The 17th Volume #1: Survival of the Fittest
Written by Worm Mad
Greetings, reader. As the first of my planned articles for Dream17, I thought I'd start with a little introduction. My name is Worm Mad... well, it's not really... but for the purposes of this article, the Team17 Forum and anything connected to the Team17 Forum, that's my name. You may recognise my alias from the story that me and Squirminator wrote, which is up on the Dream17 site (Note: If you haven't already – read this story. I guarantee you won't regret it1) or from the Team17 Forum. Anyway, the point is that I'm a long time fan of Team17's game, having played the original "Worms" game on the Amiga, upon its release, when my brother got it for a Christmas present (and every "Worms" game since, excluding "The Directors Cut"). I've also played some of Team17's other less known games such as "Body Blows" and the demo of "Project X". Suffice to say, although I may not known as much as Ben about Team17 and its games, I still know enough to get me through this article...
Now, introduction over, I'd like you to cast your mind back – back to a time before GameCube and Playstation2, before the Playstation and Nintendo64 even – to a time when the second dimension was still cool and Amigas walked the Earth2. Anyway, back in this heyday of nostalgia and 'when we were young' style fun, the big names of today didn't mean a thing. Sensible Software, Ocean, Bitmap Brothers and the likes ruled the roost in the Amiga era. Oh, and a small Yorkshire games company was fairly popular too. But, alas, where are the giants of the Amiga age now? Did Sensible die with a bang...or a whimper? When did the Bitmap Brothers fade into obscurity and how on Earth did Ocean sink beneath the waves?
However, I'm not here to talk about the fates of those that didn't make it or why they failed. I'm here to talk about Team17 and why they did. Team17 allowed itself to change as the market changed – as PC and the new wave of consoles pushed Amiga and the old school machines out of the picture. It continued to make games – and it made them on the systems that were relevant at the time. In fact, a number of times, Team17 have even gone so far as to bring their games out on all platforms in order to make sure their games reach the maximum amount of shoppers (and so that if one platform fails, they still had the others to fall back on). The business strategy of Team17, therefore, has always been good. However, their survival isn't just down to good business... it's down to a great franchise.
When "Worms" was released on all mainstream platforms in 1995, it was to change Team17's reputation forever. While Team17 had been a respected developer and publisher prior to 1995, the release of our favourite annelids' first adventure propelled them into the dizzying3 heights of games company stardom. It was with this franchise that Team17 survived the ugly move from Amiga to PC and from the past to the present. With the original and ever popular concept of Worm warfare, Team17 had hit upon an instant formula for success with each progressive sequel expanding on the original while retaining its classic brand of gameplay.
Again, it was Team17's good business sense that kept the "Worms" boat afloat. Other popular franchises of the time such as "Lemmings" were destroyed by a desire not to push forwards fast enough (in other words to stay on the Amiga) or to hop on the 3D bandwagon too soon4. Thankfully, Team17 waited till the right time to enter the 3D race, only creating the excellent "Worms 3D" when the technology was right to create it (if this transition had not been handled successfully then it could have spelt disaster for Team17).
So, "Worms" has been faithful to Team17, ever since it's conception. It's seen the company through rough times and given it the success it enjoys today. However, a good company knows that no franchise lasts forever and Team17 have wisely attempted to keep the "Worms" franchise fresh through interesting new twists on the formula, such as "Worms Blast" and the in-production, "Worms Forts: Under Siege".
But the question is – will this be enough? At such an unstable time for the industry, Team17 should be attempting to create new games and franchises as well as supporting old ones, because if the "Worms" Fortress came crashing down right now then it might just bring the company down with it. As always, we must wait and trust that Martyn Brown5 and the brave boys aboard the Good Ship Team17 can keep their vessel afloat. Giving their track record, I'm sure they will...
1 Not a guarantee. Worm Mad should not be held responsible if you, for any reason, dislike the Worm Mad/S-2k Chronicles. Instead, blame your own lack of taste. Thank you.
2 Please note that Amigas didn't actually 'walk' the Earth, in part due to their lack of legs. They did however stay in one place while you played games on them, which was all any of us really wanted from them anyway.
3 No pun intended. The "Dizzy" franchise (completely unrelated to Team17) which existed on the Amiga and many other systems of the time, died the death a long time ago.
4 The 3D iterations of Lemmings proved disastrous.
5 Creative/Studio Director at Team17 and Beer Guzzler.