It’s a comfy, fuzzy thought to imagine the video game industry supported and propagated on creativity alone, but the truth is, like everything else in this mortal coil, game creation thrives on money. More than reviews, more than fan feedback, more than the bucking bull barometer of success that is Metacritic, a video game’s performance is rated by how well it sells. This will remain true until either our conquering alien overlords deem monetary concerns frivolous in light of our eternal slavery or the Earth simply nosedives into the sun. Whichever comes first. GRIN knows the vicissitudes of cash flow all too brutally well.
The Swedish developer that began its roots on the PC, slowly bled out until bankruptcy after a chain reaction of damaging events occurred once they transitioned into the console space. GRIN never quite found their footing on consoles despite playing in some rife licenses. Before folding in 2009, GRIN had spearheaded the downloadable remake Bionic Commando Rearmed for Capcom (then the lackadaisical reboot for consoles that followed; its strongest legacy being the protagonist having a wife for an arm), as well as dabbling in the movie realm by adapting Wanted and Terminator Salvation. Unfortunately for GRIN, the latter two titles only succeeded at making the sub-par films they were borne from seem decent in comparison to the watered down games.
A game developer can easily bounce back from a bad game (or three) under the right conditions, though. There are ways to recoup, reassess, and revive. But there is no recouping when months and months of effort and manpower is spent on a project that will ultimately have the plug pulled on it with the shit shoveling bonus of no compensation. That’s exactly what happened when GRIN was given the opportunity to develop Final Fantasy: Fortress (codename) for Square Enix. After six months, Square Enix cancelled the game and refused to pay GRIN under the pretense of “quality concerns.”
Without another project in development to offset the costs of Fortress’ cancellation and no financing coming in, the studio buckled, shutting down their offices in Spain and Gothenburg, before finally filing away their fate. This is not uncommon in the industry. Even publishers can suffer the same road of ruin, as THQ is illustrating by the day. But what we don’t hear often is what could have been if said studio or publisher didn’t die.
GRIN had more conceptualized than they were probably legally allowed to reveal when their time of death was called. Unveiled by Spanish game site Anait, assets for a downloadable Streets of Rage remake for Sega, the previously mentioned Fortress, a Wanted sequel (referred to as ‘Cult’), reference to an iteration of Silent Hill for Konami, and a Strider reboot for Capcom are all on display. Obviously, more than a few of these potential projects would have heated up the blood of any self-respecting gamer if they ever had the chance to be announced.
We live in an age where money rules whether or not a creation outlives its creators, and given the familiarity some of these titles stir, we’re bound to see them somewhere else, at some point, under another developer’s tutelage. But we’ll never see GRIN’s take on them – how they might have revitalized Strider for the modern generation, or maybe sullied another chance at bringing Silent Hill back into gamers’ consciousness, or how close any single one of these titles might have brought GRIN’s name into mainstream vocabulary. We won’t get to know.
Money dictates that these projects aren’t dead; the sad reality is that GRIN’s influence is. Many will be quick to dismiss a GRIN handled Strider or Final Fantasy after a quick glance at their resume, but in an industry where any idea can be the next big one, even the slightest potential for greatness snuffed out before its time should be mourned.