Today marks the end of the line for another UK studio. This time the axe fell on Bizarre Creations, makers of Project Gotham Racing, Fur Fighters and Blur.
How and why could this Liverpool-based studio bite the dust? Within their ranks they have some superb talent when it comes to racing games. And how could you forget Geometry Wars? What a funky little puzzle game that was, and in fact, was the first Xbox Live Arcade game that I downloaded!
Many (make that most), will point towards the recent buyers of Bizarre Creations, Activision Blizzard. During the production of Project Gotham Racing 4 the studio were bought by the Activision. PGR4 was still published by Microsoft Game Studios.
Just over two years after the acquisition, Bizarre Creation finished a less serious styled racing game than PGR, entitled Blur. It crossed' Mario Kart' style weapons with realistic licensed cars. However the timing of its release clashed with a similar, less cartoony racer called Split/Second. To further add problems, rumours were rife that Activison had fallen out with high street retailers GAME and Gamestation, as they purchased very few copies of the title to stock in their stores. GAME dismissed this rumour however, stating...
We have bought the stock we feel is appropriate to meet our customers demand for Blur and are working closely with Activision discussing all of their up-coming titles for the rest of this yearEther way, week one sales of Blur were pretty poor, entering the UK charts at Number 14.
I feel somewhat responsible in a way, as I've only just found out recently how good a game it actually is after picking it up for a bargain price! I'm trying to make some sort of amends by encouraging friends to pick it up on the cheap.
The studio's next project from Activision was James Bond: Bloodstone. As most videogamers will tell you, tackling a Bond game is tricky business. It's a bit of a cursed IP, with very few videogames based on the license actually being playable. Bloodstone failed to set the world alight, which received mediocre reviews and again failed to get the big sales numbers that ActiBlizz wanted.
Activison announced they were looking for a buyer for the once proud studio, but when no-one came forward, and with Activison already looking at lay-offs, the hammer fell and it was quite literally Game Over.
Activison aren't very well loved by gamers across the globe, with many people disliking them 'milking' certain franchises, such as Call of Duty and Guitar Hero which I mentioned in my last post.
Another reason for the closure, well, perhaps not a reason...but perhaps something that may have helped, would have been the proposed UK tax break for the gaming industry. The Conservatives, as well as the opposition parties, had all agreed deals to have tax breaks for UK gaming devs in this country, only for David Cameron to do a U-Turn and scrap the plans.
So we have got to take difficult decisions and I think that tax break relief, which was not particularly successful or targeted, had to go. Those are the difficult decisions we have to takeGaming is big, BIG business. Videogames consistently outsell Music and Movies, yet more and more studios move away from our shores to countries where it's cheaper to create games, such as Canada.
Anyway, its all ifs and buts, the sad fact is that we have to say goodbye to a once treasured developer.
You can view a retrospective video created by someone from within Bizarre Creations over in this article on Blast Process.
I think I'll go have a blast online on Blur.
With thanks to MCV/Develop for the following links:
Tax Breaks Had to Go
GAME clarifies Stock Rumours