Remembering The Fallen: Studios We Lost In 2012

As we prepare to jump into a new year and refresh things, let us not forget those who fell in 2012.  While the game industry is a swirling maelstrom, there continues to be hope with kickstarters, indie developers, and new companies being born all the time.  For some reason, 2012 felt like a year particularly hard on developers with a lot of studios either closing or being “restructured.”  What follows is a list of the bigger companies who didn’t make it this year.  May they rest in peace.

The list waits for you below the jump…

Radical Entertainment
Known more recently for the “Prototype” franchise they’ve also given us the fan favorite Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, The Simpsons: Hit & Run and The Simpsons: Road Rage. While on paper, Radical is still an active company, it suffered massive layoffs from their parent company, Activision Blizzard on June 28, 2012 to focus on supporting existing games.  Essentially an administrative position similar to what Raven Entertainment has been put into.  Though recent news on their site confirms that they’re working with another studio on an “incredible project” so perhaps a Radical revival may be in store?  We’ll have to wait and see.

Rockstar Vancouver aka Barking Dog (1998 – July 9, 2012)
The team behind the recently released Max Payne 3 was also caught in the crosshairs this year.  They also released the controversial yet popular game, Bully as well as some failed projects like an unnamed Spec Ops game.  The main reason for Rockstar Vancouver’s demise rests with Rockstar itself as it moved to establish a massive studio within Toronto.  As the expanded facility was being supported by the Ontario Government, Rockstar decided to shut down the Vancouver facility.  Ah, but this story has a happy ending as the employees at Vancouver were offered positions at the newly established Toronto studio or other studios under Rockstar.  Hey, it’s better than being thrown out on the street with nothing, right?

Hudson Soft (May 18, 1973 – March 1, 2012)
While they may not have been too active in recent years, this one was still a shocker due to the fact that they’ve been around pretty much forever.  Plus, they helped put out the TurboGrafx-16 and they’ve given us iconic characters like Bomberman, Bonk, and Master Higgins from Adventure Island.  With Konami buying majority control over Hudson Soft after they entered the stock market back in 2000, the two were linked even more as in 2005, Konami had gone ahead and purchased the company outright.  It wouldn’t be until March 2012 that Konami made the decision to merge Hudson Soft completely meaning the company would cease to exist even though the “Hudson” brand and it’s characters would continue to be developed by Konami directly.

Big Huge Games (2000 – May 2012)
Such a sad story for this Baltimore development studio which gave us such gems as Rise of Nations.  The developer seemed to get passed around as their first game, Rise of Nations, was published by Microsoft Game Studios.  From there, THQ intervened and purchased the developer outright in 2008.  A year later, THQ feeling the economic heat, was preparing to close the studio unless a buyer could come in within the next 60 days.  Fate intervened again with former Red Sox pitcher and his new company 38 Studios.  I think we all know what happens next as 38 couldn’t pay back their debts after the well reviewed Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning releases and as such, Big Huge Games had to close for good.  There is a silver lining after all that heartache. Epic Games in June came to the rescue and created “Epic Baltimore” which consists of a large number of former Big Huge employees.

Sony Liverpool aka Pysgnosis (1984 – Aug 22, 2012)
Commonly known for their work on Sony’s Wipeout franchise, they also gave us such games as Lemmings and the Formula One series from 2001-2007.  After a couple of rumored Playstation 4 launch titles were put on hold, the fate of the studio was put in doubt.  This was confirmed by Sony on August 22, 2012 that Sony Studio Liverpool would be closed after making a decision based on an assessment on all of their European studios.

38 Studios (2006 – 2012)
Ah, the twisted tale of Curt Schilling, his dream of making MMOs, and financial mismanagement.  After opening a studio in Maynard, Massachusetts, Schilling began to stockpile talent including Jon Laff, Jennifer MacLean, R.A. Salvatore, and Todd MacFarlane.  Setting out to create a brand new MMORPG, 38 Studios also acquired Big Huge Games in 2009 and their current project which would eventually become Kingdoms of Amalur.  In 2010, the state of Rhode Island lured 38 Studios out of Massachusetts with a $75 million dollar guaranteed loan if they moved to Providence and created jobs.  38 promised 450 new jobs by the end of 2012 and as we know, Reckoning could not keep the financially strapped parent company afloat.  After missing the first loan payment, the studio also couldn’t pay their employees who were then laid off months later. Big Huge Games was also closed in the process.  What a mess.

Zipper Interactive (1995 – March 20, 2012)
Known primarily for their work on the SOCOM series, Zipper also released MAG back in 2010 which featured battles of up to 256 players on the Playstation 3.  While Zipper worked with Sony and the Naval Special Warfare Command in creating the SOCOM series, they were purchased outright in 2006 and added to Sony’s impressive group of studios.  It was at this point work began on MAG and by 2008, it caused quite a stir at E3 when it was shown off for the first time.  Unfortunately, that hype didn’t seem to translate as MAG released in 2010 to average reviews and with shooters now flooding the market, sales just didn’t add up as expected.  Couple that with the mixed reviews for SOCOM4 and Sony’s desire to save money, Zipper was finally closed for good this past March.

Paragon (2007 – 2012)
Tasked with working on the popular City of Heroes / Villains MMOs on PC once NCSoft acquired the rights in 2007 from Cryptic Studios.  Having a very devoted fan base and a long life, the game turned free to play in 2009 and it would seem the momentum started to die down after that point.  The games and the studio both closed for good this year.

THQ San Diego (2003 – June 2012)
Handling THQ’s popular UFC franchise, they were once part of Midway handling the TNA Impact titles for them. Once Midway sank, the company was picked up by THQ who then gave them the UFC franchise to work on. While finding success with the first few titles, things seemed precarious after EA announced at E3 this year that they had acquired/won the rights to create UFC games.  Couple that with the knowledge that THQ was in financial trouble and the writing seemed to be on the wall.  Things were indeed confirmed once the news hit about the entire studio being laid off that same month.

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