2009's saddest studio closures

Left 4 Dead 2, Modern Warfare 2, Assassin’s Creed 2, and Uncharted 2 made 2009 a year of epic sequels. Too bad none of the studios in this feature will be releasing any sequels, ever…at least not in their original forms. 2009, like 2008, was a rough economic year, and led to the demise of multiple influential and promising developers. Before we get all glowey over triumphs like the ones listed above, let’s pour a proverbial 40 (we’d rather drink any actual 40s that come our way) on the curb for our downed brethren. We’ll also ruthlessly make fun of them, because there’s nothing like a good roasting on your way out.

Shaba Games

Closed: October 8th, 2009
Most recent game: Spider-Man: Web of Shadows
Best known for: Spider-Man: Web of Shadows

Much of Shaba’s recognition is the result of its most recent project, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, but the developer has actually been working on extreme sports games since 1997, including Grind Session, Matt Hoffman’s pro BMX, and the following…

Above: Can I get a lolwut?

The company was acquired by Activision in 2002, and continued to produce sporty ports, including the Xbox and PS2 versions of Project 8, oh, and…

Above: Can I get a WTF?

Unfortunately for Shaba, the mixed-reception and mere-decent sales of Web of Shadows weren’t enough to save it. While the team has made some outstanding games, their contributions apparently lacked the focus that Activision was looking for when it restructured, and Shaba was closed in October.

Above: Maybe Spidey’s jazz hands did them in

While Web of Shadows wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring, it was one of the best realized Spider-Man games to date, and we’d have liked to see what the Shaba team could have done with a few years of digital web slinger refinement. At least we’ll always have this:

Above: X-Treme!

Where they are now: Activision is “grateful for the studio's contributions” and wishes them “success in their future endeavors,” but we haven’t heard any word on what those endeavors are. With luck, their talent has found new positions and we’ll see the realization of their promise.

3D Realms

Effectively closed: May 6th, 2009
Most “recent” game: Shadow Warrior
Best known for: The Duke Nukem series

3D Realms was responsible for epically-delayed Duke Nukem Forever until the entire development team was laid off earlier this year. The company, legally known as Apogee, also operated as a publisher (their most recent project of note was 2006’s underrated Prey), but even so, you apparently can’t spend over a decade developing a game and also make enough money to pay your developers. Take-Two, which still retains the publishing rights to Duke Nukem Forever, commented, “We can confirm that our relationship with 3D Realms for Duke Nukem Forever was a publishing arrangement, which did not include ongoing funds for development of the title. In addition, Take-Two continues to retain the publishing rights to Duke Nukem Forever."‪

Above: Screens and art of the ill-fated game began to leak after the announcement

So 3D Realms ran out of money, and Take-Two wasn’t about to flush any of their cash into its development pit of despair… unless they could acquire the whole thing cheaply. In what was possibly a strategic move, Take-Two sued 3D Realms for failing to deliver the game as promised. 3DR’s response, a handwritten note reading, “I'll rip your head off and shit down your neck!” was rejected by the court. Actually, that didn’t happen, but it would’ve been cool if it did. 3DR laid off its development staff, and counter-sued Take-Two, claiming that they were being bullied into selling off the company cheaply. In a statement released by 3DR, they made it clear that they weren’t going anywhere… well, “they” being anyone left behind after the mass layoffs:

“Despite rumors and statements to the contrary, 3D Realms (3DR) has not closed and is not closing. 3DR retains ownership of the Duke Nukem franchise. Due to lack of funding, however, we are saddened to confirm that we let the Duke Nukem Forever (DNF) development team go on May 6th, while we regroup as a company.”

The statement goes on to claim that 3DR put over $12m into the production of DNF, that Take-Two had contributed only small sums to the development, and that Take-Two, knowing that the company was running out of funds, made a last-minute bid to purchase the company cheaply.

But the legal bullshit isn’t as important as the fact that the team is gone. Their goodbye photo was posted on the 3D Realms blog last May, which means that, while the development team was laid off, at least the guy who maintains their ‘90s-esque website is A-OK.

Above: No one mentioned it was picture day, at least not to Mr. Headband

There’s still no word on what will become of Duke Nukem Forever now that 3D Realms has been stripped down. Take-Two can theoretically still finish up and publish the game (post legal dispute), but after all this time, if it’s anything less than shit-down-your-neck amazing, how well will it actually sell?

Where they are now: Such a talented (if oddly managed) team will likely find work elsewhere, or regroup in some form.

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  • dante1924 - January 7, 2010 12:48 a.m.

    Damn! Now I can never laugh at duke nukem ever again! I am now deprived of one of the world's funniest jokes! Fun fact: While DNF was being "developed", all 3 star wars prequels came out, and sonic has gone from good to utter shit. How time flies when you pretend to make a game!
  • nikrusty - December 14, 2009 12:20 p.m.

    Sniff...DNF :( Captcha- de though
  • oryandymackie - December 12, 2009 7:40 p.m.

    Well folks, we can all look forward to identikit FPS' from EA.....can I get a "yay"?
  • oryandymackie - December 12, 2009 7:34 p.m.

    A NEW Mercs game?! Pandemic, we salute you. Am I the only one who loved Mercs 2?
  • magicwalnuts0 - December 10, 2009 3:47 a.m.

    What the crap? No mention of Ensemble, they made the age of empires series for chrissakes. But yeah, Pandemic, that sucks. While Mercenaries was unbelievebly bad. But Battlezone 2, while not nearly as good as the first was still really cool, and the Battlefront series, never as solid as the BF series was still a lot of fun.
  • DoctorCrazy - December 8, 2009 9:02 p.m.

    Know what’s cool about this scenario? He can get a handjob from his wife any time he wants. I love that quote. :D
  • MaynardJ - December 8, 2009 3:27 p.m.

    I was already sad about Midway and 3D Realms, who enriched my childhood with Mortal Kombat 1-4 and Duke Nukem 3D, but: GRIN and Factor 5 out of business?? I loved BC Rearmed and the Rogue Squadron games! Hope to see a new part of that last franchise one day...
  • FETALJUICE - December 8, 2009 2:14 a.m.

    Hell yes! Free Radical's Timesplitters series was and IS still the shit! I really wanted to play the 4th game they were working on before it got canned.
  • Stockholm - December 8, 2009 12:17 a.m.

    Hell ya, I'm glad Free Radical is being remembered. You guys aren't alone. News of them going out was heart-breaking to me. Timesplitters is one of my all time favorite series's.
  • The_Tingler - December 7, 2009 5:24 p.m.

    Um, yeah, Free Radical? I'd take them over most of these losers any day.
  • demonDogg88 - December 7, 2009 4:51 p.m.

    MIDWAY IS GONE?!?!?! no this bites the big one Mk is going to suffer w/ freakin carrot addicted rabbit and duck w/ a screw loose + a whiny depressed billionaire w/ a night life. why. why. why. EPIC LAME. (and now a moment of silence for the MK series)...............................................
  • rxb - December 7, 2009 1:11 p.m.

    Its a shame GRIN are gone the Bionic Commando XBLA was amazing. Also I didnt know they made GRAW that was a decent game.
  • FanofSaiyan - December 7, 2009 3:07 a.m.

    God that new Splatterhouse game looks good, I love the regenerating system.
  • big rudy - December 7, 2009 12:35 a.m.

    what? no clover studio?
  • jackattack222 - December 7, 2009 12:24 a.m.

    hahah that part about the handjob was hilarious this sucks pandemic was cool
  • lovinmyps3 - December 6, 2009 10:01 p.m.

    Why the hell would we want another Mercinaries game?! And Medal of Honor is dead, accept it!! Where's Battlefront 3?!?!
  • GameManiac - December 6, 2009 5:05 p.m.

    The economy can be such a bitch...
  • xXgodlypunkXx - December 5, 2009 5:46 p.m.

    Mythic just closed down too
  • Rojoco - December 5, 2009 4:54 p.m.

    @ Furyspittles I thought the exact same thing, Free Radical's closure has been the only one ever to concern me, what with being a long-term TimeSplitters fan. It probably wasn't included though because they shut down late 2008. They still deserved a mention though :(. A lot of that team were responsible for Rare's Goldeneye remember.
  • DaBadGuy - December 5, 2009 1:54 p.m.

    Oh man, what a shame, Pandemic, Midway, 3D Realms, Grin, these studios all had huge games and now their gone. Mercenaries, Star Wars Battlefront, GRAW 1 and 2, the Duke Nukem series, all huge games from the respective companies. The biggest lost is Midway, they developed one of my all time favorite arcade games Mortal Kombat, and gave me hours of entertainmet in the arcade with Mortal Kombat and the Cruis'n and San Francisco Rush racing games which I still play in whatever arcades are left, they've also published arcade classics like Pac-Man and Galaga. So many talented people gone because of corporate politics and financial problems, it really is a shame.