There are a lot of Lego games out in the world but that wasn't always the case. Lego Island was one of the major turning points that helped kicked off a massive franchise. The game's developers, however, reportedly didn't fare as well.
The "Bits N' Bricks" podcast is (as one might infer) a podcast about Lego games, aiming to "explore innovation at the Lego Group through the lens of games." Episode 4 launched a few days ago and it had a surprising reveal: developers say that Mindscape — the company behind Lego Island — laid everyone off and closed up shop to avoid paying out royalty bonuses (via Eurogamer).
Lego Island Was a Surprising Success
Lego Island came out in 1997, a very different time for the gaming world. Despite several challenges and intense competition, the game managed to be the 11th best-selling game of the year. Even more surprising was the fact that it attained those sales with only a few months left in the year.
"[According] to Wes and a couple other people we spoke to, they believe that [Mindscape] did not want to have to pay out those bonuses, so they fired everybody before it started selling." – Brian Crecente
The developers, understandably, would have been ecstatic. Mindscape had a royalty program in place where the developers would get a slice of the sales, so all of these copies moving off of store shelves would have made for a tidy holiday bonus. Unfortunately, one senior developer says that they never got it.
"We have a terrific program in place for bonuses, for the team," said the game's senior producer Scott Anderson. "And when the game came out, rather than pay off the, uh, the people who work on it, I mean, they sold like a lot of copies in the first day. And so they owed us royalties, they owed us a lot of bonuses and they decided that they would fold the company rather than pay us. So they fired the whole team, and then they folded the company."
As one might expect, firing the entire team that created your smash-hit game doesn't really set you up for future success. Future Lego Island games were handled by another company entirely and they didn't quite capture the same magic of the original
Did you ever have the chance to play Lego Island? What are your favorite game in the Lego franchise? Let us know in the comments below!