‘Dead Island’ publisher denies reports of sale as the plot thickens

Now the plot thickens.

When we published our piece on Friday about the sale of the rights to the game “Dead Island,” I remarked on how fast it had all come together.  Our story, which we had multiple sources on, was that The Sean Daniel Company had purchased the rights to the game and was already planning to develop it.

We were offered one small correction from a separate but unimpeachable source, which was that Union Entertainment was also onboard as a partner with the Sean Daniel Company.  To be fair, other outlets reporting the sale of the rights had included Union Entertainment as part of the story originally.  Union is a broker of sorts for the rights to a number of videogame properties, an important partner right now in putting this sort of IP-based material together.  It’s fascinating that Deadline’s story, which appeared after The Wrap published their story, echoes much of the same language and specific reporting, claiming that Daniel has actually had the rights under option for a full year already, a very strange and particular detail, especially considering this next part.

Yesterday, we got a letter sent to us that is now starting to show up on other sites, allegedly from Deep Silver, the publisher of the zombie game.  Techland, the Polish company that is developing the game, has not confirmed the sale for us, and neither The Sean Daniel Company nor Union Entertainment has officially confirmed the sale, but again… our multiple sources on this were in positions to absolutely speak to the specific of the sale, and we were able to confirm multiple times that the companies are indeed already gearing up work on “Dead Island.”

So why is Deep Silver saying they’re not?

Here’s the e-mail we were sent here at HitFix regarding the situation:

I’ve just read your news about Dead Island and that Sean Daniel has bought the IP rights. While we would be honored to work with someone of Sean’s caliber, we have not sold any IP rights to his company as of today.

We’ve seen a huge interest in the movie rights of the IP and are currently looking through a vast amount of requests and inquiries. No decision has been made as of yet.

We are looking for quality above all else, so you will not see a quick sell on this. If we are to do it, we want to do it right as the game/movie – movie/game “genre” is full of examples of simple copy cat that were done to make a quick buck and failed. We will not go down that route with Dead Island.

Best Regards,

Malte Wagener
Director of Global Business Development
Koch Media GmbH / Deep Silver

Okay, so what’s going on here?

This is why this particular age of IP farming is sort of a nightmare.  Even within the fairly compact world of “Dead Island,” you’ve got one company (Deep Silver) publishing the game, one company (Techland) developing it, another company representing the rights (Union Entertainment), and a totally different company producing the trailer that caused all the attention in the first place (Axis Animation).

I don’t mean to be cynical, but someone somewhere in the chain of command is either (A) not talking to each other or (B) playing out a high-stakes game within the media.  Maybe after the agreement with Daniel was reached, another big-money player entered the picture and Deep Silver is trying to roll on their initial deal.  Maybe the rights were represented to Daniel one way while they are, in reality, held by someone else.  Maybe the people representing those rights thought they were acting in good faith with Daniel, and they are all now trying to figure out what happened.  Whatever the case, entertainment deals are like the Schrodinger’s Cat experiment, and opening the box too early will kill the thing.

Whatever the case, we are confident that our original story was accurate.  We are not as confident that Deep Silver’s reaction was real, although I am sure now that Malte Wagener is indeed the Director of Global Business Development for Koch Media, which is one step further up the food chain than Deep Silver.  Whatever the communication breakdown was, it’s somewhere inside the “Dead Island” camp, and they’ll have to sort it out.  I can tell you that when we published our story, we were contacted by several parties that were in a position to confirm what we ran, and those confirmations make the Deep Silver letter even more puzzling.

What I find most interesting is the way this is being reported by sites that are simply echoing other reporting.  They ran our story and they’re running the Deep Silver letter, and they seem to simply take whatever the most recent statement is as truth.  What we’re seeing here is the turbulence on the surface, but there’s something else going on underneath that, and the real story is whatever power struggle is going on that leads to such wildly contradictory reports.  Regardless of what Deep Silver says on their Facebook page, our original story was not a “rumor” at all.

We will continue to track the story and continue to offer you accurate reporting on it, even when it’s as tangled as this situation appears to be.  The important thing is to continue to offer you the context to understand how this story is playing out, even when certain details are obscured, and to be transparent about why we’re reporting what we are.  We stand by our original story, and will update as things come into focus.