Bizarre Creations, the veteran outfit behind Blur, Project Gotham and Geometry Wars, shut up shop last Friday- leaving many of us with a sour taste in our mouths. Senior designer Gareth Wilson (who recently secured a position as Sumo Digital's Lead Game Designer) has now spoken out on the reasoning behind the studio's closure- as well as how Activision treated them throughout the process. You might have expected him to have been fairly bitter about the whole thing, but he's actually rather zen about it.
As far as motive is concerned, Wilson points the finger squarely at the cut-throat nature of the market itself; stating that conditions were extremely difficult even when Activision first acquired the the studio.
It was a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances. The landscape of the industry has changed massively even in the time from when Bizarre was acquired. In particular getting a new IP noticed at this stage of the console cycle combined with the global economic situation meaning gamers are less willing to 'take a risk' is really difficult. - Gareth Wilson to Eurogamer
Many gamers suggest that poor sales of Blur might have prompted the decision to sell Bizarre Creations, and were utterly aghast at Activision's choice to release at the same time as Split/Second and Red Dead Redemption. Wilson holds his hands up to admit the mistake, but suggests that game sales have irrevocably changed since the last generation.
The release date probably didn't help, but nowadays that 'middle ground' of two to three million sales is getting harder to find. Games either 'break out' and sell four million plus, or really struggle to break even. Also the quality bar has risen enormously. Did you know there were more 80 per cent plus rated games in 2010 than any other year?
A huge outpouring of anger has been recently directed at Activision, but interestingly, Wilson was quick to deny any unfair treatment at the hands of their publisher. Apparently the situation was dealt with in an honest and up-front manner, with Activision willing to give Bizarre staffers plenty of paid leave in order to pursue job interviews or further training.
When it was announced that Activision was looking to sell or close the studio the majority of people started looking around, obviously still hoping that a buyer could be found. This wasn't clandestine at all, while the situation with the studio was unclear Activision allowed us time off to go for interviews and training.
This is a marked contrast to the sudden unexpected closures of several studios a fortnight ago- and not to mention the unbelievably brutal treatment of Infinity Ward.
Wait, hang on a minute. Activision closed a studio for the right reasons- and treated their staff with respect and honesty throughout the proceedings? Who are you... and what have you done with Bobby Kotick?!
Actually, never mind. We like it better this way.