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.


  • Eenieboy - December 4, 2009 7:55 p.m.

    Some of this has made me genuinely sad :( My heart goes out...
  • Corsair89 - December 4, 2009 7:59 p.m.

    What about Deadline Games? They made Chili con Carnage and Total Overdose. They most recent game was Watchmen: The End is Nigh. What really makes this sad is that Faith and a .45 is dead, which is too bad because that game looked really interesting. Who wouldn't want Gears of War style gameplay set in the Great Depression with two Bonnie and Clyde style bank robbers as protagonists?! That would've been awesome!
  • iKOemos - December 4, 2009 8 p.m.

    So many people have lost their jobs. :( I hope all of them get back on their feet and continue to deliver kickass games.
  • Xplosive59 - December 4, 2009 8:30 p.m.

    aww i was looking forward to battlefront 3
  • dakranii - December 4, 2009 9:15 p.m.

    The saddest for me was Ensemble Studios, which closed in the early part of the year. Aside from Goldeneye, I spent my most of my college years playing Age of Empires. I loved that game and still do (despite them putting Alexander the Great in the Trojan War?!).
  • GrenadeSpamAndSausages - December 4, 2009 10:38 p.m.

    pandemic has to be the saddest and with todays technology a batllefront 3 could have been turned into the most epic online game ever
  • FlyWire2 - December 4, 2009 11:37 p.m.

    RIP Pandemic: 2002 - 2007, They died once they joined that infamous posionous snake called "Electronic Crap". I knew this a long time ago but theres a little group of fans waiting for Pandemic's comeback... ...Thats the Pandemic's Forum itself waiting...
  • skyguy343 - December 5, 2009 12:06 a.m.

    oh Pandemic, you will always hold a place in my heart.<3 hopefully Team Ico can survive 2010 and more
  • FantasticMrStarFox - December 5, 2009 12:12 a.m.

    so many games that couldve been. no more pandemic. :(
  • mentalityljs - December 5, 2009 12:19 a.m.

    What always happens when devs close their doors? The best of the best team up and pump out the coolest shit! This is history in the making :)
  • barrage7667 - December 5, 2009 12:21 a.m.

    sad tht pandemic is gone but as long as activision and insomniac are still around i will be happy :D
  • Wizrai - December 5, 2009 12:26 a.m.

    @mentalityljs Yeah, at least maybe some of these veterans will team up and do something like Realtime Worlds did.
  • TrIp13G - December 5, 2009 12:29 a.m.

    3DRealms made Prey, didn't they? Or was that just a distribution deal?
  • onewingedantista - December 5, 2009 1:54 a.m.

    R.I.P. Pandemic. My dreams of a Battlefront III have been well and truly crushed.
  • mentalityljs - December 5, 2009 2:06 a.m.

    @ Wizrai Oh hell yeah, APB looks and sounds fucking SWEET! ReCaptcha: Madison drunkest No, no, no. It's here in Milwaukee that's the drunkest. Madison's got the stoners :P
  • Cwf2008 - December 5, 2009 2:11 a.m.

    Sad but at the same time no uncommon in this day...still...FUCK YOU EA. You had to kill off Pandemic didnt you? Will we ever get Battlefront 3? And seeing as Pandemic wont be in charge i dont see it becoming the greatest game of all time like it should be if it ever exists...=*(
  • Furyspittles - December 5, 2009 3:27 a.m.

    What, no Free Radical? The...absorption(?) of Free Radical into Crytek was the saddest thing that's ever happened in my life. I'm not even joking. The complete eradication of both Battlefront III and the next Timesplitters in one fell swoop nearly even made me cry. And yeah, my understanding may be a little off, but I thought Pandemic wasn't responsible at all for Battlefront anymore seeing Free Radical was working on the third one. So, yeah, I don't even care about Pandemic closing. Hurray for apathy!
  • Yeager1122 - December 5, 2009 4:46 a.m.

    I didnt know that happened to pandemic now im sad:(
  • Cyberninja - December 5, 2009 5:39 a.m.

    i bet EA will make a crap starwars bf3
  • JakkedGamer - December 5, 2009 7:03 a.m.

    R.I.P 3D Realms, u will be missed most of all. I have been waiting for duke 2 return FOREVER. Now all I have left is Duke 3D on the Xbox Live arcade. HAIL TO THE KING BABY!

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