungeonBlitz