Activision-owned game published to Xbox Live Indie Games channel (Dark Reign Redux)

Posted: 2012/01/28 in Indie Games

Go back several hundred days of reviews, and I was in the thick of it. I was active on Twitter with developers, I was interviewing them here, and doing news stories about XBLIG topics, all in addition to the daily stream of reviews. I do have a day job too, though, so that trailed off. At some point the daily reviews will trail off to be replaced by a few reviews a week, and XBLIG news, interviews, and other features on the other days (daily posts will remain).

This post kicks off the ascent of the news stories again.

Developed by indie studio Magnetar Games, with Activision’s OK and quality assurance (as Activision own’s the game’s rights), “Dark Reign Redux” has with very little fanfare been published to the Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) channel. In my mind, this is huge news because publishing giants rarely let indie developers play with their intellectual property (IP). The possible risk (of the IP not being treated in a way that the publisher desires) versus the prospective reward (if the game is financially successful) just doesn’t seem worth the time for publishers that rate successes in millions of retail units sold (at $60, 60 Euros, etc.), versus an indie publisher that rates success at a lower level than that.

But if this is successful for the two parties, I would be ecstatic to see more of this. Who wouldn’t love to see die-hard fans of a classic game adding to it and lovingly updating it, putting in time that may not make financial sense but makes perfect sense to a devoted fan? Dark Reign Redux, for example, now runs in widescreen, at higher resolutions than Dark Reign did, and has been adapted for gamepads. What were the odds that Activision would put in the time to do that for a mostly forgotten 1997 PC game?

It’s also worth noting that taking a classic IP and updating will bring the attention of those fans to XBLIG, and open up new opportunities to indie game developers that might be more financially fruitful than some of the great, yet unheralded, games they’ve made so far. And maybe the attention this brings to the channel will help some of those unheralded games too, as a rising tide lifts all ships. The game is 400 Microsoft Points, and as a big fan of another console RTS (Halo Wars), you know I’ll be buying this… once it’s no longer well represented on the top-50 lists on the Dashboard, that is, as is my custom.

Here’s what the developer (Magnetar Games) has to say about the game:

“Dark Reign Redux is a modern remake of the classic 1997 real-time strategy game Dark Reign: The Future of War. Humans have fled a toxic, dying Earth to live in newly established colonies spread out across the known galaxy. Caught in the middle of an intense battle for power between the Imperium and the Freedom Guard, the Togran race is on the verge of extinction. Only you can change their fate.”

Thanks to “Kotaku” (for making me aware), and “Armless Octopus” for breaking the news. Here’s an EGM editor’s take on what made the original great. If it’s as Dan “The Shoe” Hsu suggests, a game that never gets complicated despite its variety, it might actually translate well to a gamepad.

  1. It’s certainly an interesting development, and has the potential to really boost the indie channel’s image as a platform for quality games.

    • Agreed. And there have been public fights between publishers and fans trying to do sequels before (look at the Kings Quest fans who were practically at war with Activision over it, until public opinion forced Activision to back down), but a remake might be more palatable to a rights-holder as they’ll have fewer concerns about what’s being done to their IP.

  2. David Loves Sandy says:

    Do you know if Activision agreed for a portion of the profits or maybe even a set rate of X amount per unit sold? That may be the reason for the price point for 400msp. I’m not much into RTS games but am giving the trial a go based on this article. You’re a very powerful man Steven Hurdle! LOL I do find this a great idea and a wonderful place for older games to become re available to us gamers that never seem to be able to get enough.

    • What did you think of Dark Reign Redux, in the end? I’m going to purchase and review it, but I have to wait for it to fall off the new releases list (and, if applicable at that time, the best sellers list) before I do so, so sadly I haven’t had the luxury of playing past the 8 minute trial yet.

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