After developing video games for over eleven years, Denmark’s Full Control has decided to halt production of new properties.
“After releasing ten games with considerable critical and commercial success, we’ve made the difficult decision that the release of Space Hulk: Ascension will be our last one,” says Full Control founder and CEO Thomas Hentschel Lund. “We simply wanted to stop when we were at the top of our game.”
Loss of an investor, lack of funding for new games and increased competition are a few of the reasons why 2015 has been an incredibly hard year for the independent studio. Instead of running the company up against a wall, Lund made the difficult decision to cease game production, reduce staff and focus on sales and community support for existing titles.
An ambition to become a medium-sized game developer spurred Thomas Hentschel Lund to launch the Danish studio more than ten years ago. Founded 2004, Full Control is best known for their work with existing IPs, such as their video game adaptation of the classic Games Workshop board game Space Hulk and their remake of the action RPG and fan favourite Jagged Alliance.
For a decade, Full Control moved steadily in the right direction, until a series of unforeseen events towards the end of 2014 forced Lund to gradually start laying off most of the company’s 25-person team.
Conditions first began to worsen with last year’s release of the Jagged Alliance remake Jagged Alliance: Flashback. The game was not a commercial hit, and the future potential of the franchise also became unclear when German IP holder bitComposer filed for bankruptcy in December 2014. At the same time, Full Control was unable to secure funding for new projects after Jagged Alliance development wound down, leading to a decision to cut 50 per cent of the workforce, according to Lund.
But earlier this year, with their newly released Space Hulk sequel Space Hulk: Ascension doing well, Full Control looked like it might just steer to safety with half of the studio’s employees intact. Another storm lurked ahead though, as exit agreement renegotiation was set to begin with investor Capnova; a very time- and resource-consuming process.
So with funding challenges, unpredictable sales and an unknown exit plan ahead, Lund decided that there was no other choice than to lay off the company’s remaining staff.
“My budgets only run until April, and renegotiating a new exit agreement with our investor took three months. It is all settled now, and Capnova is no longer part of Full Control,” says Lund. “They do leave behind a loan which I must repay, however. The loan costs alone took away too much money to sustain a production team so all in all, “stopping at the top” seemed like the most sensible decision.”
Lund also observes that one of the current funding problems that he and other independent developers face is investors’ lack of interest in premium games, as well as a scarcity of publishers with money to spend.
”The processes required to fund a project stretching over 6-12 months with no guarantee of success, the proliferation of PC games and an increase in the amount of medium-sized studios pitching for projects makes it hard to balance burn rates with new funding, while also delivering a game in production,” explains Lund. “We simply did not have that last one per cent of luck in securing a newly signed project in time, even with several pitches having been green-lit.”
Full Control founder and CEO Thomas Hentschel Lund
Lund has now accepted a position as head of production at Sybo Games, two floors up in the same building in central Copenhagen that houses Full Control. According to Lund, it’s a perfect opportunity to utilise his all of his experience, and to work with a top-notch game production that is only-too-rarely available due to money constraints.
“Throughout my career, I have shipped around 15 games and more than 200 software products, so I don’t want to start from scratch again. The position at Sybo is very similar to what I have been doing at here at Full Control, in terms of managing all internally produced games at the company, which they can now benefit from. And I have become a part of one of the most promising Danish game studios currently out there, so everybody wins,” he says.
In retrospect, Lund does not regret taking his chances with Full Control. “I pushed the speeder. I wanted to launch this rocket. I wanted to get a development studio up and running that would exist alongside international middle-sized studios. We just didn’t succeed in the long-term, even after releasing three bigger PC titles over the last few years,” reflects Lund. “But at least I have enough control of my budgets to be able to “land” the entire company and avoid bankruptcy. Even though we will not be producing any more content after May, I want Full Control to continue selling the Space Hulk and Jagged Alliance games, and providing community support for several years to come.”
Thomas Lund is currently working on third-party deals to launch Space Hulk and Space Hulk: Ascension on new platforms. “PS3, Vita and Wii U ports of Space Hulk will become available this summer, and I am working on getting it released for Android (and) Windows Phone too. Space Hulk: Ascension would be a potential great fit for the new console generation as well, so I am looking at that possibility. DLC for the game, as well as a new game mode currently in production, will also be released this spring.”