Bad news trickling in from the vine indicates that Emergent Game Technologies, creators of the popular middleware GameBryo engine, are being forced by their investors to sell the technology along with most or all other assets and IP.
Despite good revenues and even a tiny profit this year, the company lost millions during its first few years of operation, and apparently its investors are unwilling to allow Emergent time to recoup. At this time, the GameBryo engine, its web-based twin GameBryo Lightspeed, and “all or substantially all” of the company’s other assets and IP are on the auction block. That’s a lot of technology, some of it really amazing.
This is sad news for Emergent, which will presumably not survive the sale. Depending on who buys out the assets, the technology might not either. Which would also be sad: GameBryo is a remarkable engine, and an unbelievably versatile one. It has powered over 350 games to date, as broad-flung as Defense Grid, Fallout 3, and Civilization IV. It’s affordable, integrates well with other third-party tools like Havok and RAD, is friendly with all major platforms, and equally capable of producing a hex-based strategy game as an MMO.
Born of the earlier NetImmerse engine, which powered Morrowind (among many others), GameBryo represents one of the key players in the third-party engine development world. Emergent doesn’t make games, and any developer with half an ounce of sense knows that it’s always better to license an engine than build one’s own. For years its key competitor has been Epic’s Unreal engine, now in its third iteration. Unreal is also great technology, but it’s really designed for shooters and actually has some pretty severe technical limitations when it comes to rendering large outdoor environments and long draw distances – limitations GameBryo does not have.
All in all this could mean a pretty big shift in the landscape. If GameBryo is suddenly out of the picture, there’s a big void to fill. A big void.
id Software, once a powerhouse of engine creation and the company to beat in terms of successful reach, reached its peak of engine-licensing with the Quake 3 engine, and has been in decline ever since. Only a handful of developers licensed id Tech 4, which powered DOOM 3. With id now owned by ZeniMax Media Group, its upcoming Tech 5 will only be used within that publisher’s stable – Bethesda, Tango Gameworks, MachineGames, id itself, Arkane, and a couple others; Tech 5 will not be available to license.
Valve Software continues to update and market the Source engine, but aside from Valve’s own games – Half-Life 2, Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress 2 – only a handful of developers have chosen to use it. And while there are dozens of commercially available game engines, the big stars have always been id’s technology, Unreal technology, and GameBryo. The eternal RenderWare continues to putter along, used a lot more than most people realize. And of course there’s CryTek’s Cry3 engine, which is licensable but still a bit of a question mark when it comes to performance.
Who will buy GameBryo? Possibly a publisher that wants to bring it in-house like ZeniMax did with id Tech 5. Possibly Epic or CryTek, so they can gut it and incorporate the best parts into their own technologies.
I don’t really know much about VC liquidation practices, but maybe it’s possible for Emergent to secure funding from somewhere else and buy its own stuff back. The company did seem to be moving toward profitability, but business is business.
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