Project Gotham Racing developer Bizarre Creations recently revealed that its relationship with Microsoft grew strained during the final weeks of PGR4 development, a situation that contributed to the studio’s decision to move to the Activision banner.
Bizarre Creations had operated as an independent developer since its founding as Raising Hell Software in 1988 and became well known for its Xbox-exclusive Project Gotham Racing franchise. But in September 2007 it was acquired by Activision, in part, according to co-founder Martyn Chudley, because of the deteriorating relationship between Bizarre and Microsoft.
“I’m not going to slag [Microsoft] off in an evil way, but obviously we worked on PGR4 for them, and I think that PGR4 was the strongest Gotham game we did – the most fully rounded,” he said in an interview with Edge. “But towards the end of that project they wanted us to bring it in early, to chop six weeks off development. But the way we work is really right up to the wire, so basically the game is nowhere near finished at six weeks to go, so we had to dig our heels in and say that our contract said that we’re to bring the game in on this day, and that’s what we were going to do because we cannot compromise the work that the lads have been doing, and the quality of the game.”
“They didn’t realize how bad a situation it would have been – we needed that extra six weeks, and it got us concerned with the future with Microsoft,” he continued. “We were getting disillusioned with Microsoft and they were getting corporate and cocky as well because of the shift in power between them and Sony.”
He added that Microsoft’s focus on the Forza Motorsport series was “disappointing,” because while Project Gotham 4 was critically acclaimed, it didn’t get the same level of marketing and exposure and thus wasn’t as commercially successful. Meanwhile, Activision had come calling; it was the third-largest publisher in the world at the time but had no “racing studio” and had been unable to come up with a decent racing game on its own.
“We knew that Activision didn’t have this racing title that it wanted and we got closer and closer and eventually instead of us working for them on other projects, the whole acquisition came about,” Chudley said. “They can market and promote a game far in excess of what Microsoft did. They’re really strong, and that’s something we’ve really desired.”