The brightest flames often burn the shortest
Do you know how many game studios have closed during the outgoing generation? Over 150. It's a ridiculous number. A number so great, if we gave them all a round of applause or a 21-gun salute, we'd end up with red stumps for hands and at least one downed UFO.
Some of these studios were minnows in the gaming pond. They got swallowed up by bigger fish or just plain chewed up and spat out again. But some of them were big fish. Fish we'd come to know, love and never expect to get eaten by anything. So here are 17 (nice round number) of the studios we lost this generation that were truly great, and for which we--as gamers--will always mourn.
3D Realms (1987-2009)
While technically still alive after a name change to Apogee, the sad fact remains that 3D Realms had to lay off the entire Duke Nukem Forever team after the most famously protracted development cycle in gaming.
3D Realms also developed Prey, before outsourcing that too because it was taking so long to complete. Sigh.
Bizarre Creations (1994-2011)
What a crying shame. The company that brought us the incredible Formula One, F1 '97, Metropolis Street Racer, Project Gotham Racing and its three brilliant sequels AND Geometry Wars, not to mention The Club, Fur Fighters and Blur was bought by Activision in 2007... and then closed in 2011. We're still reeling from the announcement.
How are we supposed to ever unlock that 'Smile' achievement now, eh? Playing Geometry Wars 2 is too painful for anything resembling such an expression. All the... mem... ries... WAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaa...
BigBig Studios (2001-2012)
Remember when PSP came out and the best original game for it was Pursuit Force? Happy days. Sadly gone now though--after making a Pursuit Force sequel, MotorStorm Arctic Edge for PSP and Little Deviants for PS Vita's launch, the studio was closed.
All of those titles had some worth, but perhaps the quality was going down rather than up with each release. Either way, it felt like BigBig had a lot more to give.
EA Chicago (1990-2007)
Having started life as NuFX, EA Chicago was responsible for the Fight Night and Def Jam series, but was closed in 2007 because the business case simply wasn't good enough. The team size had expanded rapidly, but profits had not. With expected profits some four years off, it was sadly inevitable the studio would close.
Of course, the Fight Night brand continued anyway. But in the studio's closure announcement, Frank Gibeau had special praise for the studio's head. Know who that was? One Kudo Tsunoda, who went on to work on Kinect for Microsoft and become famous for showing everyone the bottom of an avatar's shoe. Bam!
Black Rock Studio (1998-2011)
Black Rock always felt like it was one game away from greatness. Having made a name for itself as Climax Racing and Climax Brighton with a selection of ATV, Hot Wheels and Moto GP games, it was under the Black Rock Studio banner that the team's best games were made. Pure was a terrific ATV racer and Split/Second Velocity won some massive review scores.
Both games had sequels in the works, but then Disney closed the studio down and that was that. What a waste.
Clover Studio (2004-2007)
Now, I know the spirit of Clover lives on with Platinum Games. But amazing though Platinum is, there's no denying it's produced a fair few misses to go along with the hits. Not so with Clover. Clover put out Okami, God Hand and Viewtiful Joe. All new IPs, all brilliant. OK, God Hand was flawed, but some people still swear by it.
Mind you, if the studio hadn't closed, maybe Bayonetta wouldn't exist. Not every cloud in this list has a silver lining, but this one's chock full of the stuff. Silver and naked witches.
Blitz Games (1990-2013)
Blitz Games made lovely games. Harmless, charming games. Yes, it was responsible for Glover, but that was years and years ago. It was home to the Oliver Twins--the guys who made one of my all-time favourite series: Dizzy. I met them at an event for the iOS Prince of the Yolkfolk port and they're lovely people.
But a lack of funding, too many non-committal business partners and the dreadful economic climate meant that not even the Oliver Twins' personal savings could keep the company afloat any more. For shame.
Factor 5 (1987-2009/11)
We live in an era where one duff game can bring one of the industry's most-respected studios to its knees. So it was with Factor 5, which was closed after delivering many, many great titles including two classic Rogue Squadron games on Gamecube simply because PS3's Lair didn't deliver the goods. Dragons + SixAxis don't mix, apparently.
Ironically, Lair was the first PS3 game to work via remote play--something now adopted as standard for PS4. Consistently producing games that were ahead of their time, Factor 5 is sorely missed. At least we'll always have the Death Star trench run.
I had a personal revelation once, where I realised every game that had Midway on its load-up sequence was a game that I liked. Games like Ready 2 Rumble boxing, Hydro Thunder, San Franciso Rush (yes, I know that last one was technically crap, but I liked it). Embracing the core values of arcade gaming, Midway always seemed to put the gamer's enjoyment first.
Having started its video game-related business with the US distribution of Space Invaders in 1978, it all ended with its remaining assets like Mortal Kombat being sold off to the highest bidder in 2009. Meh.