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Alien: Blackout maker Rival Games closes doors

Finnish developer of Thief of Thieves couldn’t find publisher for latest project

Alien: Blackout - Xenomorph approaching control panel in dark hallway Image: Rival Games/FoxNext, D3 Go
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Rival Games, the 7-year-old Finnish studio behind last year’s Alien: Blackout for mobile devices, is closing down for good. The studio’s chief executive said that the economic breakdown brought on by the spread of COVID-19 played some role in the decision, but the pandemic “is just the icing on the cake, and by no means the one to blame.”

Founded in 2013, Rival Games also developed Thief of Thieves, a 2018 adaptation of the Robert Kirkman comic book series, made in collaboration with Kirkman’s Skybound Entertainment. The studio’s first game was also an episodic narrative, 2014’s three-chapter The Detail, a film-noir crime story set in modern-day America.

“After Alien, things were looking up for a while,” Jukka Laasko, Rival’s CEO, wrote on Friday. “We signed a deal with Universal Studios for a super cool smash-up of two 80s iconic franchises for an AA PC/console narrative shooter.” Laasko was optimistic this project would help Rival Games pay back loans it had raised in order to complete and ship The Detail.

But a few months into pre-development, Laasko said, Universal drastically changed its priorities and shut down the proposed game “in a moment’s notice.” Though Universal tried to help Rival find a publisher for the game they were building, “we’d never prepared for pitching it to external publishers, so the materials were nowhere near to convincing anyone.”

Rival Games had never been profitable, Laasko said, and its best year for revenue wasn’t terribly impressive. Pitches to venture capital firms and potential partners to get more funding went nowhere because “we were a company that had been around too long,” he wrote.

When it shut its doors, Rival Games was working on a project called The Greenhouse Effect, a third-person, story-driven game “in a world where climate change has made everyday living a challenge.”

Laasko provided this prototype trailer captured from an early build of the game:

“We had no resource to really make something unique that could’ve stood out enough in the eyes of the publishers, since we were running on fumes,” Laasko said. Rival Games needed between $2 million and $4 million for The Greenhouse Effect, “and there aren’t many partners out there in that certain segment,” he wrote. After hearing from enough publishers that the game wasn’t a good fit for their portfolio, Rival finally shut down.

The high point of Rival’s run was Alien: Blackout, a tactical game where the player guides tries to guide four humans through a crippled space station, avoiding the deadly Xenomorph that stalks about. Alien: Blackout, finished in seven months, “really showed our capabilities as a gaming studio,” Laasko wrote. “Even with the disappointment of shutting down the studio today, this is the game that we can all be proud of for years to come.”

Despite Rival Games’ closure Thief of Thieves: Season One and Alien: Blackout will remain available in their digital marketplaces, but The Detail will be taken down from Steam, Google Play and the App Store sometime soon.

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