The closure of beloved developers is an unfortunate reality in the world of video games. It seems like these closures happen all the time, and they’re always sad when they occur. While many developers go on to form other successful companies, we can’t help but wax nostalgic for a few of our favorite developers who have gone the way of the dodo. Specifically, we’d really like to have these eight developers back.
Bizarre Creations made games for about 14 years. For many of them, the company was best known for its racing games. Ranging from the ever-popular Project Gotham Racing to one of the more overlooked games in the genre, 2010’s Blur. The British studio also produced one of the first smash hit titles on Xbox Live Arcade in Geometry Wars. Also responsible for the 2008 third-person shooter The Club, Bizarre was closed in 2010 after Activision could not find a buyer for the studio.
The game development history of Neversoft is a story spanning nearly 20 years and multiple genres. They began with games like Skeleton Warriors and a PC conversion of PlayStation title MDK, but were soon making the hugely popular Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. In the midst of nine THPS titles, they also created an open-world Western game, Gun. They then worked on a number of Guitar Hero titles before being absorbed into Infinity Ward as part of the Call of Duty team. It seems like the two biggest Neversoft franchises are coming back, with the Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero news of late.
Looking Glass Studios
Looking Glass was responsible for at least three beloved titles in video game history: Ultima Underworld, System Shock, and Thief. The company closed in May of 2000, largely due to financial problems at their then-publisher, Eidos Interactive. While the three game mentioned above are more than enough to warrant nostalgia for the studio, it’s the impressive array of talent that left there and went other places that is really amazing. Industry figures like Ken Levine, Emil Pagliarulo, Harvey Smith, and Warren Spector all trace their roots back to Looking Glass, meaning that the developer’s “family tree” of gaming is very leafy indeed.
In the wake of the uproar over the debacle that was the launch of 2013’s SimCity, Maxis lost a lot of the prestige they had spent over 25 years building up. The developer had come a long way since its founding by Wil Wright and Jeff Braun, ultimately being purchased in 1997 by Electronic Arts. After many successful titles in the SimCity and The Sims franchises, Maxis released Spore in 2008. A new game in The Sims franchise was launched in 2014, and then the main Maxis studio in Emeryville, CA was closed in March of 2015. Some employees of the company still work in EA studios, and the name is not defunct, but the main body of the studio is gone.
Josh Resnick and Andrew Goldman, both formerly of Activision, founded Pandemic in 1998. Initially working on sequels for Activision, the company went to create a number of beloved titles, including Full Spectrum Warrior, Destroy All Humans!, the Mercenaries series, The Saboteur, and Star Wars: Battlefront and Battlefront 2. A small team of Pandemic staffers (roughly 35 people) was integrated into EA Los Angeles to support The Saboteur when the studio was shut down in 2009.
Ensemble Studios was founded in 1995. The studio’s focus was real-time strategy, something it would excel at. Their first game was 1997’s Age of Empires, followed by Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings in 1999. They wrote the Genie game engine that powered those two games and used it to great effect in 2001’s Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, around the same time as the studio was acquired by Microsoft. Next up was Age of Mythology in 2002, and a third Age of Empires in 2005. Its final title was the RTS Halo Wars, released in 2009.
Originally named Westwood Associates when founded by Brett Sperry and Louis Castle in 1985, Westwood Studios would assume its far more familiar moniker upon a merger with Virgin Interactive in 1992. The company was acquired by EA in 1998, and closed five years later in 2003. Most famous for its work on the Command & Conquer series, Westwood had a number of other hit titles, including the Dune series of RTS games, the D&D-based Eye of the Beholder series, and the point-and-click adventure games in [em]The Legend of Kyrandia</em? series. A number of the studio employees went on to form Petroglyph Games when Westwood was closed.
Ken Levine, Robert Fermier, and Jonathan Chey were all left out of work when Looking Glass folded, and so they started their own company, Irrational Games. The developer created System Shock 2, Freedom Force, and Tribes: Vengeance, among other games, before being snapped up by 2K Games. The developer was then re-named 2K Boston, and soon delivered one of the standout games of the time, Bioshock. The developer’s Australian arm, re-named 2K Australia, went on to make the Bioshock sequel, with 2K Boston reclaiming the Irrational name for development of the third game, Bioshock Infinite. The studio was dissolved in February of 2014 as Levine said he was moving into “a smaller, more entrepreneurial endeavor at Take-Two.”