Is Brash out of cash? Hollywood game company struggles

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Brash Entertainment made a big splash in June 2007 by announcing that it had lined up $400 million to make games based on movies and television shows via licensing deals with the entertainment business. Among its high-profile backers was Thomas Tull, founder of Legendary Pictures, which co-financed the movies ‘Dark Knight,’ ‘300' and the upcoming ‘Watchmen.’

Now, it appears Brash is on the ropes. The Hollywood-based company may shut down as soon as today, according to Variety’s The Cut Scene blog. ‘Brash was simply out of cash,’ wrote reporter Ben Fritz, who cited anonymous sources.

Brash President Mitch Davis could not be reached at the company’s office. Messages left for the company spokeswoman, Abby Topolsky, were not returned.

The company’s apparent troubles highlight the difficulties of making video games on a Hollywood time frame. Feature films take less than a year to shoot, edit and release. But video games can take two or more years to develop. Since release dates are dictated by movies schedules, Hollywood-licensed games are often slapdash and shallow. That was the case with Brash’s first title, Alvin and the Chipmunks, which critics called ‘weak.’ Its second title, Jumper: Griffin’s Story, did worse, with reviews that called it ‘stale’ and ‘monotonous.’

Cracks began appearing at Brash this summer when ...

... its founding president, Nicholas Longano, left the company. Since then, Tull has stepped down from Brash’s board and its chief creative officer, Larry Shapiro, quit to join developer Oddworld Inhabitants.

‘It’s a shame,’ said a former Brash executive who declined to be identified because of confidentiality agreements. ‘The first games out of the gate were not up to par, but the slate for 2009 and 2010 were looking really solid. The Tale of Despereaux, which is supposed to be for this holiday, looked excellent. And Saw and 300 for next year were looking good. They just needed more money.’

It’s unlikely that Brash ran through $400 million in 18 months, since the figure was only pledged by its financial backers, which included Bank of America, Abry Partners, New York Life Capital Partners, PPM America Private Equity Fund and Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance. With the current turmoil in the credit market, Brash may have run into the same liquidity issues as many other start-ups.


-- Alex Pham