Just heard the sad news that Japanese developer CiNG has filed for bankruptcy. The company – creators of Little King’s Story, Another Code and Hotel Dusk – apparently suffered liabilities totaling 256 million yen, or roughly 2.5 million dollars.
I’m a big fan of CiNG’s work, so this news has genuinely put a bit of a dampener on my weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed all the aforementioned games, as well as Another Code’s recent Wii sequel, A Journey into Lost Memories. CiNG’s titles were always extremely well-written and immensely creative – Another Code has one puzzle so good Nintendo robbed the idea for Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, and another that’s one of the cleverest lateral riddles in any game. It seems odd that a company that was almost a second-party developer for a Nintendo should go under owing such a relatively small amount of money. Heck, even though the adult themes of its latest game – serial killer thriller Again: Eye of Providence – meant Nintendo passed on publishing duties, that was still made exclusively for the DS. Evidently recent sales figures haven’t exactly persuaded Nintendo to stump up the necessary to save them – though Hotel Dusk did decent numbers, follow up Last Window tanked in Japan, and Another Code: R was another sales bomb.
It’s a sad state of affairs that the industry can no longer support developers of niche titles like this, especially since production costs couldn’t have been too high for a relatively small team. It also suggests there isn’t really much of a market for verbose point-and-click style adventure games which deal with unusual themes in mature and touching ways. Which in itself is a crying shame.
Particularly irritating are the low sales figures for Little King’s Story. While CiNG’s handheld adventures were critically divisive, LKS was almost universally praised, and still struggled to shift the numbers it undoubtedly deserved to. CiNG’s titles obviously suffered from a lack of promotion, but it’s hard to say that advertising campaigns for any of its games would have made a significant difference; not enough to save them at any rate.
With no news of Last Window being translated for the west (Nintendo recently registered the trademark, though today’s news may have put an end to any localisation effort), it seems Again – released in the US at the end of the month – may be CiNG’s last game. That we might never get to see the meeting between Kyle Hyde and Ashley Mizuki Robbins that the developer’s creative linchpin Rika Suzuki recently hinted at is a tragedy indeed.