How SouthPeak Met Its End
Cracks began appearing in the company. Shortly before Dark Side of the Moon reached store shelves, Lee Sheldon, the writer who had given DSotM its rich storyline, left. SouthPeak began publishing more console titles and fewer PC games, and production of original titles slackened.
Then, in early March of 2000, SouthPeak Interactive got out of the game-making business. They cancelled production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which was to be the third Video Reality title, and around one hundred SouthPeak employees moved to jobs elsewhere in SAS. Wild Wild West was the last game SouthPeak would create -- from then on out they would merely publish other companies' games, such as Simon the Sorceror 3D. SAS Institute moved forward with plans to use the Video Reality engine to create training programs for firefighters and others in similar professions.
Even that, though, couldn't save the company. SouthPeak had never turned a profit, making it a liability in light of plans to make SAS Institute a publically-traded company. When Jim Goodnight, founder and chairman of SAS, announced in April that the world's largest privately-held software company was going to go public, he stated that he wasn't interested in continuing to lose money on SouthPeak.
The axe fell just a few months later. On October 17, SAS Interactive announced that SouthPeak had been sold to an unnamed out-of-state buyer, with the sale to close on the 11th of November. But the company as a whole hadn't been sold, only the SouthPeak name and its games. The seventy-odd remaining employees of SouthPeak were given the opportunity to move to other jobs within SAS Institute.
Adventure game fans were surprised, then worried. SouthPeak was slated to be the US publisher of Simon the Sorceror 3D. Given the sale of SouthPeak, would the new mystery owner of SouthPeak still publish Simon 3D?
Andrew Brazier of Headfirst Productions, maker of Simon the Sorceror 3D, wasn't sure. When I spoke to him he said that neither SouthPeak nor SAS Institute had informed them of the sale, and that he was thus unsure of the situation.
According to SAS Institute, no SouthPeak games will be left high and dry. Les Hamashima, Manager of the Public Affairs Department for SAS Institute, stated that "All the current SouthPeak Interactive titles will continue to be supported, and the new owner will continue developing titles currently under development."
Bob Chase, SouthPeak's Senior Media Relations Specialist, clarified Lee's statement. "Prior to the sale, SouthPeak Interactive had not established a release date for Simon the Sorceror 3D, and the new owners have not yet set a release for that title either. And in general, any games for which we'd set a release date -- Mia Hamm Soccer 64, The Dukes of Hazzard II: Daisy Dukes it Out -- will still be released, but those titles with indeterminate release dates -- Simon the Sorceror 3D, Soldier -- are still being evaluated."
No time frame has yet been set for that evaluation. Whatever the outcome, though, Andrew feels that Simon 3D will reach the US. "Should the new owners not be interested in distributing Simon 3D in the States, we have been approached by a number of other publishers who would be happy to take over -- so at the moment, it seems that Simon 3D will still be released in the USA."
Despite its rather slim output of two adventure games, I'm going to miss SouthPeak. For a while they had the potential to create some very interesting games.
An addendum: SouthPeak will not be distributing Simon the Sorceror 3D, which at this point has no publisher in North America or Europe.
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