Today the world knows Josef Fares as one of the most prominent game developers. However, he could have ended up on the streets if A Way Out didn’t succeed. The Hazelight founder has opened up about this bumpy road and how he managed to find a way out of this crisis.
Fares has shared these details in the latest episode of Sveriges Radio’s special summer podcast.
Hazelight started working on A Way Out in 2014, and the first two years of its production were a “pure chaos.” As quoted in a ResetEra post, the studio has burnt 5 million in the middle of development. However, it is unclear whether Fares meant USD or SEK.
“I got a little bit of panic but didn’t say anything to the team,” he said. “I couldn’t pay the team salary for a fair few months after that.”
At one point, Fares was so desperate that he thought about selling his stake in the company. Fortunately, a buyer turned down the offer. “I remember vividly a meeting with my accountant and he warned me that the company was in trouble,” he recalled. “If the game hadn’t succeeded and sold well I’d end up on the streets with all the debts I’d racked up.”
Instead of giving up, Fares got back to his filmmaking roots to save Hazelight. “I started directing a bunch of commercials so I could earn some money and pay the salaries,” he said.
A Way Out development was eventually funded by Electronic Arts in 2016 through its EA Originals program. The game ended up a commercial success, allowing the studio to continue its work and make It Takes Two, an award-winning co-op platformer and Fares’ biggest hit to date.