This console generation hasn’t been too kind to the development fraternity, with many developers forced to shut shop. We remember these studios and the great games they made
Eden Games (Test Drive Unlimited 1 & 2)
Where is everyone?
Eden kicked off this generation with the fantastic Test Drive Unlimited. The open-world MMO-styled racer was a great, early indicator of what the HD consoles were capable of. Their next game was the bitterly disappointing Alone in the Dark, but they returned to form in style with Test Drive Unlimited 2. However, the studios relationship with parent company Atari has soured since and last we heard, Eden employees were on an indefinite strike.
Ensemble Studios (Age of Empires series, Halo Wars)
What do you mean “You don't see anything”?
Microsoft’s decision to shut down Ensemble Studios was nothing short of bewildering. Renowned as one of the leading developers of real-time strategy games, Ensemble has given us several great games as part of the Age of Empires series. The studio even helmed the Halo franchise’s only foray away from the FPS genre (Halo Wars), and with a degree of success.
Bizarre Creations (Project Gotham Racing series, Blur, Geometry Wars)
Winner takes all
Bizarre had a great run as an independent studio this gen, first with Project Gotham Racing 3 and 4, and then the fun-but-rough-around-the-edges arcade shooter, The Club. Things, however, started going downhill once the studio was acquired by Activision. Blur, which was a great combat racing game, was delayed several times, which killed much of its hype, resulting in poor sales. Activision shut down the studio soon after, and many of Bizarre’s senior staff went on to set up Lucid Games.
Team Bondi (L.A. Noire)
Yup, she's dead allright
Team Bondi’s is a rare case where a studio was forced to shut down, despite its first and only release selling millions of copies. L.A. Noire was a great game, but it was behind the scenes events that led to its closure. Accusations of harsh working conditions and unpaid wages from ex-employees made Team Bondi the black sheep of the industry, with publisher Rockstar Games publicly cutting ties with the studio.
Blackrock Studios (Pure, Split Second)
Objects in the rear view mirror do appear closer
Blackrock established itself as a AAA racing game developer this gen with two great arcade racers – Pure and Split Second. Both new IPs were extremely well received and stood out in an industry that otherwise thrives on safe sequels. Sadly, parent company Disney Interactive didn’t greenlight sequels to either game and shut down the studio in last year to focus on casual games.
GRIN (Bionic Commando series, Ghost Recon Advance Warfighter series)
Stay put while I kill your friends
GRIN’s demise was a stark reminder of the often hostile relations between indie devs and publishers. The studio received praise for Bionic Commando: Rearmed and the 2008 reboot of Bionic Commando, but things took a turn for the worse when they were commissioned for a Final Fantasy spin-off, codenamed Fortress. Square-Enix cancelled the project and GRIN cited unpaid dues from the Japanese publisher as the reason for its closure.
Pandemic Studios (Full Spectrum Warrior series, Mercenaries series, The Saboteur)
I'm a merc and I love my job
Before being acquired by EA, Pandemic was best known for its Full Spectrum Warrior and Mercenaries games. This gen, they released Mercenaries 2: World in Flames and The Saboteur under the EA banner. Both open-world games were a ton of fun and brought something new to the table, but lackluster sales forced EA to shut down the studio in 2009.
Free Radical (TimeSplitters series, Haze)
Cortez loves his time travel
Best known for the TimeSplitters series on the PS2, Free Radical had a tough time this gen. Their PS3 exclusive FPS Haze was the subject of a lot of hype, but after several delays, it was released to extremely harsh reviews and poor sales, forcing the indie studio to wind-up operations. It was, however, resurrected as Crytek UK, the team responsible for the multiplayer component of Crysis 2.
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