With the ever-changing and fast-paced industry of video games, it’s no surprise that studios close down from time to time. Although some may shut down voluntarily, not all developers can say the same. Some video game studios forced to shut down are responsible for some of the best game titles. Nonetheless, the gaming industry is a business and will have to close down as soon as they can no longer effectively generate revenue.
Unfortunately, this ends up putting a lot of talented people out of jobs and their incredible creations on hold. For many years, hundreds of gaming companies have closed down to merge into other companies or just expired altogether. And due to the massive size of the gaming industry, most of these shutdowns often go unnoticed. Here are five video game studios you didn’t know shut down.
Let’s kick off with one of the biggest game studios, whose dissolution took place in 2010. Midway’s shutdown was a huge deal, especially because of its contributions to the industry. For over 30 years, the company has been operational, giving rise to some of the best titles we know today. These include successful cult favorites such as NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat, Gauntlet, Paperboy, Cruis’n USA, Rampage, and many more.
When you have been around since 1992, you tend to serve the industry with countless projects. And Midway Games managed to produce and co-produce the best of them. That’s why it’s always shocking to witness such a successful label fall. The company began to dwindle in 2000 when it acquired a lot of debt and basically made a pile of tragic financial moves. It eventually had to file for bankruptcy, which finally led to its official dissolution.
4. Bizarre CreationsNext, we have one of the biggest British video game studios of its time, Bizarre Creations. The company is known for its racing titles, such as the Project Gotham Racing series and Metropolis Street Racer. That’s not all, Bizarre Creations ventured into other genres as well, creating some of the best shooter games. That is why it’s sad to imagine that such a company would close after running for over two decades. However, the shutdown behind Bizarre Creations was not entirely hopeless.
Activision acquired the company in 2007 and allowed them to complete their Blur racing title in 2010. After that, Activision announced the company’s dissolution in early 2011. Most would argue that having a game studio dissolve into another is sufficient in some cases. This is because it ensures the creatives of the label remain employed and continue to provide fans with great titles. Sure, it must suck to have a whole team split into different areas of a larger organization, but still, it beats being completely destroyed.
3. Westwood Studios
Over the course of 18 years, Westwood Studios created some of the most memorable titles. We are talking about the likes of Dune II, a series that is still a cult favorite today and has just recently amassed a remarkable expansion. The various other great titles that came from the incredible creatives of Westwood Studios include Blade Runner, Command & Conquer, and Eye of the Beholder. Strategy game fans have Westwood Studios to thank for some of the titles they enjoy today.
Mainly since the company is one of the pioneers of the whole strategy genre, which is also why its shutdown may come as a surprise. The downfall of Westwood Studios became apparent when Electronic Arts acquired the studio in 1998. The company would go on to face various issues under the EA wing, some of which included creative disputes. Most of these were never really sorted, which subsequently led to the company’s shutting down in 2003. This oversaw significant job losses, which pushed several former employees to form separate game studios.
2. Pandemic Studios
Pandemic Studios was formed by two industry veterans that formerly worked at Activision; Andrew Goldman and Josh Resnick. It is home to a countless number of iconic titles, such as The Saboteur and Full Spectrum Warrior. The company also invested a couple of years working on already existing franchises; moving away from the RTS genre to explore more of the open-world action side. Some of them are titles you may very well be familiar with, like Star Wars: Battlefront, Star Wars: Battlefront 2, Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, Destroy All Humans!, and Mercenaries 2: World in Flames.
The company shut down a year after Electronic Arts acquired it in 2009. The dissolution that Pandemic Studios faced was a result of EA’s action to cut down on employees; affecting over 200 of Pandemic’s staff. This action caused a lot of uproar among those who were laid off from work. It even led some former employees to release a controversial office video. Although the studio took 35 employees from Pandemic’s labor force into EA Los Angeles, it just was not enough. Still, these employees went to complete some of their previous game series, such as the Mercenaries series.
1. Ensemble Studios
One more strategy game pioneer on the list is Ensemble Studios. A company founded by none other than Tony Goodman in 1994. Seven years later, Microsoft acquired Ensemble Studios, and as you may have guessed, it went downhill from there. The studio’s biggest contributions to the RTS genre are numerous critically acclaimed titles, such as the Age of Empires series. Despite having such titles under its belt, the studio would still wind up being shut down; but not before the release of one last spin-off known as Halo Wars.
For a company with as many as six unfinished games, you would expect it to be able to stay in operation. However, despite its potential for success, Ensemble Studios was officially disbanded in 2009. Aside from great game titles, the studio also made the Genie Game Engine. This system was used in Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, Age of Empires, and Age of Empires II. There were at least two new studios that emerged from former Ensemble Studios employees; these are workers who went on to create their own video game studios.
Which one of the video game studios on our list do you think had the most unfortunate shutdown? Share your pick with us in the comments below or over on our socials here!