The Syndicate Studio Is Born
In 2009, The Syndicate began to try to operate as complete team for guide work providing editing, writing, layout suggestions etc.. for the guides. Prima was able to pay a little more (slightly more hundreds of dollars for even more hundreds of hours of individual work) and teams were able to get bigger. Some really cool guides were created and some really neat concepts introduced such as e-guides to go along with printing guides. The major challenge that resulted was that the online world was also evolving and a plethora of free information sites were popping up. This community sourced model was heavily undermining the profitability of strategy guides for Prima.
We didn't know it when we tried to create our 'studio' but those pressures would all come to a head with the Star Wars: The Old Republic Atlas guide in 2011/2012. It was a huge effort in terms of man-hours for similar low pay when divided across the large team needed to do the work. Despite the pay being low for the writers, it was viewed as a large expense for Prima who has tight profit margins on many books. However, the book carried the Star Wars name so the idea was that it could sell so many copies that Prima would make a tidy profit. 250,000+ copies of the book were created. Far far less than that actually sold. There was not a consumer demand for a printed Atlas. Players immediately critiqued the Atlas became out of date when the first patch arrived or that they could get similar content, online, for free, within a week of the game's launch.
So The Syndicate Studio was a neat concept and we enjoyed our work that we did under it and felt good about the products we created, in the end, the gaming and guide industries responded to the reality that free sites and community managed sites are very effective and cost nothing to the developer and are impossible to compete against for a company like Prima who is heavily entrenched in print media.