- By Grant Gross -
The news of Loki Entertainment Software's demise came late Wednesday in the form of a leaked memo to resellers. In the memo, company president Scott Draeker explained that the company was shutting down operations January 31, and stopping end-user support for its games immediately, after three years of being the most high-profile Linux gaming company.
The announcement didn't come as a complete surprise to the Linux gaming community -- Loki had filed for bankruptcy in August 2001, but Draeker said then he was optimistic the company was in business "for the long haul."
Loki continued to release new Linux ports of popular Windows games, even after the bankruptcy filing, shipping Kohan and Postal Plus between late August and mid-October. Loki also ported games such as Tribes 2, Alpha Centauri, Quake III Arena, and SimCity 3000 during its lifetime, but the main criticism of the company was that the Linux ports often appeared many months after the Windows versions.
Draeker responded to questions from NewsForge Thursday in what he says will be the only interview about Loki's closing. We asked him about what went wrong at Loki, his future, and Loki's competition from efforts such as TransGaming Technology's three-month-old effort to use WineX to allow Windows games to run on Linux.
NewsForge: When did you decide it wasn't working? You seemed hopeful after the
bankruptcy filing that things would work out.
Draeker: Based on monthly sales figures when we filed, we had every reason to
believe the reorganization would be successful. What happened is those
sales fell off dramatically over the holidays. With lower-than-expected
revenues we were digging a hole each month.
NewsForge: What do you think went wrong?
Draeker: If we had come into 2001 in better shape, we could have ridden out the slow months and done well going forward.
NewsForge: What happens to the games? Does another company get the rights to distribute your games? Some of NewsForge's people want to know if you'll be selling them off for cheap? :-)
Draeker: We've been working with our resellers to make sure they have adequate supplies of products and anticipate they will continue selling Loki
products. I don't think there will be any huge discounts right
away -- maybe in six months they'll discount whatever is left.
NewsForge: What's next for you personally?
Draeker: My immediate plans are to take a break and recharge my batteries. After that I'll start looking at different opportunities.
NewsForge: What happens to Loki's employees? (There were about 10 before the latest news, Draeker says.) Have they all been laid off?
Draeker: We laid off our development and support staff last Friday. I understand at least one already has an employment offer elsewhere.
NewsForge: How are you feeling about this big change in your life?
Draeker: Relieved! We did everything humanly possible to make this work. It was hard to make the decision to shut down. It was hard to lay people off.
But it was the right thing to do. And I'm relieved that it's over and
that all of us can start focusing on The Next Big Thing.
Loki has been a great experience and the Linux community is great.
Starting Loki will always be one of the proudest moments of my life.
NewsForge: What happens to your public CVS repository and the projects it hosts?
Draeker: We'd like to find someone to continue hosting it.
NewsForge: How do you feel about the future of Linux gaming? Do you think there's enough of a market for a company to port Windows games to Linux?
Draeker: It's problematic. After three years I know it can be done. The market is there. But it's also very challenging. We did it out of conviction, which
is why we lasted as long as we did.
NewsForge: How about original games native to Linux?
Draeker: If I were going to start a new Linux game company tomorrow that's what I would do.
The idea with Loki was never to create a thriving Linux porting business.
We wanted to create a Linux gaming industry. If you want a perfect
example of the difference, just look at Mac gaming. There are many games
available for the Mac put out by several great Mac porting companies. But
no one develops new games for the Mac. As a result Mac gaming is always a
second cousin to Windows gaming. Games come out after the Windows
versions do. They look and feel like Windows games, not Mac games. And
there's nothing you can play on a Mac that you can't also play on Windows.
We saw porting as a transitional stage. By porting games we were able to
develop the software infrastructure needed for gaming on Linux. We were
also able to prove that a market for Linux games exists. The next step
would have been to use what we had created to start making original games
for Linux. That has always been our ultimate goal -- we wanted Linux to
have its own unique, compelling games. Think how many people would be
running Linux on their desktop if Diablo had come out for Linux six months
NewsForge: Or how about the TransGaming model of using WineX?
Draeker: The arrival of TransGaming to me is the clearest indication that Loki
failed to jump-start a Linux gaming industry as we'd hoped, because
TransGaming has nothing to do with Linux games. Their message to game
developers is: "Use DirectX and develop for Windows. We'll help you sell
your Windows products to Linux users."
TransGaming's strategy is the same one Corel used in its Linux
applications business. In the end I don't think they'll be any more
successful than Corel was.
NewsForge: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a Linux gaming company?
Draeker: Cut your teeth in the established gaming industry first. If you can
successfully complete a title there then you have a shot at doing it for
NewsForge: What happens to the Nokia Media Terminal project (in which Loki games were to be distributed for the Nokia hardware)? Does that move forward without Loki?
Draeker: I don't think this affects the Media Terminal at all. If it did then
Nokia would have bailed us out.