Skull Island: Rise of Kong has been doing the rounds for all the wrong reasons, with some calling it the worst game of 2023, thanks to its shallow production values and wonky gameplay. This, inevitably, led to the title being roundly dunked on by the internet writ large and dubbed a "Gollum-like" as a result.
Sadly, like The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, the root cause behind sub-par game releases like these is always less funny the closer you look. Skull Island was developed by IguanaBee, an indie developer doing contract work from Santiago, Chile, and published by the Minnesota-based GameMill Entertainment.
Speaking to The Verge, current and former developers from IguanaBee (who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal) revealed that the game's state was the result of it being built from scratch with a strict one-year deadline, with anywhere from two to 20 employees working on it at any one time. One developer said that "the development process of this game was started in June of last year, and it was aimed to end on June 2nd this year. So, one-year development process." Another said, "The crunch was set in motion in February. I was on automatic pilot by the end of February because all hope was lost.”
This is an arrangement the studio has undertaken before, part of what was described as a vicious cycle. To make original games, the studio needs to take on contract work, which means agreeing to these strict publisher stipulations: "It’s a love/hate relationship because they are the ones who accept or give the projects, and IguanaBee doesn’t have the means to develop almost anything on its own because, well, money." Previously, IguanaBee worked on What Lies in the Multiverse, a puzzle platformer that enjoys Very Positive reviews on Steam and is published by Untold Tales.
Using SteamDB's up-to-date analytics, at least on Steam, Skull Island: Rise of Kong managed an all-time peak player count of 22 on launch day, with eight curious souls in-game currently. The story may be different on PlayStation platforms, which are harder to gauge, but it's probably safe to say this one has been a commercial bomb, as well.