Oddworld sold 5 million copies, and didn't make its creators a cent
In a truly Glukkon-like move, the publishers responsible for distributing the original Oddworld didn't give franchise creator Lorne Lanning and his studio Oddworld Inhabitants a single cent in royalties. They simply pocketed the money for themselves. Apparently, that was the norm back at the time when Oddworld was published, and the reason Lanning and his colleagues left the games industry.
It's also the reason they've come back today - because that sort of thing no longer flies.
Lanning founded Oddworld Inhabitants back in 1994 along with Shelby McKenna, with the idea of building up Oddworld in the same way greats like Jim Henson and George Lucas built their universes. They met with great success. Unfortunately, they weren't ever to see the fruits of their labor.
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.'"
"Now fortunately someone told us to [perform an audit], and did the same thing. We found millions and millions of dollars of error not in our favor, and that's ultimately how we got the company back," explained Lanning. "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."
Of course, by this point, they were thoroughly disillusioned with the world of game development.
"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."
They're back now, though - and in full control of their company and all the profits, besides. Who says the industry hasn't changed for the better?
A gamer at heart, Nick started writing when he was a child. He holds a BA in English, works as a freelancer, and loves every minute of it. One day, he hopes to net himself a career in game design - but that's something for the future.
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