Skull Island: Rise of Kong was released earlier this week and was quickly derided as one of the worst games of 2023. What happened? Well, a new report claims it was made by a small team of developers on a tight budget in just one year, putting the studio in a situation where making something good, both quickly and cheaply, would be nearly impossible.
Announced earlier this summer, Skull Island: Rise of Kong is the first King Kong video game in nearly two decades. The last game featuring the famous giant ape was 2005’s Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie which was developed by Ubisoft. Since then, folks have been waiting for another King Kong game, and on October 17, we finally got one. But sadly, Skull Island: Rise of Kong is a bland beat-’em-up with awful cutscenes, nasty visuals, and not much else. So what happened? Why is this game so bad? Well, it appears you can blame Skull Island’s publisher.
In a new report from The Verge, developers from IguanaBee—a small indie studio based in Santiago, Chile— spoke anonymously with the outlet and explained that Skull Island’s publisher, Game Mill, gave the team only one year to develop the game from scratch.
“The development process of this game was started in June of  and it was aimed to end on June 2nd [of] this year. So one-year development process,” said one dev behind the King Kong game.
Kotaku has reached out to Game Mill about the report.
According to other developers at the indie studio, Game Mill—a U.S. publisher of many not-so-great video games—frequently uses smaller teams of developers to create licensed video games in similarly short amounts of time. Devs at IguanaBee claimed that Game Mill wouldn’t provide teams with “all the information” about the project, leading to frustration and forcing teams to “improvise with the limited information” they had.
Other complaints suggest Game Mill wasn’t willing to provide enough money for IgaunaBee to maintain a large, skilled staff of developers. Sources tell The Verge that for most of Skull Island’s development, only around two to 20 people were working on it. As you might expect, at least one developer reported that crunch happened, and it was bad.
“The crunch was really set in motion in February,” said the anonymous developer. “I was on automatic pilot by the end of February because all hope was lost.”
According to The Verge, even though developing the game was tough and the money wasn’t great, some folks on the team still take pride in what they were able to ship in such a short time under such difficult circumstances, with one former dev sharing on social media that they were still “proud” of IguanaBee’s King Kong game.