The Syndicate Studio
In 2006, The Syndicate worked with Prima Games to try to usher in a new era of strategy guides. Traditionally strategy guides were heavily focused on lists of data and maps without much in the way of strategy, advice and expert content. Utilizing teams of gamers with diverse play styles The Syndicate infused expert strategy content into the traditional strategy guide experience. This model showed early success in the MMO space and some early books were popular and profitable for Prima. While members of The Syndicate made only a little money from doing the writing (hundreds of dollars total for hundreds of hours of individual work) it was gratifying to have a positive impact on the industry.
In 2009, The Syndicate began to try to operate as complete team for guide work providing editing, writing, layout suggestions etc.. for the guides. Prima was able to pay a little more (slightly more hundreds of dollars for even more hundreds of hours of individual work) and teams were able to get bigger. Some really cool guides were created and some really neat concepts introduced such as e-guides to go along with printing guides. The major challenge that resulted was that the online world was also evolving and a plethora of free information sites were popping up. This community sourced model was heavily undermining the profitability of strategy guides for Prima.
This all came to a head with the Star Wars: The Old Republic Atlas guide. It was a huge effort in terms of man-hours for similar low pay when divided across the large team needed to do the work. Despite the pay being low for the writers, it was viewed as a large expense for Prima who has tight profit margins on many books. However, the book carried the Star Wars name so the idea was that it could sell so many copies that Prima would make a tidy profit. 250,000+ copies of the book were created. Far far less than that actually sold. There was not a consumer demand for a printed Atlas. Players immediately critiqued the Atlas became out of date when the first patch arrived or that they could get similar content, online, for free, within a week of the game's launch.
It was after the launch of SWTOR in Jan 2012 that Prima moved away from strategy guides and The Syndicate ceased doing work for them as they no longer were supporting that model of development. Instead they reverted to the 'single author' type model for games like Call of Duty and other similar titles. Lower costs to them. Higher adoption rate (especially for console games). And those were areas The Syndicate did not participate in and that our model didn't fit their evolving business.
The Syndicate had one final project with its members interested in trying their hand at guide writing and that was an experiment with Sony Online Entertainment to see if wiki's could be created directly for game developers that had value and meaning to the community. That took place from mid to late 2012. The wiki was created but it was a painful process. One of the challenges is that the data for the game changes as fast as it gets recorded and players have a low tolerance for inaccurate data when its coming from an "official" endorsed source. Another challenge is that in the wiki format anyone can go in and edit and change data. And using wikia as the source system meant that the wiki couldn't be hidden from the community as it was being developed. So edits, changes, removals etc.. added more problems to the process. The end result was a professioal looking wiki but with competing sites live at the same time pulling viewers from the official wiki; accusations of stealing content between those competing sites; budget cuts at the game studio, lay-offs and general gaming industry downsizing, it was a one time experiment not destined to be repeated. Neat learning experience but the 'free' and 'open source' community model achieves nearly the same results with no costs and less complaining by the community.
Before Prima retired the model and work with them ceased, The Syndicate Studio worked on the following titles:
Star Wars: The Old Republic Atlas
Dragon Age: Legacy
Short Walkthroughs for:
- God of War 3
- Fable 3
- Batman Arkham Asylym
- Halo: Reach
- Red Dead Redemption
- Killzone 3
Lord of the Rings Online
Lord of the Rings Online World Companion
Warhammer Online Atlas
Pirates of the Burning Seas (all 3 versions of the guide)
Might and Magic: Dark Messiah
Gods & Heroes (although the game was canceled right before go-live in 2007)