On June 4th, after over three months of silence from the developers, Lilith Ltd. announced they were cancelling the much-hyped Allison Road game. In a short & sweet message on their official Twitter page, the developers announced:
Their further statement, released earlier today, was equally vague about this sudden & unexpected news. The Twitter page displayed a link to the game’s community page on Facebook, which reads:
After a long consideration between Team17 and ourselves, we have reached a mutual agreement to end our collaboration on publishing Allison Road under Team17’s Games label.
Sometime things pan out differently than expected as game development and publishing have so many layers of complexity… We’d like to especially thank everyone for their support through-out, it has and will always be appreciated!
For those unfamiliar with this title, Allison Road was an indie project that sprung up after Konami cancelled the upcoming Silent Hills game, which was to be a continuation of the Silent Hill franchise. The studio released a demo called P.T., that quickly blew up on the internet. Not only was it graphically impressive & terrifying, but the project had Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear fame, director Guillermo del Toro, & staring Norman Reedus as the unnamed protagonist. Having played through P.T. (Playable Teaser) myself, I can attest that it looked to be the shot of terror the Silent Hill franchise was in desperate need of. Sadly, this was right around the time Konami lost their collective minds, cancelled the project, thereby ticking off both their employees & fans.
Naturally, with gamers livid over this decision, numerous P.T. clones emerged shortly after. Most were just variations of the demo, which is ostensibly a creepy looping hallway simulator. But the only grabber-on that went a step further & aimed at creating a full gaming experience was Allison Road, in development by newly formed Lilith Ltd. in the UK.
Support abounded for the studio, with them quickly raising money on Kickstarter. But before they could reach their deadline, Lilith announced they decided to sign on with Team17. Team17 are the developers behind the Worms series, but also a company that has shown they recognize good indie projects when they seen them, as they’re also set to publish the Kickstarter indie Yooka-Laylee. At the time, this seemed like a good thing, as by all accounts this could only help Lilith. Now they could focus on making the game they (& their supporters) wanted while having a backer who would allow them creative freedom.
That is why this cancellation business had come out of left-field. Sadly, in this day & age, it’s not uncommon for Kickstarter games to be cancelled. If anything, it’s more surprising when they actually come out. But usually the signs start to become obvious. In the case of Allison Road, as far as I heard (or rather, didn’t hear) there were no problems. The last update on Twitter was back in February asking for character artists, which says to me they were hard at work. But maybe we should’ve taken the silence as a red flag.
This announcement has left many people asking if Allison Road is completely dead. Lilith’s wording is a bit ambiguous, & neither has Team17 made any statements. According to the Facebook statement, the decision to cut ties was mutual, so it can be theorized there were difficulties on both sides. But it’s unclear whether Lilith will attempt to restart the project on their own, as it sounds like they were unhappy with the publisher side of their arrangement. But that might be a problem. Depending on what type of agreement they had, Team17 might now own the rights to Allison Road. I won’t claim to be an expert on the matter of game publishing & copyrights, but typically when a publisher brings a smaller studio onboard, they essentially buy the rights to their IP. I’ve seen countless times when a publisher buys up a smaller studio (& their IP by extension) then shuts down the studio but continues to publish games under their copyright. In short, it’s entirely possible Lilith Ltd. doesn’t even own the rights to “Allison Road” anymore.
And frankly, even if Lilith does still own the rights, I’d be leery about trying again on Kickstarter. This news has struck a massive blow toward their credibility as a developer, so it’s very unlikely they’d receive the same level of support as before. I’ve heard of plenty of games that tried a second campaign, but none that have succeeded. Gamers are already jaded against crowdfunding as it is, & incidents like this don’t help. I think it’ll be hard for Lilith moving forward, as this black mark will always be upon their name.
I also find it strange, as many others pointed out in their comments, that it took them eleven days from the time of the cancellation announcement to make an official statement. Especially one as vague as what was offered. I get the sense that both sides were arguing over how to make the announcement, how to divvy up blame. That it fell to Lilith to break the news — notice how despite the Twitter post claiming the statement is from both parties the actual statement was made by Lilith (“Team17 and ourselves”) — makes me think their might be bad blood between the studios.
Actually, looking back, I noticed that Team17’s Twitter feed very rarely showed anything about the game. They advertise the crap out of all their other upcoming titles, especially Yooka-Laylee. So the fact that there’s nothing about Allison Road (no videos, images, etc.), which was just as hyped, suggests to me that perhaps Lilith wasn’t making as much progress as Team17 wanted. Perhaps Lilith wanted to maintain control over their product & felt Team17 was being pushy. Maybe their ambition was simply too great.
This is all just speculation, of course.
Personally, I think we’ve seen the end of Allison Road as we knew it. If Lilith still owns the rights, I don’t think it’ll be successfully funded a second time. If Team17 owns the rights, they might bring another team in to do it, but it won’t be the same game Lilith originally intended. Perhaps it will be another P.T., & maybe inspire other developers to give us what we lost.