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.
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:
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.
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.