Danish developer Playdead has made only one game, a little indie, side-scrolling, puzzle platformer called Limbo. It just happens to be far and away the best video game of that prominent genre (and perhaps the best indie game period) on the Xbox 360, and quite possibly for PlayStation 3 and PC, too. Critical and financial success has followed in droves, and today... Playdead has taken advantage of that success and indie-fied themselves even further by purchasing back the portion of the company they had sold in order to make Limbo a reality.
In 2006, CEO Dino Patti and Game Director Arnt Jensen founded the company using their own money, as well as grants supplied by the Danish government early on. But as Limbo grew into the ambitious and beautiful project that it became, they needed more money to finish it, which they received by taking on institutional investment from a variety of parties (including Danish fund Vaekstfonden) through a London-based investment bank called GP Bullhound which specializes in the tech sector. It's unclear how much money they got from these companies or how much they gave them on the back end.
Whatever those figures are, apparently Playdead made all of it back, and then some, after the release of Limbo. In a press release from this morning, GP Bulldog announced that Playdead has fully purchased itself back from its shareholders, making it a completely independent company once again.
Limbo certainly felt like an indie game in all the right ways, and it's unlikely that institutional investors with limited knowledge of the gaming industry had much of an impact on the game's development. This is still great news for Playdead though, who will now be able to reap the full financial rewards of their next game and not worry about a corporate overlords restricting their vision.
Patti told Edge Magazine, "We are really happy about how it turned out even though the cost was higher than we had hoped. The process was very educational and this is a big step on our way to become fully independent."
Many indie developers are leery of taking on investment for that very reason. They are afraid that if their games don't make enough money, they'll never get the company back. Look no further than Bizzare Creations for a case study in how this can go horribly wrong. Hopefully the story of Playdead becomes a more common one in the industry, of developers having big ambitions and reaching them without getting burned by the financial sector like so many do.