A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: WXP.
WXP, a Seattle video-game developer
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Partners Scott Talcott, Jeff Connelly, Sky Kensok, Lyndon Sumner and Patrick Moynihan
A sleeper hit:
WXP’s “Greg Hastings’ Tournament Paintball” was released for the Xbox in November and became an unexpected hit. The game last week ranked 11th among titles most played in the U.S. on the Xbox Live online game-playing service.
Interest in graphics:
Connelly and Kensok started WXP in Spokane about 11 years ago in the basement of Connelly’s apartment, planning to get into the 3-D graphics technology. They moved to Seattle, took out a $50,000 loan and began cold-calling companies. “We got together and thought, ‘Let’s go for something big,’ ” said Connelly.
Focusing on games:
The company’s first gig was creating the artwork for a game called “Spearhead,” developed by another Seattle company, Zombie Studios. WXP continued working with Zombie on other games and also developed a theme-park simulator ride called “Cyberspace Mountain” for the Walt Disney Co.
WXP stayed afloat financially by creating technology demonstrations for Nvidia to show off the capabilities of 3-D chips for the PC. The team also began shopping around a role-playing game called “Experience.” That was enough to get the attention of game publisher Sierra Online, which asked WXP to develop “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” for the Xbox.
The project was huge for the tiny studio, and WXP grew to 28 employees to finish it. The game debuted in November 2002 and sold 680,000 copies. But WXP didn’t make any money from it because of royalty limitations. “We didn’t get a very good deal,” said Moynihan.
So WXP searched for funding outside the games industry for “Greg Hastings’ Tournament Paintball.” It went to angel investors and big names in the paintball industry, although even some WXP execs weren’t sure the title would be successful. “Frankly, we were kind of wrinkling our noses, going, ‘Paintball’?” said Sumner. Hastings, a professional paintball player, was so enthusiastic he persuaded the company to push forward.
WXP eventually raised about $1.3 million to develop its “Paintball” game and was able to cut the development costs to half of that spent for “Fellowship of the Ring.” Game publisher Activision had heard about the “Paintball” game and agreed last March to publish it. The game debuted in November with very little marketing, and about 200,000 units have sold.
WXP has started work on a sequel. “I don’t think we’ve really hit the casual gamer yet,” Talcott said.
— Kim Peterson