Gamers eager to explore the universe in an online roleplaying game based on the Stargate series have been getting that sinking feeling for some time now. Now a new report, citing a purported former employee, says the Arizona publisher of Stargate Worlds has until Aug. 1 to raise more capital or lose the license granted by MGM to adapt its properties.
Representatives from Mesa-based developer Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment and its publishing arm, FireSky, have not responded to repeated requests for an interview. The project page at Cheyenne Mountain’s Web site hasn’t been updated since May 26, though it still offers game-related merchandise and registration for beta testing. Firesky’s site is even more crusty, detailing plans for San Diego Comic-Con — in summer 2008.
Responding to the anonymous report of an Aug. 1 deadline, FireSky executive Shane Hensley said the company continues to court investors but denied the license was in jeopardy. “MGM certainly isn’t thrilled with our current situation, but neither do we have any specific indication they’re pulling the license on any particular date,” he told Dana Massey at MMORPG.COM.
The recession has hit all industries hard, and start-ups like Cheyenne Mountain often struggle in such a climate. But the information blackout is fueling pessimistic chatter on gamer message boards, and there is even talk that the game has been marketed as the crown jewel of an online “multi-level marketing” business promising rewards to investors who recruit other investors. Stargate Worlds certainly features prominently in promotional literature for the MMOGULS Social Network (see images at right).
It’s not hard to find MMOGULS presentation materials online, emblazoned with Stargate Worlds logos and the names and photos of FireSky and Cheyenne Mountain personalities. And it’s not hard to picture MGM being less than thrilled with this association.
NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS
Cheyenne Mountain told the fan e-zine GateWorld back in April that its publicity efforts were in a “dark period.”
Indeed, the latest press releases seem more concerned with TV and movie star Frankie Muniz’ participation in the company’s formula racing team than the development of its games. The former Malcolm in the Middle and Agent Cody Banks star drove for Cheyenne Mountain’s Team Stargate Worlds in this year’s Cooper Tires Atlantic Championship Series.
Hopes were raised earlier this month when an employee started answering fans’ questions about Stargate Worlds’ storyline and gameplay in an online bulletin board, but even that offered little detail about the game’s overall progress.
‘GATE’ TO SUCCESS
Cheyenne Mountain seemed to pull off a coup when it secured the license from MGM to produce a game based on the popular 1994 feature film Stargate and its two — soon to be three — cable TV spinoffs.
It’s an ambitions project that was tried before by another company as the first-person shooter Stargate SG-1: The Alliance — a game that never materialized. Stargate Worlds looked more promising when it was announced in February 2006, partly because Stargate TV show executive producers Brad Wright and Robert Cooper were listed as creative consultants for the game and it was being overseen by one of the founding members of Electronic Arts, Joe Ybarra.
But then came word in December that Cheyenne Mountain was having cash-flow problems. A disgruntled employee set up a (now-defunct) Web site that counted the number of days employees went without pay. It stayed up for months. More recently a creditor took the company to court.
Wright told independent fan site GateWorld — which frequently gets exclusive scoops and interviews with members of the Stargate cast and crew — that he was out out of the loop and MGM was “back in a position where they don’t have a product in that marketplace that they should” as they were preparing to launch a new series.“We don’t know,” Wright told GateWorld. “It’s a shame. If it doesn’t happen — and, let’s be honest, it should be happening now if it was happening. It’s a shame. It’s a terrible shame.
“They had an opportunity and they got our support, and they obviously had significant funding, and it didn’t happen. It’s kind of a drag for the fans and the time that we invested — what little of it there really was, in comparison to what they did — was still a shame that it was wasted, because it should have happened.”
The company responded to these reports by insisting that “the lights are still on” and saying private investors were helping to keep the project afloat even as banks were tightening access to credit.