2012’s biggest rumors and controversies in social and mobile games

2012 is coming to a close without any end-of-the-world shenanigans so it’s time for Inside Social Games to look back at the biggest rumors and controversies in the social/mobile games industry.

We realize these aren’t always the most popular things for investors and developers to read, but the stories herein are often repeated within the industry even more than the success stories. Some of the things listed below couldn’t be verified at the time or didn’t have enough substance to warrant a full news post. In some cases, however, we were able to confirm certain details from reliable sources. In keeping with tradition and out of consideration for these sources, we’ve chosen to keep them anonymous.

6waves’ spectacular flame-out – partially confirmed

2012 wasn’t a good year for the company that started off as 6waves Lolapps. The company received a huge amount of public criticism when it launched Yeti Town and was accused of cloning by Spry Fox after the two developers had signed NDAs to distribute Triple Town on Facebook. The company then lost the second part of its name in March when it jettisoned over half of its workforce and pivoted from game development to publishing. We’re told by multiple sources that the layoffs were actually noted on the company’s Google calendar by the company higher-ups, leading to a high-stress environment before they were officially announced. Ravenshire Castle launched in May and subsequently flopped (it peaked at 50,000 daily active users and currently has 400). Following this, 6waves started to focus more on mobile games than social. Supposedly there was a deal with Kixeye in the works that “would have saved the company” but CEO Will Harbin personally killed it over the controversy surrounding Yeti Town. Then, a few months ago, the company underwent more layoffssettled the lawsuit Spry Fox had against it in a pretty spectacular concession that included giving up ownership of Yeti Town (this was, of course, only after the court denied 6waves’ petition to dismiss the case) and suddenly switched back to publishing social games instead of mobile titles. We also heard from multiple sources that developers who worked with 6waves weren’t happy with the way their games were distributed.

Rocket Ninja tries to re-invent itself, lays off staff in the process – confirmed and not surprising

Following last year’s controversial move to give the 2D action game Wrestler: Unstoppable a 3D makeover (something the game’s very loyal fanbase is still griping about), developer Rocket Ninja once again appears on our list. Shortly before the developer publicly revealed its plans to shift away from games to a 3D “lightweight dating” system called Be3D, we heard reports that the company underwent a series of layoffs. Then, immediately after our article went live, we heard reports of further layoffs that were only confirmed months later. According to our sources, CEO Oded Pelled made the decision to move away from games on his own but was forced out because “he had the entire workforce against him. After all, we were there to make games.” We also heard that multiple people were denied unemployment benefits because of “legal mumbo jumbo” on behalf of Rocket Ninja’s employment practices. 

Disney’s contracts for licensed games leave devs strapped for cash – partially confirmed

Although Disney’s been killing it with first-party social and mobile titles, we’ve been hearing stories about devs working on licensed projects aren’t doing as well. The grapevine is currently saying Gazillion Entertainment is getting pretty low on funds while it works on its Marvel Heroes MMO; although there’s still some cash on hand from investors to get the developer into the new year, things don’t look good and we’ve heard the company isn’t able to meet some job seekers’ salary requests. Meanwhile, another source says that Marvel’s terms for contractors to work on licensed titles come with a lot of prestige from the property but are so one-sided that “calling it ‘financial rape’ is an understatement.”