Tuesday, April 8

Chronicle of Studio Shutdowns

If you read gaming industry news regularly, you may have noticed that an unusually large amount of developers have been shutdown recently. What is the cause of all of this? I'm really not sure; I'm not an economist. However, I do see the shutdowns as a fairly sad series of unfortunate events for the industry as a whole, and for the individuals within the studios. This post is a chronicle of the recent development studio shutdowns.

It all started with EA Chicago last November. EA Chicago created the Fight Night and Def Jam series'. They were develoing a Marvel Fighting Game when the studio was shut-down. The stuts of the Marvel Fighting Game remains unkown. GameSpot initially reported the studio's closing. Frank Gibeau, president of EA Games, said that the studio was shutdown because they were unable to meet "that standard," referring to game sales versus game development costs. Def Jam: Icon, EA Chicago's last developed game, reportedly did not meet sales expectations. According to Next-Gen, 350 people were laid off as a result of the closing. There is some good news in this. EA Chicago was also developing a new boxing game when it was shutdown, GameSpot says, called FaceBreaker. The game has since been moved to EA Canada, the studio behind, most recently, FIFA Street 3. However, apparently, FaceBreaker is still by-and-large being developed by the same team behind Fight Night, reports GameSpot also. The other good news is that lead designer at EA Chicago, Kudo Tsunoda, has moved over to Microsoft to work on "a future Gears of War title."EA Chicago's closing was a few months ago, but since January have six other studios been shutdown. First up was P2 Entertainment, formally known as Perpetual Entertainment. WarCry reported that their title, Star Trek Online, was being moved to another development studio. However, the company does still exist. P2 will now solely dact as the owners and licensors of their Perpetual Platform, which WarCry reports has been licensed to BioWare, among other studios.The next shutdown is, in my opinion, the most disappointing. Iron Lore gave word that they had shutdown as of February 17th. Iron Lore developed two games through completion, Titan Quest, and its expansion, Immortal Throne. Both games were recieved well by critics. Iron Lore was also co-developing the newest Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War expansion, SoulStorm. The reason for the shutdown was due to piracy, according to THQ Director of Creative Management Michael Fitch. Next-Gen reported on a forum post Fitch made at the quartertothree forums. There, Fitch states, "Titan Quest did okay. We didn't lose money on it. But if even a tiny fraction of the people who pirated the game had actually spent some god-damn money for their 40+ hours of entertainment, things could have been very different today." I think is very, very sad. Please don't pirate games. Games are an artform. But they are also commercial pieces of entertainment.The fourth shutdown in this rundown is StormFront. Gamusutra first reported their closing. Ironically, this was reported on April Fools, but alas it was no joke. StormFront, GameSpot reports [via GameCyte], had no title to move onto after completing their work on The SpiderWick Chronicles. StormFront is most known for their work on Neverwinter Nights, Stronghold, and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. There is good news, however. GameSpot reported that, while all of the employees were laid-off, StormFront is currently in a state of "suspended operations." StormFront CEO Dan Daglow said in an interview with GameCyte that the studio is currently in talks with publishers to potentially develop a couple games.
The next near-closing was Castaway, initally reported as an SOS by GameSpot. Castaway was founded by a bunch of Blizzard employees in 2003. The studio reased a single game, Yaris for Xbox 360 Live Arcade. However, they did have another game in development, Djinn, made in the spirit of Diablo. A video of the game was uploaded to YouTube by vice president of Castaway, Stefan Scandizzo. Castaway closing was lack of money, mostly from recent publisher muergers effecting potential game signings. Since GameSpot's SOS, Castaway has been approached by various people and publishers, Next-Gen reports. We will have to see how this all plays out.

Djinn Gameplay Video:

The sixth recent closing was Psuedo Interactive. 1up first reported the shutdown. Pseudo developed the Cel Damage and Full Auto series of games, the first in the Full Auto series being a launch title for the 360. Next-Gen reports that Pseudo Entertainment "fell victim to a massive restructuring plan at SCi, which involved the company killing off 14 projects and laying off 25 percent of its workforce." Pseudo was reportedly developing a new Carmageddon when they were shutdown. When SCi chose to cancel the game, Pseudo eventually fell with it, having no other game to develop.The final (phew!) closing announcement comes today from Develop Magazine, Sega Racing Studios is being shutdown. The only game they had a chance to develop was Sega Rally Revo, a remake of the original. Next-Gen reported the reason for the closing:
The decision is part of a review of Sega's Western Development Studios to ensure that each studio is a profitable entity in its own right, and unfortunately the Sega Racing Studio’s 5 year plan would not result in a successful return for the Sega business moving forward. Sega would like to stress that there will be no changes within their other internal development studios.
GameSpot states that Sega Rally Revo "has sold a mere 44,000 units in the US across all platforms through February, according to the NPD Group."Its sad to see so many development houses falling down so quickly. They all work hard, do their best to secure publishing deals and make great games, but issues ranging from internal difficulties to external pressures to simply poor sales can really hurt a studio. Professional game development is risky business. Invisible Studio sends its well wishes to all of the people effected by these shutdowns.

1 comment:

  1. Guess it just goes to show how cruel the world can be. I hope Castaway gets it back together, the Djinn game looks like a lot of fun (I have never heard of it). More so than other games from former blizzard employees (cough...hellgate:london...cough).