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Rumour: Free Radical shutting up shop? [Update]

Thursday, 18th December 2008 11:45 GMT By Patrick Garratt

freeradlogo.jpg

Word’s spreading that Free Radical may have closed its doors.

The UK developer currently isn’t answering its phone.

Free Rad’s known to be working on Star Wars: Battlefront 3 and TimeSplitters 4.

Know what’s going on? Let us know.

Thanks, Hunam.

Update: CVG’s reporting that FRD’s Christmas party wasn’t the most pleasant of affairs. It doesn’t sound good.

Update 2: We’ve been told staff have congregated at a nearby hotel after finding the developer locked this morning. GI’s saying the same thing, and has posted the closure as fact.

Update 3: Just got this from a developer source:

“They changed the locks yesterday, and turned up today to find the place shut and locked up this morning. They are all waiting to find out exactly whats going on and IF the company still exists in some way, or if this is the end of the line.

Shitty thing to happen this close to Xmas, and Haze aside, to one of the best devs in England.”

Update 4: It’s just been confirmed by a solid source to VG247 that Free Rad lost the Battlefront project months ago. Rebellion’s rumoured to have picked it up, but we can’t confirm that. Our source says the developer was “struggling” to find a publishing deal for TimeSplitters 4.

Update 5: And that’s that, pretty much.

Breaking news

77 Comments

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  1. Syrok

    I hope that rumour is not true.

    #1 6 years ago
  2. Blerk

    Fingers crossed for the lads. :-(

    #2 6 years ago
  3. Retroid

    I was waiting for this to turn up on here.

    I really hope it’s not true, and what a sodding awful time for it to happen if it is :(

    #3 6 years ago
  4. Truk

    There’s been rumblings about bad things at FRD for the past couple of months, but from reports it’s looking like it’s all coming to a head.

    Shitty situation. Much condolences to all involved. :-(

    #4 6 years ago
  5. Hunam

    Yeah, thought I’d send these boys a quick mail to see if they can find anything else out. I really hope it’s not true.

    /prays to his dark gods

    #5 6 years ago
  6. Blerk

    Doesn’t look good judging by the latest post.

    #6 6 years ago
  7. GordonR

    Not so Hazelol.

    #7 6 years ago
  8. Psychotext

    If this is true, good luck guys and gals. Absolutely shitty situation and I hope you can all find jobs really quickly. :(

    #8 6 years ago
  9. deftangel

    I know I really didn’t like Haze but :-(

    #9 6 years ago
  10. VIP0R

    Maybe there not answerin there phone because its there Christmas Holidays?

    Well we can hope thats why!

    #10 6 years ago
  11. Robo_1

    This would be sad news. Is the industry really at a point where one flop will result in the end of the studio? Sure, Haze wasn’t much cop, but people certainly went into overdrive with the mud slinging.

    I recently played through Timesplitters: Future Perfect, and really enjoyed it. They really should have gone straight into that franchise as their first next gen project. I can only echo other people’s sentiments, that I hope they pull through, and what a terrible time for it to be happening if true :(

    #11 6 years ago
  12. Johnny Cullen

    I am really hoping this is just a false alarm and that they are just away for the Xmas holidays.

    If this is true, it’ll be a sad loss for gaming.

    #12 6 years ago
  13. OJ1984

    This would be total pants if it’s true, I loved Timesplitters 2 back in the day, was looking forward to 4.

    #13 6 years ago
  14. Blerk

    It doesn’t seem very likely that the guy with the only set of keys would go off on his Christmas hols without telling the rest of the staff, unfortunately. :-(

    I think Haze suffered because it was a PS3 game. By most accounts it wasn’t actually that bad, but people targetted it because they wanted the PS3 to fail rather than the game. Sony had built it up to be something that (perhaps) it could never be, and there’s nothing the internets likes more than rubbing Sony’s face in it whenever they get the chance.

    #14 6 years ago
  15. GordonR

    Kotaku and CVG have the story too, but both still at the unconfirmed rumour stage. The CVG piece includes gristly details of a recent FRD night out that sounds less like a Christmas party and more like a slightly premature wake.

    #15 6 years ago
  16. ecu

    It’d be sad if they went under, but I think the talent would stay in the industry.

    #16 6 years ago
  17. G1GAHURTZ

    Whatever feelings I might have for FRD or it’s staff, this isn’t good news for the industry…

    Hope they can salvage some sort of last minute deal if it is indeed true.

    #17 6 years ago
  18. Robo_1

    There’s some truth to that Blerk. PS3 really needed a top tier FPS at the time, and when Haze failed to deliver, people really went into over drive.

    It was average at best though, and brought nothing fresh to the table. It was also a complete technical mess, which being a PS3 exclusive, gave the fanboys more ammo to shoot it down with.

    In many respects it deserved to fail, especially as Doak was talking it up as the next big thing, but it didn’t deserve to be torn to pieces the way it was.

    Wasn’t Free Radical one of the few developers who paid their staff for over time too? That in itself would make their closure a real shame, as it was the right example to set.

    #18 6 years ago
  19. patlike

    The stuff I’m hearing’s not good. Nothing concrete, though. Hopefully I’ll have something worth updating soon.

    #19 6 years ago
  20. Hunam

    GI.biz and EG frontpage just posted a story, but again, still not 100%

    #20 6 years ago
  21. Michael O'Connor

    “Whatever feelings I might have for FRD or it’s staff, this isn’t good news for the industry…”

    Companies close up shop daily, and people have been lamenting the “deaths” of these developers for years like it was something new and outrageous every time it happened. This isn’t a new thing.

    I can’t think of a single FRD game that I ever particularly liked all that much, though I do feel bad for people who might loose their jobs over this.

    #21 6 years ago
  22. patlike

    Updated. I’d be very surprised if this wasn’t true now.

    #22 6 years ago
  23. dirigiblebill

    Poor bastards :( best of luck finding new jobs.

    Has anyone been in touch with nekotcha?

    #23 6 years ago
  24. patlike

    Updated again.

    #24 6 years ago
  25. deftangel

    Didn’t Sony pay out for exclusivity on Haze? I guess most of the cash went to Ubi and not back out again :(

    I can’t believe the Star Wars Battlefront title will get canned so hopefully that gives some of those working on it a way out. Sucks for the others though

    #25 6 years ago
  26. ecu

    People are saying they lost the Battlefront game months ago.

    #26 6 years ago
  27. Blerk

    Rumour has it that the Battlefront title had already been moved to Rebellion even before this happened. Indeed, it may well turn out to be the cause of these events.

    Edit: snap! :-D

    #27 6 years ago
  28. Hunam

    Fucking Lucasarts.

    Pitchforks and torches!

    #28 6 years ago
  29. G1GAHURTZ

    Weren’t EA doing Timesplitters 4?

    They must have pulled out of that too…

    #29 6 years ago
  30. patlike

    They did lose Battlefront. Updated.

    #30 6 years ago
  31. Blerk

    TS4 was still unsigned – possibly another contributing factor to their demise.

    #31 6 years ago
  32. patlike

    If they lost the Lucas money and couldn’t find some through TS, that probably explains it.

    #32 6 years ago
  33. Hunam

    So, not content with just ruining Star Wars, they are now ruining the other fun stuff in the world? What next? Are they going to burn down theme parks?

    Cunts.

    #33 6 years ago
  34. Blerk

    It’s a damned shame. Frankly I’m somewhat surprised that they weren’t bought up years ago by one of the biggies (Sony, EA, Ubi, etc.) looking for an in-house FPS shop.

    We might bitch and moan about our devs, but we don’t like to lose any of them.

    #34 6 years ago
  35. GordonR

    @deftangel

    Haze was originally announced for 360 also, although MS seem to have (wisely) pulled out early. If Sony paid extra for it as an exclusive, they were seriously had.

    There’s a post on Kotaku from someone with sources in the company. if true, the story is they’re scaling down to team of 37. Drastic, but still not deceased.

    Of course, if they haven’t actually got any projects in development that have been picked up by publishers…

    #35 6 years ago
  36. ecu

    Time to start making XBLA/PSN/WiiWare games, I reckon.

    #36 6 years ago
  37. Blerk

    It was supposed to be on the PC, too.

    #37 6 years ago
  38. Psychotext

    Just saw the new updates. :(

    #38 6 years ago
  39. deftangel

    @GordonR – My impression at the time was that Sony certainly were had. It would be daft to go exclusive on the PS3 with an FPS sans a moneyhat now, let alone then so I’d find it difficult to believe otherwise. I seem to remember them gobbing off about it at their E3 conference to boot.

    The Kotaku story sounds like it could be feasible though presumably they haven’t “lost” TS4, just scratching around for a publisher?

    #39 6 years ago
  40. Blerk

    But at the time the decision was made to go PS3 exclusive, people were still fully expecting the PS3 to kick the 360′s teeth in by Christmas. I’m sure it seemed like a sound business decision at the time.

    #40 6 years ago
  41. G1GAHURTZ

    @ deftangel:

    TS4 is no small title.

    In a time where everyone admits that it’s franchises that get the most sales, I find it strange that they were struggling to find a publisher.

    As for when Haze went PS3 exclusive, then we’re talking about a time when almost everyone was still convinced that the PS3 was going to win this generation with ease.

    Analysts and gamers alike.

    So the temptation to go PS3 exclusive is probably much less now than it was then.

    Anyway, nobody could really have guessed what would happen to Haze. We’re talking about the talent behind GoldenEye that built up a successful franchise on the PS2/GCN whilst maintaining independence and looked to be moving from strength to strength.

    To be honest, to this day I’m still totally suprised at what happened to Haze. I was sure that it was going to be one of the PS3′s best games.

    #41 6 years ago
  42. G1GAHURTZ

    @ Blerk:

    Oh snap!

    #42 6 years ago
  43. Johnny Cullen

    Any updates yet since the last one, Pat?

    #43 6 years ago
  44. deftangel

    Haze was announced as a PS3 exclusive at e3 2007. I’m not sure the general concensus was that the PS3 was going to “smash the 360 by Christmas” that many months after launch. I’d be staggered if money wasn’t involved.

    As for TS4 though, I’m surprised as anyone nobody has wanted to pick that up. Sort of thing I could see Sega publishing, for example.

    #44 6 years ago
  45. SticKboy

    What *would* Shatner have to say about all this anonymous reporting, eh? Shame on those involved.

    #45 6 years ago
  46. Tiger Walts

    I think Sony should carry a little of the blame for Haze. If you pay for an exclusive, then you should see that investment is used wisely by assigning your own exec producer to the project to make sure things are going on track. And if they did do that, well… he/she didn’t do their job.

    #46 6 years ago
  47. Blerk

    Oh, I’m sure money was involved. But PS3 success was still pretty much considered a done deal at that point despite a slower-than-expected start, and that probably made the deal even more appealing. I don’t think anyone expected what has actually happened.

    #47 6 years ago
  48. Psychotext

    @SticKboy: Shatner’s probably getting drunk with the rest of the FRD staff right now. Poor bastard.

    #48 6 years ago
  49. deftangel

    @Blerk before the $599 E3 conference I’d have agreed with you but if the writing was on the wall in pencil at that point it was starting to be gone over in biro in the months after launch. Perhaps it’s the ex-Box fanboy in me, I feel less surprised :)

    As for Haze, they did delay it from late 2007 till May this year. I was staggered when it reappeared they hadn’t changed all that much.

    #49 6 years ago
  50. Truk

    “Shame on those involved.”

    Indeed. There’s some naughty quoting going on here. :-(

    #50 6 years ago
  51. Blerk

    Gosh, was Haze really this year? It seems so long ago now.

    #51 6 years ago
  52. GordonR

    On the plus side, that’s hopefully the last we’ll hear of Rob ’1000-page screenplay’ Yescombe…

    #52 6 years ago
  53. Robo_1

    Any details on why they lost the Battlefront project? Doesn’t bode well if Lucas Arts lost confidence in them!

    #53 6 years ago
  54. airdom

    I feel bad for the poor fellas there…but what can you expect when you’ve made games like Haze, Timesplitters, Second Sight.

    You gotta make good games that sell well to make money and stay alive. =/

    #54 6 years ago
  55. Blerk

    Hey, man – Second Sight was great!

    #55 6 years ago
  56. Gekidami

    The TimeSplitters series was great airdom, little is the number of people that think otherwise.

    #56 6 years ago
  57. Johnny Cullen

    http://www.edge-online.com/features/source-free-radical-locked-up

    A bit more details from Edge.

    And this too from a Twitter:

    http://twitter.com/dan13l/status/1064980821

    #57 6 years ago
  58. Blerk

    Edge have lots of insider rumours.

    #58 6 years ago
  59. Hunam

    From Edge:

    “Doak reportedly “officially” left the company early this month, and Ellis has set up another company called Pumpkin Beach, which already has a placeholder website registered under his name. The two are reportedly working on this project together and will “hand pick” Free Radical staff to join them”

    I hope those ‘hand picked’ employee’s tell them to go fuck themselves.

    #59 6 years ago
  60. G1GAHURTZ

    Unless they don’t have any idea of how difficult it’s very likely to be to find a job in the industry over the next couple of years, I seriously doubt that they would.

    #60 6 years ago
  61. airdom

    @ Blerk & @Gekidami

    sure maybe the games were good, but if the sales aren’t there to back the games financially, then it is really unsuccessful =/

    #61 6 years ago
  62. Truk

    “Unless they don’t have any idea of how difficult it’s very likely to be to find a job in the industry over the next couple of years, I seriously doubt that they would.”
    Can you prove this is going to happen? We’re still recruiting and I know we’re not the only ones.

    #62 6 years ago
  63. G1GAHURTZ

    Yeah, but I’m sure that you won’t be recruiting everyone in the country, will you??

    We’re talking about all of the unemployed experienced staff who are already looking, then any experienced staff from any studios that might suffer the same end as FRD, then all of the most talented experienced staff who are in work who are looking for something new. Then all of the top graduates, then all of the other graduates who didn’t get the top grades and are willing to work for next to nothing. Then all of the ones from related industries like graphic design/IT/web development who have lost their jobs and are looking at a new industry.

    Then on top of that, don’t forget all of the belt-squeezing from even the top publishers such as EA, Take Two, etc.

    The hard times for the games industry are on the way, and FRD closing is just the beginning, I’m sure…

    #63 6 years ago
  64. Truk

    Eh? We’re recruiting. Plenty of other people are recruiting. As far as I can see there isn’t a crisis in the games industry this year that is any more drastic than it was last year. Developers go pop all the time, large and small. The scenarios that you describe existed last year and they’ll exist next year.

    Do you have any experience of what you’re talking about or are you just guessing?

    #64 6 years ago
  65. Psychotext

    Edge have updated their article with details of the meeting: http://www.edge-online.com/features/source-free-radical-locked-up

    #65 6 years ago
  66. deftangel

    ^^
    Which is why the UK Govt. need to pull their finger out of their ass on some tax incentives pronto before what’s left of the UK development industry fucks off to Canada or Asia. If Free Radical can get products from established franchises like Battlefront canned it could be other work for hire studios like Kuju or Rebellion next, through no fault of their own.

    Of course throwing lots of money at talking about age ratings is much more important right now as far as they’re concerned :|

    #66 6 years ago
  67. Axle

    @Deft:

    Yeah but the videogames industry just simply isn’t as important politically or culturally is it?

    #67 6 years ago
  68. deftangel

    No, but it’s potential to generate revenue for UK.biz is rapidly diminishing so given the massive loan they’ve got on their back you’d think they would want to take some steps to halt that particular decline. It would probably have cost a fraction of what the pointless VAT cut has to match the incentives they have over in Montreal.

    #68 6 years ago
  69. Axle

    I think we should be investing in it from a political standpoint. All of the devs I’vwe spoken to have said that going abraod is hjghly viable from a creative and economic point of view.

    It’s a fucking disgrace how our games indiustry is treated by central government when the film industry is backed to the hilt – at least games make a profit – unlike the film industry.

    #69 6 years ago
  70. G1GAHURTZ

    @ Truk:

    No, the situation is nothing like last year. Where have you been over the last few months? Not noticed the whole world is suffering from the continually worsening credit crisis?

    That means that money’s going to be a lot more difficult to come by next year.

    Last year FRD could probably have walked into a bank, shown a manger an early build of TS4 and walked away with enough of a loan to keep them ticking over for the next few months.

    Not so now.

    It’s the same with the publishers who pretty much every developer relies on for money.

    People are being a lot more careful now, and the fact that not even a single developer dared to take a chance on TS4 speaks volumes.

    Even Ghostbusters got dumped before Atari took it on, because it wasn’t seen as enough of an exploitable franchise.

    As for me, then yeah, I’ve worked in this industry for around 8 years now. I’ve suffered redundancies and studio closures in that time, so I know the way of the industry, and I know how hard it is to find a job even when almost everyone is recruiting.

    The fact is that there are simply a massive amount of people looking for a few jobs in an industry that’s about to start being very careful where it invests its money over the next couple of years.

    #70 6 years ago
  71. patlike

    Last update. Looks pretty much like case closed.

    #71 6 years ago
  72. deftangel

    You can add to the above the fact that Free Radical recruitment adverts have been almost omnipresent on GamesIndustry.biz the last couple of years. With the team sizes you need now to get a AAA product out the door there’s almost a boom/bust cycle where a studio ramps up the numbers for production on project and then cuts right down when it comes to pre-production on the next.

    So the fact that there might be lots of recruitment going on for what is green lit isn’t *on it’s own* an indication of a healthy development industry. What I think we will see over the next couple of years or so are a few more projects canned because they can’t guarentee a return on investment. It’s going to be a bit of a horrendous time to get any new IP out the door that’s for sure.

    And like G1GA says, credit facilities for more or less anyone are fucked.

    #72 6 years ago
  73. Truk

    “Last year FRD could probably have walked into a bank, shown a manger an early build of TS4 and walked away with enough of a loan to keep them ticking over for the next few months.”

    That wouldn’t help. No one wanted to publish TS4. And the LA project was stripped from them. Therein lies their problem.

    “People are being a lot more careful now, and the fact that not even a single developer dared to take a chance on TS4 speaks volumes.”

    Why would a developer take on TS4?

    “Even Ghostbusters got dumped before Atari took it on, because it wasn’t seen as enough of an exploitable franchise.”
    But Atari took it on. Atari seem to know what they’re doing.

    “The fact is that there are simply a massive amount of people looking for a few jobs in an industry that’s about to start being very careful where it invests its money over the next couple of years.”

    Thank fuck for that. This industry needs to start being careful. Too much carelessness costs jobs. Being careful creates them.

    I don’t know who you work for or know, but everything I’ve experienced and heard from others is that it’s hard to find good, experienced staff in the UK. I’m certain the good staff from FRD will walk into jobs.

    #73 6 years ago
  74. deftangel

    “I don’t know who you work for or know, but everything I’ve experienced and heard from others is that it’s hard to find good, experienced staff in the UK. I’m certain the good staff from FRD will walk into jobs.”

    I think this is still true seeing as there appear to be a lot of people coming out of the plethora of Games degrees the Universities are pushing who most developers don’t fancy touching with a barge pole. Experience etc. will always win out over them.

    But I don’t see all of the FRD staff walking into jobs straight away so I don’t view the possibility of it becoming much much harder to find a job in 2009 as that unlikely either.

    #74 6 years ago
  75. G1GAHURTZ

    Why would a developer take on TS4?

    Publisher… I meant publisher, obviously.

    But Atari took it on. Atari seem to know what they’re doing.

    Yeah, right… Atari know what they’re doing??

    Just like they knew what they were doing with Alone in the Dark, eh?

    I don’t know who you work for or know, but everything I’ve experienced and heard from others is that it’s hard to find good, experienced staff in the UK. I’m certain the good staff from FRD will walk into jobs.

    I’d like to know who you work for… If I start seeing stories over the next two years about your company struggling, you can remind me and deftangel about just how safe and secure our industry is.

    Let me know, you can hit me up on LIVE if you want. My gamertag is obviously G1GAHURTZ.

    #75 6 years ago
  76. Hunam

    Abit vindictive there Giga?

    #76 6 years ago
  77. G1GAHURTZ

    Not at all.

    I just expect a lot less from the games industry than Truk. It’d be interesting to see who is the better judge of the state of the industry between us, that’s all.

    Just for fun.

    Like picking a winner at the beginning of the football season.

    #77 6 years ago