Crate Entertainment, the studio that rose from the ashes of defunct Titan Quest developer Iron Lore, has decided to return to its roots by giving up on console development and creating a new, "thematically darker" action-RPG for the PC.
When Iron Lore fell apart following the release of the action-RPG Titan Quest, ex-lead designer Arthur Bruno and art director Eric Campanella formed Crate Entertainment, with the intention of completing work on the studio's planned next game, a console RPG called Black Legion. Unfortunately, the timing of the venture was, as Bruno told Gamasutra, "Just terrible."
"We were looking for funding on a risky venture at a time when the U.S. was in financial crisis and the world economy was destabilized," Bruno said. "Some of our best prospects in terms of publishers were in the process of massive layoffs and project cancellations."
As a result, Crate decided to forgo console development and move to more familiar territory instead: Creating a new action-RPG for the PC using the Titan Quest engine, licensed from Iron Lore's co-founders. Bruno said the decision was made because PC game development lets Crate stay small and work within a tiny budget, while the advent of digital distribution means smaller niche titles can still be viable.
"We don't need a big publishing deal to sustain us and PC, more so now than ever, presents a lot of opportunity for smaller titles," he said. "Our ability to work out a very reasonable deal for the Iron Lore Engine and toolset was another huge enabler. So we put together a project that we could begin developing without reliance on outside funding."
"I think we've reached a point in the PC market with digital distribution where it is possible for a small developer to be profitable catering to a relatively niche audience," he continued. "Titan Quest did not generate enough early sales for Iron Lore to earn royalties, but I've learned that THQ recovered their investment and even made a small profit off the game. Titan Quest together with the Immortal Throne expansion have purportedly broken a million units sold."
"With no publisher and a very small development budget, if we can even capture 10 percent of [Titan Quest's total] sales, we'll be doing okay," he added, noting that "frequent expansions and optional content" could provide an ongoing revenue stream.
Bruno also seems okay with the idea that Crate's "darker" action-RPG is bound to live in the shadow of Diablo 3, saying that the game might actually benefit from the release of Blizzard's inevitable chart-topper. "I think the anticipated release of Diablo 3 may even act in our favor, so long as we don't release close enough together that we're totally eclipsed," he said. "I think Diablo 3 will help revitalize the action RPG subgenre, and PC gaming in general."
Crate hasn't released any details about the planned new game, but I hope it goes well for them. Titan Quest was a very solid game and given the team's roots and experience with the genre, this new project should be well worth watching.