EA Puts Muscle Behind Deathspank and Shank

EA Puts Muscle Behind Deathspank and Shank

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EA Partners has put its publishing power behind two very awesome-looking indie titles set for digital distribution.

Deathspank and Shank are two upcoming indie titles that, unfortunately, probably aren't on many people's radars. EA obviously feels the same way as I do, as the company has just announced publishing deals with the developers of both games to bring them to XBLA and PSN, with Shank also coming to the PC. Neither game has a concrete release date yet, but both are expected in 2010.

Deathspank has street-cred for a few reasons. First, the creator behind it is Ron Gilbert, known for working on Maniac Mansion and also creating The Secret of Monkey Island. Second, Gilbert is developing Deathspank at Hothead Games, where he is Creative Director, the developer behind the well-received Penny Arcade Adventures RPGs. Third, Deathspank is supposedly a mix between Monkey Island and Diablo, a combination that is so awesome it can't even be explained using human language. It's described by Hothead as a game that includes "collecting loot, crazy puzzle solving, witty dialogue, collecting loot, over-the-top animations, fun, accessible action combat, and of course, collecting loot," and its first trailer was released back in September.

Klei Entertainment's Shank is a completely different game, combining an over-the-top side-scrolling brawler with vibrant hand-drawn visuals. The main character wields not only a chainsaw, but dual pistols, a knife, grenades, and various other weapons that are chained together fluidly for lengthy combo attacks. The game's main character, Shank, is very agile, able to run up walls and pounce on enemies to kill them while they're defenseless. The biggest aspect of Shank that sticks out to me other than the combat is its animation, which is very smooth and has a style unlike anything I've seen before in a game. Shank's trailer is also worth checking out.

Notably, these are two independent developers getting in bed with EA, one of the biggest publishers in the world. Jamie Cheng, CEO of Klei Entertainment says of EA: "They have been a fantastic partner and their understanding of the space is incredibly exciting." Ian Wilkinson, CEO of Hothead Games also confirms that EA is a great partner, saying: "We are proud of our independence, but are very excited to be working with EA Partners on a title as big as DeathSpank. With EA Partners handling distribution and marketing, Hothead can continue to focus on what we do best, making great games."

These statements indicate that EA isn't stifling independence here, but rather that it may understand the money to be made with games that are more unique. If successful, we'll only see more titles like Deathspank and Shank in the future, and thanks to EA, hopefully more people will know they exist.

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Never heard of these before...but, looks like they are certainly worth having a gander at.

Deathspank looks pretty intresting...and the name has got a nice little ring attached to it also XD

Certainly these games are now on the fringe of my radar!

Some might say that EA might be using the IW/Acti-Blizzard war to their advantage; especially with Deathspank coming out just before Diablo 3.

Some might also speculate that IW might be further tempted towards EA by this move.

You missed the most important reason why Deathspank has street cred. Because it is called DEATHSPANK! That alone makes it worth checkin out.

I'll give these a good gander someday.

Sweet stuff, man.

Looking forward to this.

Funny. I might have bought them were they not distributed by EA.

Who is this Ron Gilbert? I can't believe that someone with a stupid name like that should be allowed to make games. This makes me so angry. EA should be ashamed of themselves as this is worse than anything that Activision have ever done. They are ruining the games industry. Also, Deathspank looks highly derivative of Blizzard's "Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans."

"These statements indicate that EA isn't stifling independence here, but rather that it may understand the money to be made with games that are more unique. If successful, we'll only see more titles like Deathspank and Shank in the future, and thanks to EA, hopefully more people will know they exist."

Until you outlive your usefulness to the corporation or EA has another bad quarter that angers the stockholders then PTTHHH! Your team is tossed out and you're out of a job so they can dedicate the money to another Modern Warfare rip-off.

Hopeless Bastard:
Funny. I might have bought them were they not distributed by EA.

Same here, it really bugged me when Bioware sold it's soul.

More Fun To Compute:
Also, Deathspank looks highly derivative of Blizzard's "Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans."

Yea, but no one played that.

Wasn't that just a generic (and simple) adventure game as well?

You know, if you read the titles together, it seems to sound like the name of only one game, like kane and lynch or ratchet and clank.

Nurb:
"These statements indicate that EA isn't stifling independence here, but rather that it may understand the money to be made with games that are more unique. If successful, we'll only see more titles like Deathspank and Shank in the future, and thanks to EA, hopefully more people will know they exist."

Until you outlive your usefulness to the corporation or EA has another bad quarter that angers the stockholders then PTTHHH! Your team is tossed out and you're out of a job so they can dedicate the money to another Modern Warfare rip-off.

Only, they weren't bought, they're just being published by; the difference being, if things don't work out, they're back to where they would be if they deal never happened, more or less.

The sad truth is games (among other things) cost money to make and advertise. I don't understand this mindset of people giving money to developers being a bad thing, so long as the people with the money keep their mitts off the development process and let the developers do their job.

When did EA become the GOOD guys here? And when did activision become the devil?

The_root_of_all_evil:

Some might also speculate that IW might be further tempted towards EA by this move.

Oho, now that's a very clever angle right there.

I'm much warmer to EA these days than I used to be and I like that they seem to taking an interest in helping developers out by taking a backseat from the creative process. I do hope this catches on. I already knew about Deathspank and Shank - and was planning on buying both when they arrive - but there are so many deserving titles that should be given the attention that a big name like EA can give them.

You might call it selling out, but I don't really mind about all of that stuff so long as the product is what the designers set out to make. With EA not getting involved in the development, I don't see a problem here at all.

Nurb:

Until you outlive your usefulness to the corporation or EA has another bad quarter that angers the stockholders then PTTHHH! Your team is tossed out and you're out of a job so they can dedicate the money to another Modern Warfare rip-off.

I agree about the "appealing to stockholders" stuff is a really shitty aspect of capitalism and I wish it could be done away with. But that's what you get with publicly traded companies. I wish capitalism was more patient with people, but alas, greed waits for no man.

But if you outlive your usefulness to a company, it means your not doing your fucking job.

Hopeless Bastard:
Funny. I might have bought them were they not distributed by EA.

Oh? I would not have known about these games were it not for them being mentioned on games sites such as this one, and that's mostly thanks to EA.

Nurb:

Same here, it really bugged me when Bioware sold it's soul.

Yeah, because Dragon Age was shit and Mass Effect 2 was shit and all the expansions and dlc they have planned seems shit and that SWTOR game they're working on seems to be pretty shit too. ... I'm sorry, what was your point?

If EA pulls a stunt with Bioware (or any other of their subsidiaries and collaborators) like Activision did with Infinity Ward, then I'll admit I was wrong but it seems right now that EA is working really hard to be seen as a company that actually cares about games again. I don't know if that's because they were losing money or because of this change that they're losing money now, but I sure hope that people would buy their games now. Only if you're interested in their games, of course -- I'm not suggesting you should just buy their games for the hell of it -- but don't boycott a company for actually trying to change its policy to at least something slightly more reasonable. They're a business after all, and if nobody will buy their games now, they'll revert back to Kotick-esque tactics.

Sad Robot:
Oh? I would not have known about these games were it not for them being mentioned on games sites such as this one, and that's mostly thanks to EA.

Thats why its funny. This is clearly a shrewd marketing tactic to alter EA's current image as a large soulless machine, who's only function is generate safe investment opportunities for their shareholders. Had I found out about the games from a source other than EA holding them up, saying, "LOOK! We're publishing something not relentlessly designed by committee to be marketable!!" I might have been interested.

Also, bioware actually did benefit from selling their soul to EA. They had been making the EXACT SAME game for over a decade now. Entering the EA machine caused them to change up, even if just a little bit. Of course their EA games play like "Fischer Price: My first RPG," but they're not as aggressively boring as their DnDlite games had become.

Hopeless Bastard:
This is clearly a shrewd marketing tactic to alter EA's current image as a large soulless machine, who's only function is generate safe investment opportunities for their shareholders.

Nothing wrong with that. I didn't mean to assert that they were doing any of these changes out of the goodness of their heart, but rather to appeal to a more informed and caring audience. I'm not the biggest fan of capitalism, but this is one instance where it seems to work out pretty nicely for all parties. Except for those whose personal identity is dependent on some kind of "fuck the man" rebel ideology.

If you simply don't like the games they make or publish, then fair enough.

Hopeless Bastard:

Had I found out about the games from a source other than EA holding them up, saying, "LOOK! We're publishing something not relentlessly designed by committee to be marketable!!" I might have been interested.

Is it really that big a turn off for you if EA wants in on some cash by risking a publishing agreement with an indie game? I mean, that's like hating indie movies that have been distributed by Fox Searchlight or something, just because a greedy corporation got their hands on these products. What I'm trying to say is that I consider myself slightly above average in terms of how informed a person I am when it comes to games and movies but I'd've missed out on a ton of great stuff had they not been in some way financed by large corporations. They may ultimately do it for the money, but so what?

Hopeless Bastard:

Also, bioware actually did benefit from selling their soul to EA. They had been making the EXACT SAME game for over a decade now. Entering the EA machine caused them to change up, even if just a little bit. Of course their EA games play like "Fischer Price: My first RPG," but they're not as aggressively boring as their DnDlite games had become.

Fair enough, you don't like 'em. I love Bioware to bits. But that's a separate discussion, I think. Anyway, yes, I too do think going to EA has actually benefitted them so far.

Sad Robot:

Nurb:

Until you outlive your usefulness to the corporation or EA has another bad quarter that angers the stockholders then PTTHHH! Your team is tossed out and you're out of a job so they can dedicate the money to another Modern Warfare rip-off.

I agree about the "appealing to stockholders" stuff is a really shitty aspect of capitalism and I wish it could be done away with. But that's what you get with publicly traded companies. I wish capitalism was more patient with people, but alas, greed waits for no man.

But if you outlive your usefulness to a company, it means your not doing your fucking job.

Hopeless Bastard:
Funny. I might have bought them were they not distributed by EA.

Oh? I would not have known about these games were it not for them being mentioned on games sites such as this one, and that's mostly thanks to EA.

Nurb:

Same here, it really bugged me when Bioware sold it's soul.

Yeah, because Dragon Age was shit and Mass Effect 2 was shit and all the expansions and dlc they have planned seems shit and that SWTOR game they're working on seems to be pretty shit too. ... I'm sorry, what was your point?

If EA pulls a stunt with Bioware (or any other of their subsidiaries and collaborators) like Activision did with Infinity Ward, then I'll admit I was wrong but it seems right now that EA is working really hard to be seen as a company that actually cares about games again. I don't know if that's because they were losing money or because of this change that they're losing money now, but I sure hope that people would buy their games now. Only if you're interested in their games, of course -- I'm not suggesting you should just buy their games for the hell of it -- but don't boycott a company for actually trying to change its policy to at least something slightly more reasonable. They're a business after all, and if nobody will buy their games now, they'll revert back to Kotick-esque tactics.

They're a company that doesn't care much about the GAMES part of the video game industry beyond maximum short term profit, I don't like their business practices or their decisions, so I don't support them. I DID like supporting Bioware, but now they are a part of EA.

Sad Robot:
Is it really that big a turn off for you if EA wants in on some cash by risking a publishing agreement with an indie game? I mean, that's like hating indie movies that have been distributed by Fox Searchlight or something, just because a greedy corporation got their hands on these products. What I'm trying to say is that I consider myself slightly above average in terms of how informed a person I am when it comes to games and movies but I'd've missed out on a ton of great stuff had they not been in some way financed by large corporations. They may ultimately do it for the money, but so what?

Well, EA hoisting these games up on their shoulders doesn't tell me, "these games are experimental and risky! Our investment may burn us, but we honestly believe in the product!" It tells me EA sees these games as naturally occurring forms of the type of games they make. Once someone starts saying, "Think popular game X combined with elements from popular franchise Y!" I'm basically seeing a shovel manufacturer reporting it found a tree with branches that just naturally grow with a shovel shape. Then reporting they've bought all rights to grow and harvest these trees, and any remaining naturally occurring trees will be razed by law enforcement.

And I love bioware, I just had gotten very bored with them after I picked up KOTOR and saw the character building mechanics were copy/paste from all their other games, with some "star wars" lingo thrown in.

Simriel:
When did EA become the GOOD guys here? And when did activision become the devil?

Since about 2008 or so. EA realised that bad publicity isn't worth few extra dollars of profit, and are trying to improve their image. Activision with their business practices, meanwhile, descend further and further towards a hybrid of Hitler and Skeletor whose piss is pure liquid malevolence.

As for the topic at hand - well, if EA are ready to provide marketing for indie games while not actually taking over the studios, it can only be a good thing.

Hopeless Bastard:

Well, EA hoisting these games up on their shoulders doesn't tell me, "these games are experimental and risky! Our investment may burn us, but we honestly believe in the product!" It tells me EA sees these games as naturally occurring forms of the type of games they make. Once someone starts saying, "Think popular game X combined with elements from popular franchise Y!" I'm basically seeing a shovel manufacturer reporting it found a tree with branches that just naturally grow with a shovel shape. Then reporting they've bought all rights to grow and harvest these trees, and any remaining naturally occurring trees will be razed by law enforcement.

Of course they're not going to say that the product might burn them. They would not be distributing those games if they didn't believe in them. The fact that they are publishing them is a sign of them believing that people might want to buy them. Investing in a new IP and a company that hasn't made their name yet is always a risk. Granted, taking a risk on a small budget game, or any simple publishing deal, is less of a risk than financing a blockbuster, but the income is less likely to be high as well. The fact that EA is supporting this kind of stuff is a sign that it believes gamers want something else than endless sequels to their current blockbuster franchises.

Fair enough, I don't believe they'd go for something totally bizarre either. They want at least some sense of familiarity in the product, which is understandable. It would be hard to sell a game that went out of its way to be subversive in every way.

I happen to think progress is best incorporated into art through refinement rather than subversion, though I can see the appeal in both. Most people wouldn't, however.

Kollega:

Simriel:
When did EA become the GOOD guys here? And when did activision become the devil?

Since about 2008 or so. EA realised that bad publicity isn't worth few extra dollars of profit, and are trying to improve their image. Activision with their business practices, meanwhile, descend further and further towards a hybrid of Hitler and Skeletor whose piss is pure liquid malevolence.

As for the topic at hand - well, if EA are ready to provide marketing for indie games while not actually taking over the studios, it can only be a good thing.

Also this.

Ah, the wheel in the sky keeps on turning. We all forget that in the Nineties today's big guys will still being upstarts (or at least still clawing their way to the top) and Acclaim was the de-facto publisher juggernaut...

Good on EA. I have a lot of beef with the company, but at least since Riccitello returned, things have been looking a bit better. Mainly, it published Brutal Legend (and I did love the photo of Riccitello and his family in the end-credits).

EA is taking advantage of Activisions "Bad Guy" look...

 

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