Steve Ellis, co-founder and former MD of Timesplitters developer Free Radical Software, has given a damning assessment of the modern FPS genre, saying publishers are afraid of straying from the Call Of Duty template and adding: "Pretty much every FPS loses money."
Ellis, who wrote the multiplayer component of N64 classic GoldenEye during his time at Rare, recently set up mobile game studio Crash Lab with former Rare colleagues Martin Wakeley and Lee Musgrave. In an interview to be published later today, Ellis explains why the trio are turning their back on their careers in the shooter genre.
"I spent the whole of 2008 going round talking to publishers trying to sign up Timesplitters 4," he tells us. "There just isn't the interest there in doing anything that tries to step away from the rules of the genre – no one wants to do something that's quirky and different, because it's too much of a risk. And a large part of that is the cost of doing it.
"Nobody really buys any FPSes unless they're called Call Of Duty," he continues. "I guess Battlefield did okay, but aside from that pretty much every FPS loses money. I mean, [look at] Crysis 2: great game, but there's no way it came anywhere close to recouping its dev costs."
The reference to Crysis 2 is especially pertinent given that it was the game's developer Crytek which swooped in to rescue Nottingham-based Free Radical from administration in early 2009. The studio, since renamed Crytek UK, is working on an unannounced project, presumably a shooter given the studio's past and the fact that Crytek is developing Homefront 2 for THQ and the recently announced Crysis 3. Ellis, however, is happy to step aside, leaving big-budget projects to the new breed of developers while he moves on to the emerging mobile game market.
"We’ve been through more than a couple of console generations and seen things grow and grow to a stage where it's not really the business we got into," he explains. "It's not really what we signed up for at the start.
"There's plenty of people coming out of university who are dying to do that, so let them find out what it's like and we'll do something different!"
Crash Lab has already announced two iOS games: the sidescrolling shooter Flying Rocket Defence, and a puzzle game, Twist Pilot, which invites welcome comparisons with Eighting's GBA puzzler Kuru Kuru Kururin. Our full interview with Ellis, covering his career to date, the current state of the companies he left behind and his plans for Crash Lab's future, will be published later today.