Game developers that lost their brightest stars and suffered

We’re always moaning that things aren’t as good as they used to be. Because it's true. Even if that earlier iteration of that thing we liked only happened five minutes ago, we were younger then, and even 300 seconds of nostalgia is a powerful thing. Yeah, it’s just perception, but what the hell else is reality, at the end of the day?

It’s not always just a vain flailing for times gone by though. With game devs, it’s often because talent moves on. Company names remain the same of course, but sometimes it just isn’t the same company any more. We’re seeing it happen with Infinity Ward right now, so we thought we’d check out a few other cases and see how badly those studios suffered the loss of their best and brightest.  


Above: Even before HD, Rare were great. Actually, make that especially before HD...

In the glory days made: Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, every other amazing non-Nintendo N64 game you can think of.

But recently: Has made a few disappointing 360 games before disappearing into the background at Microsoft, presumably to work on Natal stuff.

Who’s missing? Remember when everyone moaned that 360 launch title Perfect Dark Zero wasn't as good as the original Perfect Dark and Goldeneye? There’s a reason for that. It might have had the Rare badge on the box, but a barrage of the guys who made those pioneering skull perforation simulators had left the company years before its development started.

Above: Forget Bond. Last-gen it was all about gangsters and monkeys

Head of Software Martin Hollis went to Nintendo of America in 1998. A large chunk of Goldeneye and Perfect Dark’s designers left to form Free Radical Design in 1999 – explaining why Timesplitters 2 was more fitting follow-up to the two Rare FPS than Perfect Dark Zero ever was. Seven designers had already jumped ship for Eighth Wonder in 1997, and signed a deal with Sony. Throw in the departure of company founders Chris and Tim Stamper in 2007, and you’ve now got a Rare very rarely reminiscent of its 64-bit self.

How badly has Rare suffered? In traditional black and white terms, pretty heavily. Rare’s game output hasn’t been anything like as frequent or consistent this generation. Though to be fair, it has now been refocused on design and development projects within Microsoft (Xbox Avatars, say hello), and it could be argued that the loss of the Goldeneye boys wasn’t that big a deal, given how Timesplitters 3 and Haze turned out.

Sonic Team

Above: The XBLA version. Justin could tell this by the naked eye

In the glory days made: Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, NiGHTS, Samba De Amigo

But recently: Has made a load of old shit

Who’s missing? Sonic Team’s structure has been melting for a very long time, to the point that these days it's more a brand name that a coherent and regular set of developers. None of the original Sonic the Hedgehog creators remain. Naoto Oshima left in the mid-‘90s to form Artoon. Original game designer Hirokazu Yasuhara left for Naughty Dog in 2002. And most recently, Yuji Naka, the most widely-recognised godfather of Sonic, scooted off to create his own studio, Probe. Oh, and he took ten other people with him.

How badly has Sonic Team suffered? See below.

Above: Yeah. Yeah that is what it looks like. Rather mortifyingly


Above: Bright, brash, and cleverly designed. That was the Capcom of old

In the glory days made: Street Fighter II, Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts, Mega Man, Resident Evil 4, Devil May Cry, Okami, Viewtiful Joe, Godhand

But recently: Has made Street Fighter IV, Mega Man download games, and a load of not-as-good versions of its last-gen games. Oh, and Lost Planet 1 & 2, for some reason.

Who’s missing? Platinum Games, essentially. Those last five games on the glory days list? All headed up by people who left Capcom to create the Japanese indie dream team. Remember Clover Studio, the now religiously-revered Capcom team responsible for Viewtiful Joe and bastion of all that is right and pure, Okami? Remember how Capcom shut it down after its fantastic games failed to sell as well as expected?

Above: The face of progress

Well at the time, it contained Resi 4 Director Shinji Mikami, DMC creator Hideki Kamiya and Phoenix Wright, Godhand and Okami man Atsushi Inaba. Capcom, say goodbye to your greatest design talents. Along with a whole bunch of other ex-Clover devs, those three set up Platinum. So far they’ve given us the disappointing Madworld, the incandescently fantastic Bayonetta, and are currently lining up Mikami’s batshit third-person shooter Vanquish.

How badly has Capcom suffered? Significantly. Without Mikami, Resident Evil 5 didn’t have half the ideas or flair of its predecessor. Without Kamiya, Devil May Cry 4 was a sluggish and increasingly-anachronistic retread of previous entries (embarrassingly so when compared to Kamiya’s evolution of the genre with Bayonetta), and most of Capcom’s other big releases have been farmed out to western third-party devs. And have usually been a bit crap. Only the Street Fighter series remains as good as ever.

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000
  • bugmenot - June 9, 2010 10:56 p.m.

    So sad but true about Rare. I used to be the biggest Rare fangirl back in the day, but they just don't have it anymore. Their Xbox 360 tenure has marked by games that are beautiful to look at but not that much fun to play. I think Nuts and Bolts was a huge mistake. The vehicle creation concept is actually an interesting idea (although the amount of trial and error needed got frustrating), but they never should have shoehorned Banjo-Kazooie in. The whole point of Banjo-Kazooie was that a bear and bird together could do things that each couldn't do on their own. By putting the B-K characters in Nuts and Bolts, they made them generic. They either should have made new characters or made a B-K game that worked with the existing characters. I actually liked the generally reviled Grabbed by the Ghoulies (even though Connor moved soooo sloooow that I wanted to punch him), but that was the last decent console game they made.
  • usedforglue - June 9, 2010 12:21 a.m.

    The Final Fantasy series is dead with those guys. FFXIII was beautiful but not fun to play.
  • twewy13 - June 8, 2010 7:05 p.m.

    did they call madworld disappointing...what was wrong with it!?
  • shopping88 - June 8, 2010 1:56 p.m.

    === == e also sell a variety of brand-name items: The following is our best-selling items. I hope you like - <a href=" 1.html/">EDHARDY BIKINI $ 16 <a href=" 1.html/">WOMEN-JORDAN-SHOES $30 == ==
  • shopping88 - June 8, 2010 1:14 p.m.

    === == e also sell a variety of brand-name items: The following is our best-selling items. I hope you like - <a href=" 1.html/">EDHARDY BIKINI $ 16 <a href=" 1.html/">WOMEN-JORDAN-SHOES $30 == ==
  • shopping88 - June 8, 2010 1:06 p.m.

    === == e also sell a variety of brand-name items: The following is our best-selling items. I hope you like - <a href=" 1.html/">EDHARDY BIKINI $ 16 <a href=" 1.html/">WOMEN-JORDAN-SHOES $30 == ==
  • Clovin64 - June 8, 2010 12:10 p.m.

    This is really hard for me to say considering all the enthusiasm I had for DMC4 when it was first released, but it was a bit of a dissapointment overall. There was nothing wrong with the actual combat or graphics, but it was severely short on original ideas, and that backtracking bit with Dante was just plain lazy. It wa no where near the catastrophe of DMC2, but it was still a step backwards from DMC1 and 3. Capcom had better come up with some frash ideas for a new DMC, or my hack n slash love will completly switch to Bayonetta. Also, I think Final Fantasy XII and XIII were two of the best FF games (both a little better than X IMO) but I still miss the charming and lovable 2D glory days of FF4 and 6.
  • philipshaw - June 8, 2010 11:11 a.m.

    I would say Neversoft because Activision has them stuck on constant GH sequels,we will never see a good Tony Hawk or original game like Gun from them ever again
  • SwampRock - June 8, 2010 8:26 a.m.

    As I've said before: GR has a MAJOR boner for street fighter, sure capcom totally sucks now but SF4's totally fine. I mean I absolutely love that game, it's up there with MK (and MK's only up there because I've always been a fan) but seriously, come on you guys make it sound untouchable and godly.
  • WillisTron - June 8, 2010 7:08 a.m.

    You guys gave Madworld an 8 and it's "disappointing"? Consistency guys
  • Crabhand - June 8, 2010 6:07 a.m.

    I'm curious to see how Infinity Ward will look in the next few years. If things progress to a point where West and Zampella do keep the rights to the Modern Warfare franchise, I imagine a great deal of talent from Infinity Ward will jump ship to Respawn. Even if it doesn't happen in such a way, I'm really interested in the IP West and Zampella wanted to create before Activision's firings.
  • AuthorityFigure - June 8, 2010 5:25 a.m.

    Wasn't this the site that raved about MonsterHunter3? You know, the CAPCOM one...
  • sleepy92ismypsn - June 8, 2010 4:43 a.m.

    I was dissapointed when Naughty Dog Stopped developing the Crash Bandicoot series. I've played the first 7 crash games but the first 4 were my favorite, they were all developed by Naughty Dog. The first 3 were platforming and the 4th game was a kart racer they were all so much fun. I think if Naughty Dog would have kept the series to themselves it would have been sony's version of mario. Crash Bandicoot 3 Warped was my favorite game in the series is which is my favorite ps1 game. I earned all 105% in that game and i have 16 Platinum relics. In crash 3 there are fun yet challenging time trials which times you as you run through the levels or fly or ride on a jet ski or the back of a tiger! You get a silver, gold or platinum relic depending on how fast you beat the level, breaking yellow boxes stops the clock for 1,2 or 3 seconds. The Crash Bandicoot Series has had 16 titles and altogether the franchise has sold over 40 million copies worldwide. Naughty Dog is rumored to be working on Uncharted 3 for release in late 2011. If you love the Crash Games and/or Naughty Dog like i do just imagine if Naughty Dog used money made from Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3 and they buy the rights to develop Crash Bandicoot games like they used to but with the uncharted 3 engine with Sony as the publisher.
  • WillisTron - June 8, 2010 4:24 a.m.

    "what the hell else is reality, at the end of the day?" I loved this quote Nostalgia or not, if something means more to you than another thing, doesn't that make it 'better'? idk it's a confusing debate
  • EvanKHustle - June 8, 2010 4:24 a.m.

    Shocked to not see Tomonobu Itagaki on this list.
  • slimjim441 - June 8, 2010 4:22 a.m.

  • slimjim441 - June 8, 2010 4:21 a.m.

    Now that I know everyone from the original Sonic Team (that mattered) left, there is absolutely no hope for Sonic anymore and it makes me sad. I don't think Capcom is doing that bad though, considering Mega Man 9 was one of my favorite Mega Man games. But to be honest, 10 was okay, and (@Psylockrules) 'Resi 5 was a soulless shell of Resi 4.' That was depressingly true.
  • ultimatepunchrod - June 8, 2010 2:07 a.m.

    i dont really understand the hatred for DMC4. yeah, you played through the same levels as dante after nero, but that was kind of the point because it nearly completely changed the game. Also, gamesradar seems to think that nero makes dante irrelevant; this isnt true because the general consensus is that nero is the reincarnation of vergil and if thats true, he's dante's brother, and that means that he would take after dante. no one's gonna read this, but i felt the need to say it.
  • slickninja - June 8, 2010 2:05 a.m.

    Final Fantasy 13 was pure garbage. it's the only game in the series that I traded in after I beat it. it's sad when my 10 year old cousin breezed through FF13 without a strategy guide or any help. Squenix obviously put more effort into marketing the game instead of making a good game with memorable characters. FF13 is not linear, it's ON RAILS!!!! worst story ever and I'm glad I got rid of that POS. Thankfully God of War 3 is still fun.
  • Vagrant - June 8, 2010 1:46 a.m.

    I'm pretty sure Tim Schafer's name has a 'c' in it. And a game critic should know that commercial success has never been a measure of quality. You want to talk about Square-Enix games being a success, then I suppose all the crappy Wii games that sold millions are the best games in the world. Nerd rage aside, this interesting and pretty truthful article.