Is It Fair That A Game Studio Gets Killed Off After One Mistake?

All its glorious achievements treated like trash, or reduced to nothing.

Story Highlights

  • Over the years, many cases emerged where a creative game studio was killed over a single mistake.
  • Redfall was used to kill Arkane Austin, while the weaker sales and shifting focus claimed Japan Studio.
  • EA crucified Visceral Games for Dead Space 3, and Radical Entertainment was a nuisance for Activision.

Not a day goes by that you don’t hear about studio closures and layoffs these days. With gaming becoming a lot more business and profit-focused, it’s no wonder. While no one losing their job or getting shut down is ever good news, sometimes it can be logically justified. However, how can anyone justify killing a developer just because it made some mistake now, but has an enormous track record? Is the video game industry so volatile that even the slightest of offenses cannot be tolerated? 

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Arkane Austin

I’ll present some examples for you, and let you be the judge if what happened was fair. And what better way to start than to present one of the biggest follies of recent times? Microsoft has axed Arkane Austin and Tango Gameworks in one of the most ridiculous moves I’ve ever seen.

Arkane Austin was killed because of the failure which is Redfall. I’m not going to argue on that, Redfall was indeed a massive disappointment. It was a flawed game right from the start and remained so for too long, its departure was justified. But does that mean Arkane Austin was worthless? Far from it.

The original Dishonored, and the magnificent Prey which is now in serious danger, can we just forget just how much greatness Arkane Austin has crafted, and crucify it for messing up Redfall? I don’t think that’s even close to being fair.

Looking at its past greatness, did Arkane Austin deserve this fate? | Source: eXputer
Looking at its past greatness, did Arkane Austin deserve this fate? | Source: eXputer

Japan Studio

Just like Microsoft has absolutely massacred creativity, not caring for the masterpieces of Tango Gameworks just because they were not as “financially profitable,” Sony did the same some time ago, a tragic event I haven’t been able to forget.

One of Sony’s best and most imaginatively unique studios that it unjustly dissolved, Japan Studio, is a perfect example of profits over creativity. Killing Japan Studio might be the worst thing Sony has ever done, hurting both itself and its loyal fans.

RIP Japan Studio
byu/bloodymexican inplaystation

Take a look at the lineup Japan Studio was involved in. Ape Escape, LocoRoco, Knack, Bloodborne, Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian, and the most criminally underrated Gravity Rush, these first-party games shaped an era of Sony’s gaming prowess, and are still among the most influential and widely renowned games.

Japan Studio was one hell of a gem that Sony didn't value | Source: eXputer
Japan Studio was one hell of a gem that Sony didn’t value | Source: eXputer

Despite Japan Studio’s unbelievably fabulous works throughout its career, only death awaited it. Why’s that? In its final days, it was apparently not profitable enough for Sony. Games like Knack 2 and The Last Guardian didn’t sell well. The way I see it, Japan Studio’s projects were creative but niche, and Sony wanted to rake in the big bucks by going beyond Japan.

When Sony abandoned Japan and says Japan studios is not considered profitable enough to continue with original
byu/Keevin-Rabbit ingravityrush

Visceral Games

It hasn’t been long since the Dead Space remake came out, and it was a brilliant game worthy of the name. However, when I saw it, I couldn’t help but relive the nightmare of what happened to the original devs. Dead Space was one of my favorite game series growing up, and seeing Visceral Games go wasn’t easy.

The remake will always remind me of the Visceral Games tragedy | Source: Steam
The remake will always remind me of the Visceral Games tragedy | Source: Steam

The original Dead Space was nothing short of a masterpiece. A creative marvel in the conventional survival horror genre, it introduced a new layer of complexity to the standard tropes. The same is the case with Dead Space 2. It was very close if not equal to the first. However, apparently, its 3-4 million units sold were considered a disappointment by EA

That’s where things started going South. EA tearing apart Visceral and having it work on a highly monitored and restricted Battlefield Hardline and Dead Space 3 was a disaster waiting to happen. When strict scrutiny resulted in bad games, EA had the excuse it needed to shuttle Visceral Games. It received worldwide renown for the Dead Space series, while one ruined game with no fault of its own was used to bury it.

Remember when EA shut down Visceral Studios, the makers of Dead Space, because of “based on listening to player feedback and following marketplace trends.”. Only to remake Dead space in 2023.
byu/blackwolf57 ingaming

Radical Entertainment

Ah, another heartwrenching loss, one nothing short of a genuine tragedy. Radical Entertainment was a splendid developer with nothing but creative gems under its belt, massacred by Activision who just wanted a reason to shut it down.

As long as Radical Entertainment was independent and under Vivendi, it was doing nothing but masterful work. The Simpsons games, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, my favorite game of the superhero, and the magnificent Prototype I have praised every chance I got.

Really wish the original [Prototype] game would get a proper remaster, or even a remake. Definitely a hidden gem of a game.
byu/grasscid ingaming

Not to mention the 3D Crash games, Crash of the Titans and Crash: Mind Over Mutant. These are an overwhelming success both critically and financially, and among the best games featuring the iconic bandicoot.

The 3D Crash games were some of my favorites, it's a shame | Source: eXputer
The 3D Crash games were some of my favorites, it’s a shame | Source: eXputer

When it was acquired by Activision, that’s when it ran out of luck. Laying off people left and right, and canceling games, I like to think Activision had a vendetta against Radical for some reason. The nail in the coffin was Prototype 2. With Radical so severely handicapped, a mishap was no surprise.

The studio still crafted an impressive Prototype 2. Sure it didn’t match up to the original, but it was no slouch either. However, its weak sales finally gave Activision the opportunity it was always waiting for. All its subsequent projects were canceled, and the spectacular studio was dissolved.

Comment
byu/gabryelx from discussion
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Is The Fault One-Sided?

Here’s another point to ponder. Was it only the developer studio’s fault that a game flopped? Redfall was as much the higher-ups’ fault as it was Arkane Austin’s. The devs were forced to work on a project like this and then shut down because it fumbled as it was always meant to.

Redfall isn’t a bad game or a failure. It’s an insult for the whole industry and will be a case study what happens when execs tell you to “do the thing others have bc data shows that this will work out and your studio has a good rep.”
byu/Johnny_Tesla inredfall

Japan Studio never even made a mistake, the weak financial performance was just an excuse because it didn’t correspond to Sony’s changing “international” plans. EA pushed Visceral to the edge over Dead Space 3. Visceral wanted to return to the original’s concept, while EA wanted more fast-paced action and multi-player, not caring how incompatible it would be with the game’s core ideas. And when it flopped as expected, EA made Visceral the scapegoat.

And Radical Entertainment? Do I even need to say how much Activision was involved in this? The fact remains that a flop is a result of mistakes made all around, not just one party. Punishing a specific entity for a collective mistake, especially when it has been doing nothing but creative and genre-defining work, is an offense against gaming as a whole, and all the fans around the world.

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Hanzala is a dedicated writer who expresses his views as opinion pieces at eXputer. He's always been fascinated by gaming and has been an avid consumer of many different genres for over a decade. His passion for games has him eager to encounter the latest RPGs and actively look for new Soulslike to challenge. He puts forth his experience and knowledge of gaming into captivating opinion pieces.

Experience: 8+ months || Education: Bachelors in Chemistry.

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