Skull Island: Rise of Kong was swiftly panned as one of the worst games of 2023. A recent report revealed it was created by a small team on a tight budget in just one year, making quality development nearly impossible. The game’s outdated graphics and lackluster gameplay contributed to its poor reception upon release on October 17th.
While it’s not difficult to understand why this game earned such a reputation, a deeper look reveals that Skull Island: Rise of Kong’s quality may have been compromised due to the demanding conditions set by its publisher, GameMill Entertainment, a Minnesota-based gaming company.
Rushed Development and Publisher Pressure: The Challenges of Creating Skull Island: Rise of Kong
These developers emphasized that the team at IguanaBee, the studio behind Skull Island: Rise of Kong, possessed exceptional talent. However, this talent was not fully utilized because GameMill imposed a strict one-year timeline for creating the game from scratch.
A developer from IguanaBee, who chose to remain anonymous due to potential repercussions, disclosed, “The development process of Skull Island: Rise of Kong was initiated in June of the previous year and was set to conclude by June 2nd of this year. So, one year of development,” adding, “By the end of February, I was operating on autopilot because all hope was lost.”
IguanaBee, an independent developer based in Santiago, Chile, has experience with a variety of games, both original and licensed. It has collaborated on multiple projects with GameMill Entertainment, including Little League World Series Baseball 2022, which, according to sources, also faced a similar one-year development timeline.
It appears that GameMill has a track record of contracting smaller studios to create licensed games under tight deadlines, resulting in varying levels of success and quality. A former IguanaBee developer who had worked on other GameMill-published games described the frustration of not receiving complete project information, leading to improvisation with limited resources.
Developing Skull Island: Rise of Kong from scratch with a team ranging from two to twenty people working simultaneously presented quite a challenge to complete within a one-year timeframe. The factors of range, team size, and resources available played important roles in determining the development of completing the game within this timeframe.
Despite IguanaBee’s proven ability to create award-winning games, it might still encounter consequences. Its previous game, What Lies in the Multiverse, received positive reviews on Steam and was acknowledged at the prestigious Best International Games Festival. However, it appears that the team working on this game at IguanaBee seemed to be more driven and enthusiastic compared to those working on projects at GameMill.
Many employees declined to speak on the record, fearing that GameMill might cease contracting with the studio. This dynamic was described as a “love/hate relationship” because IguanaBee lacked the financial means to independently develop original games and relied on publishers like GameMill for income. However, this led to a portfolio dominated by licensed games, resulting in continued requests from publishers for more of the same.
Additionally, the strict one-year development timeline creates an environment where any setback becomes a significant threat to the entire project. Game development frequently encounters challenges such as personnel changes, shifting project scopes, and other unexpected events. These hurdles become magnified when a studio’s survival hinges on meeting an unrealistic deadline set by a publisher, as was the case with Skull Island: Rise of Kong.
As reported by The Verge, despite the challenges encountered during the game’s development and the less-than-ideal financial returns, a number of team members still find satisfaction in what they managed to create within a tight timeframe and amidst challenging conditions.