Feud of the Day: Lorne Lanning vs. Electronic Arts
Did you know that Electronic Arts attempted a hostile takeover of Lorne Lanning’s Oddworld Inhabitants studio? If you didn’t, you’re not alone: apparently Electronic Arts didn’t know about it either.
The trouble started with an interview Lanning gave to GamesIndustry, which went live today. There, he lamented Electronic Arts’ handling of the publishing and distribution of Stranger’s Wrath, saying that EA was supposed to handle a PlayStation 2 port of the game. But the publisher canceled the port and failed to promote the Xbox version, resulting in low sales, and in turn led to an attempted acquisition of Oddworld Inhabitants. That led to Lanning’s push to move Oddworld Inhabitants away from that scene:
“When you say that to us we go ‘fuck you very much’, quite frankly. That’s not a sustainable model, that’s a hostile acquisition. That’s why we had to strive to get independent. Rather than get into bed with someone we knew was a horrible bed partner we said ‘let’s stay virgins for longer.’
If we have a hope on this digital landscape we’ll be able to go directly to our audience and learn more about them, more from them. Let’s make a really intelligent re-entry into the market place and show that games to people who didn’t get exposed to them. And then if that’s successful we’ll have the money to start building brand new stuff.”
He also claimed intimated that big publishers were spending their profits on corporate status symbols like sports cars and corporate jets, rather than funneling that money back into projects:
“Our agreement is, you won’t be seeing our profit being spent on Ferraris and shit like that. Our profits are going back into games so we can ultimately raise to the point where we can grow our audience, who are expecting new content.”
But when looking for comment from EA on Lanning’s claims, company spokesperson Jeff Brown was dismissive, to say the least:
“We wish Lorne luck on the game and recommend Lithium for the paranoia and Tourette Syndrome. Nobody here remembers a jet, a Ferrari or an offer to buy his company.”
Who’s right? Well, as easy (and fun!) as it’d be to immediately call EA on the carpet for their nasty corporate ways, it’s a little more complicated. I remember back when I first bought Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, and the booklet inside the game case explained that this would be the first game in a quintology—there would be four more games coming out in this franchise. That’s an ambitious claim, and one the developer still has yet to make good on, more than ten years later. It’s possible that same spark of ambitious thinking has distorted what went down between Oddworld and EA.
That’s not to say that Lanning hasn’t got a point about how difficult it was to work with EA. Regardless, the past is past—I have a feeling this is as far as this particular feud will go for now. In the meantime, it’s been announced that an HD version of Stranger’s Wrath is set for release on the Vita this November. I never had the pleasure of playing the original, so I’m looking forward to having the chance now. Welcome back to the world of video games, Mr. Lanning. Please keep being weird.