Consolidated Studio Closing Thread - High-Def Digest Forums
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Old 12-22-2008, 03:42 PM
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Default Consolidated Studio Closing Thread

Ok, so as far as I can tell:

Free Radical (Haze, TimeSplitters, working on new SW: Battlefront): All but closed, Joystiq reports that there is some administrative staffers that are still around, and maybe a couple of creative people brainstorming in the unlikely event that they can still sell themselves, but otherwise the doors have been locked and the staff was informed that they were shut down in a nearby hotel.
http://www.joystiq.com/2008/12/22/re...taff-laid-off/

Factor 5 (Lair, Rogue Squadron, working on a classic Nintendo-franchise revival for Wii): Earlier in the weeks there was a 50% layoff rumor and an employee blogger who suggested a couple of their new titles were being cancelled as a result, that post then promptly disappeared from blog. Rumor is they have completely shut their doors now.
http://www.joystiq.com/2008/12/22/ru...-5-shuts-down/
Even if the rumor isn't true, it looks like things are in trouble for Factor 5 either way.

EA Black Box Vancouver (Need for Speed series, skate series including 2 in development, NBA Street): This is a little less sad story, because only some of the employees were laid off as opposed to all, the rest of the dev team and the properties are being reshuffled inside of EA as a whole.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28313278

EA Chicago (Def Jam, Fight Night 3, was working on a Marvel fighting game): Appears they failed to reach some EA projected target this year and so they were closed. As of now, it appears that most of the employees got reshuffled, but I don't doubt some lost their jobs
http://kotaku.com/gaming/breaking/ea...ing-319516.php

Ensemble Studios (Age Of RTS series, Halo Wars, was working on a now cancelled Halo MMO project): On September 9, 2008, it was announced that Ensemble will be closing after the release of Halo Wars. According to multiple independent reports, all non-essential staff have been laid off and remaining staff have been given incentives to remain until the completion of the project.
http://www.shacknews.com/onearticle.x/54648
"Those who play ball may get jobs elsewhere in MGS" (that last bit is unconfirmed). The reasons for the closure appear to be 1) diverting certain people to other areas; 2) Ensembles cost more per person to run than other MGS studios; 3) Ensembles RTS genre was expected to be less profitable than other genres of the other MGS studios.
http://www.ensemblestudios.com/blogs...s-closing.aspx

Midway Austin (Tribes, Area 51 and Blacksite, The Hobbit, working on an unannounced project): In August they laid off 90-130 employees, but claimed the studio will remain open, while two teams there will continue work on "unnamed prototype projects" that Midway notes are both new IP.
http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/new...hp?story=19794
That was incorrect, as in December 08 Midway shut down Austin completely firing the rest of the employees and cancelling the rest of their projects.
http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/st...5/daily20.html
*Meanwhile, the Midway execs are making it rich as the company collapses (source: http://www.joystiq.com/2008/12/23/mi...mpany-crashes/)

Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment (working on a Stargate MMORPG since 2005, another themed-MMO based on an established property, and multiple unannounced projects): Headed by Joe Ybarra former founder of EA, it's actually 3 separate studios now - Stargate Worlds, Handcranked Games, and Superstition studios - claiming to have a 4th studio in the works all owned under the CME name. However, all may not be good in the company. Someone on the web has posted a count-up which indicates that as of December 23 the employees of CME have not been paid in 40 days (http://www.days-since-cheyenne-mount...been-paid.com/). In September they admitted to experiencing a cashflow problem, but would not disclose the extent of it (http://www.massively.com/2008/09/18/...h-flow-issues/). On Dec 4, 08, they reiterated the cashflow problem line when asked about the rumor that employees were not being paid, and other sources suggested many employees were leaving (http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/50624). The most recent report is from Dec 11, suggesting the closed beta of the Stargate MMO looks good, but that employees working for free won't be tenable much longer:
Quote:
Rumors have flown all day about an exodus from Cheyenne Mountain. A source close to the Cheyenne Mountain team confirmed that for some employees, the pay situation (two pay periods have come and gone with no money or even the possibility of money) has reached the point where they cannot continue to work for free.

The irony, of course, is that the beta is going well and the launch is close at hand. However, with facilities bills mounting and most non-essential personnel long since dismissed, remaining employees are reduced to hoping for a Christmas miracle.

No one has been let go since the payroll got behind, lest the studio heads find themselves falling afoul of laws requiring dismissed employees to be fully paid within a specified time period. Employees have been told the outlook is grim, and assured that they will not be judged for seeking other employment.
http://ve3d.ign.com/articles/news/43...tain-Evacuated

FASA Interactive (Mech series 98-02; Crimson Skies; Shadowrun): Slightly outside the scope of this thread, since it closed in 07 long before the recession, but proves that a real clunker game/seller can kill ya (I think people generally liked Crimson Skies, but Shadowrun didn't make any money). Only the Community Manager and Technical Support Manager positions remaining active to support their games.
http://kotaku.com/gaming/breaking/sh...own-299338.php
Microsoft subsequently licensed the rights to produce electronic adaptations of FASA games back to Weisman, who is currently heading a new venture called Smith & Tinker.
http://www.joystiq.com/2007/12/06/we...ies-rights-ba/

LucasArt's Force Unleashed Team (The Force Unleashed): Also not quite to this topic, but most of the key members of the Force Unleashed team were laid-off following the games release. What may be relevant here is that this may be part of the rumored end of LucasArts internal development, as they plan to outsource their properties and other tech to 3rd party developers. However, this rumor and news is from June 08, and I couldn't really find anything more recent, so if anyone else has info it would be much appreciated.
http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3168454

Are there any more that have officially or unofficially shut their doors, or are at least in dire straights? I'm trying to keep up on this, as I am sure others in this thread are, because it spells bad news for our industry. Less smaller studios = less independent and original games.

**If anyone feels like posting any information related to these or other studios in trouble, I will try to take the information you provide in the thread and edit it into the OP for anyone else like me who is interested in following this rash of recession-related closings.

Frankly, the last thing we need is a world where EA, Acti-blizzard, and Take-Two publish all the games and make sure that all we get is a steady stream of yearly sports titles and the 10th sequel to their favorite money-makers.

Info Edit Thanks: nmcmahan52, RedRedSuit, DustoMan

Last edited by ElwoodJD; 12-23-2008 at 06:26 PM.
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Old 12-22-2008, 03:45 PM
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didn't black box make skate?
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Old 12-22-2008, 04:35 PM
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What a shame this is.
What is the answer? more sequels - so they are easier to make? More level packs? Cheaper games for higher volume?
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Old 12-22-2008, 04:36 PM
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Ensemble

FASA

EA Chicago
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Old 12-23-2008, 10:14 AM
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Midway Austin (Stranglehold team) layed off 90-130 people working on an unannounced project.

http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/new...hp?story=19794

Rumors of Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment (Stargate Worlds) not having enough money to pay employees.

http://www.days-since-cheyenne-mount...been-paid.com/

Lucasarts also layed off most of the Force Unleashed team once the game went gold.

Last edited by DustoMan; 12-23-2008 at 02:51 PM.
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Old 12-23-2008, 04:03 PM
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Partial Bump and Partial FYI, I have taken some of the suggestions for studios to look into, corrected and added some info here and there, and given proper thanks where due, so the list is starting to look a bit more startling in terms of the sheer number of devs dropping studios, etc. As stated in the OP, any other info related to studios already up there, updates to the status of some of the questionable ones, or studios not on the list that I should investigate, please let me know.

Thanks to those who already pitched in!!
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