In an interview with Metro detailing why he left and returned to the video game industry, Oddworld Inhabitants co-founder and Oddworld franchise creator Lorne Lanning recalls a time when 5 million copies of his product sold at retail but didn't receive a royalty check from publishers.
Lanning revealed that when he and Sherry McKenna co-founded Oddworld Inhabitants in 1994 they had the idea of building a universe with Oddworld in the way that Jim Henson, George Lucas and Walt Disney built up their universes.
"And we thought we could do that organically, we thought we could do that with successes," Lanning said. "But the fact is I sold over 5 million games at retail and I never saw one royalty check. Now if you go around and ask the rest of the developers who say, ‘Oh, we sold a million units!' Ask them how many royalty checks they've had and it'll be, ‘Oh, well that's a sore spot.'"
He added that someone suggested to them to audit and they found "Millions and millions of dollars of error not in our favor. "
"Now fortunately someone told us to do that, and did the same thing, and that's ultimately how we got the company back," he explained. "Because when we were able to prove that things were not what they should be then it was ‘pay us or give us the company back', very simple. And so that's how we got the company back, 100 per cent."
Over the years the company released Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee, Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus and Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath until the founders chose to shutter the studio in 2005, due to the unfavorable environment for indies and disputes with larger companies such as Electronic Arts.
"Well, we'd had enough of the terms. We'd had enough of what was happening," he said. "And what was happening was quite simply if you wanted to build big expensive games, and you were getting them funded by a publisher, you were basically giving up your company. I mean that's it, that's the nutshell of how the industry changed.
"And so whatever the reasoning the appeal had been lost," he said. "It's not that I didn't want to build games, I just didn't want to be a slave. I don't want to be a slave to these guys who are making tons of money while the developers are not."
It was revealed in 2010 that Oddworld Inhabitants was getting back into game development. The company has been working with independent developer Just Add Water on Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee New 'n Tasty and ports of Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee and Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath. New 'n Tasty is slated to launch July 22 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Windows PC, Mac and Linux.