Introversion on how Prison Architect brought it back from the brink

Mark Morris talks indie survival

Introversion on how Prison Architect brought it back from the brink

The history of UK developer Introversion makes for some very painful reading. For every massive success the team has had, it has also weathered some very dark times.

To pick one example, the developer saw modest success with its second game, Darwinia, which launched in 2005 to critical acclaim.

Introversion signed a deal with Microsoft to bring the project to Xbox 360, but this turned out to be massively painful experience in terms of coding, but also due to the platform holder's demand for a multiplayer aspect.

Tough times

What would become Darwinia+ launched and sold barely any units. What happened next was Introversion laying off all of its staff, apart from two of its founders, Mark Morris and Chris Delay.

But fortunately, the studio was able to limp on thanks to a then-new games storefront called Humble coming to the rescue.

"We didn't have a lot of cash," Morris says.

"We had virtually bankrupted ourselves off the back of Darwinia+. Humble had rescued us with an Introversion bundle so we had enough to keep a small core team going for about a year. It was just me and Chris. $100,000 gets a couple of you two years at a stretch if you love making games."

The team set about working on a new project. This time, Introversion wanted to simulate what it was like to manage a prison.

"[The pitch] was to build and manage a maximum security prison," Morris says.

"One of the things that I think gave us a lot of confidence that Prison Architect was good was that you can say it in a sentence. If you could think about it happening in a prison, it's going to happen in your prison and you're going to be able to do something about it. That was always the initial concept. And that's what we delivered what we delivered."

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PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.