Friday, 18 February 2011

[News] Bizarre Creations: 1994 --> 2011

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 year
Ether 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 take
Gaming 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

Thursday, 10 February 2011

[News] Goodbye Guitar Hero, Hello More CoD

Sadly yesterday, Activision Blizzard announced that they were letting go around 500 employees from the business. Along with this news, the axe fell on recently unpopular franchises Guitar Hero, DJ Hero and Tony Hawk.

Guitar Hero sales have been in decline since Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock. Very poor sales of Guitar Hero 5 were blamed on it's diverse track listing, which led to the last Guitar Hero game purely having rock inspired tracks. It's more rock-orientated music did little to improve sales however.

DJ Hero, a great idea, but one that never truly hit the sales heights that ActiBlizz wanted. Again the second one failed to generate the big numbers.

The problem with these two franchises is that they share the same genre, and for a while now Music-based peripheral games just haven't sold well. Harmonix recently parted ways with MTV Games as sales of Rock Band weren't good enough. In fact since then MTV Games has closed its doors to focus on new, non-gaming projects.

Since EA released Skate, the Tony Hawk games have struggled to regain its skateboard gaming crown. Tony Hawk's Ride with its plastic skateboard failed to sell. ActiBlizz gave the plastic board one more shot with Tony Hawk's Shred only to find that did worse.

Although it all sounds very doom and gloom, it may not be the end for these once loved titles. None of them will get new games in 2010, but may appear again in the future depending on the market.

Amongst all this bad news, ActiBlizz announced a new studio:

"We're pleased to announce our new wholly-owned development studio, Beachhead, which will lead the creation of our all-new digital platform for the Call of Duty franchise,"

Which means...

"Beachhead will create a best-in-class online community, exclusive content and a suite of services for our Call of Duty fans to supercharge the online gaming experience like never before. The platform will support in-game integration and bring online experiences and console play together for the first time."

Interesting stuff. Something like Halo's Waypoint on Xbox Live perhaps?

Can't help but feel they are starting to drain the Call of Duty franchise dry. They are determined to get Modern Warfare 3 out this year, and have at least one spin-off title in the works too.

Be careful Activision, remember quality over quantity!

Thanks to MCV for the information. For the full story head over to this page right here!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

[News] IGN Game Changer

IGN UK launched a contest just before Christmas called 'Game Changer'

Think of it as the X Factor, but for budding videogame presenters and writers, without Simon Cowell...and actually being fun to take part in.

I entered both parts of the contest. As you can imagine, I wasn't the only one. Looking at the YouTube page for the presenter side of the contest was worrying. My 3 videos were up against some seriously strong competition.

Only 12 people from each section were to progress through to the next round, and although I had everything just wasn't to be.

Ofcourse I'm disappointed, gutted even, but it hasn't disheartened me. I'll continue to create videos for Blast Process and who knows, maybe I'll get to do some free freelance stuff for other videogame websites. For now I'll press on with what I'm doing (only hopefully on a more regular basis!).

For those interested in what my videos were about, I've gone and link them over on an article on Blast Process, which can be found at this link. Hope you enjoy.