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Blitz lays off over 150 staff, ceases trading as two senior developers form new Leamington Spa studio

Thursday, 12th September 2013 11:24 GMT By Dave Cook

Blitz Games Studios has laid off as many as 175 staff members and has ceased trading as of this morning, the firm has announced. In the wake of the troubles, two former senior Blitz Games Studios developers have opened a new studio in Leamington Spa.

According to a statement from management, the firm has made “every effort to seek avenues for new contracts and external investment,” but have been unable to secure enough funds to sustain the business in its current form.

However, two of the developer’s current projects are self-sustaining financially, therefore, Blitz senior management will be forming a new company to “service these clients and safeguard approximately 50 of the 175 jobs being lost today.”

In addition, Oxford-based developer Rebellion are also in close talks with Blitz management to potentially hire some of the remaining staff.

“We have managed to weather numerous storms over the last two decades that have sadly seen the demise of many of our friends and colleagues across the industry, but the run of problems we’ve had to face over the last year is unlike any we’ve seen before,” said Blitz Games Studios co-founder and CEO Philip Oliver.

“Frustrations with clients, the global economic crisis, and more than our fair share of simple bad luck have all conspired against us and we are no longer able to continue trading.

“It has been an absolute honor to lead such an extraordinary group of highly talented people who have consistently pushed boundaries and created amazing games that we’ve been hugely proud of. We’ve been humbled by the loyalty and commitment that they’ve all shown over the last 23 years and we would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all of our staff, past and present, for their years of loyalty, their creative drive and their commitment to Blitz and to us.

“We have done all that we can to make Blitz a success, and we have come frustratingly close in recent months. Major clients have felt unable to commit to investment in significant projects, others have changed strategy whilst appearing committed, and others have been slow to commit at all – all of these things have continued to hurt our finances. We have also sustained the business for some time with our personal savings but even those reserves have now been exhausted.

“We’d like to publicly thank Chris and Jason Kingsley from Rebellion for their support and friendship during this time – they are acting incredibly honourably and helping us to find new roles for as many of our staff as possible. They began their careers in games at around the same time we did and epitomise the positive and supportive culture of long-standing game developers in the UK.

“We wish the very best of luck to all the staff who are sadly leaving us today and thank them again for their drive, creativity and enthusiasm. They, like us, are passionate about games, and we call on the rest of the industry to capture their passion and continue the careers of some of the most talented young creatives in the country.”

UPDATE 2: Speaking with Develop, former Blitz project directors Oliver Clarke and Steve Stopps announced the formations of a new studio called Game Lab Social.

“Leamington Spa is a hotbed of creative talent and ideas waiting come together, and with this space, we’d like to help creatives realize their vision in a supportive environment,” said co-founder Stopps to the site.

“We’re saddened by the closure of Blitz Game Studios, and as a former employees, we’ll do everything we can to help connect creative talent to enable them to get straight back into what they do best; making fantastic games.”

The purpose behind the company is to help “foster creativity, collaboration and knowledge sharing” by hosting workshops, on-site training and access to marketing, pitching and monetization information to local developers.

Game Lab Social will be supported by Warwick District Council.

UPDATE: Oddworld developer Just Add Water has reached out to those affected by the Blitz lay-offs and is offering them the chance to apply for roles at the studio. In a statement to VG247, CEO Stewart Gilray said, “I’m deeply saddened to hear today that Blitz has ceased trading. 23 years is an exceptional loss to the industry. In light of this news we would like to talk to programmers and possibly others. Info will be available on the below link.”

You can apply for roles at the studio here.

ORIGINAL STORY: CVG reports that Blitz executives have informed the payroll that 80% of its workforce must now be cut, which has apparently resulted in 175 of the 200 workers losing their jobs. The decision was revealed during a business meeting at the studio on Wednesday.

MCV adds that Oxford developer Rebellion has offered to hire some of the staff affected by the closure, and that two of the studio’s current releases are presently sustainable. They will be continued by the formation of a new 50-strong company.

The UK studio was founded 23 years ago by Phil and Andrew Oliver, or as they were known in the Spectrum and C64 heyday ‘The Oliver Twins.’ The duo hit the big time with their iconic Dizzy series and its many sequels. Blitz has been an active player in lobbying the British Government on pressing games industry matters, hiring UK academics and supporting the nation’s indie scene.

In a statement, Phil Oliver said of the closure, “We have managed to weather numerous storms over the last two decades that have sadly seen the demise of many of our friends and colleagues across the industry, but the run of problems we’ve had to face over the last year is unlike any we’ve seen before. Frustrations with clients, the global economic crisis, and more than our fair share of simple bad luck have all conspired against us and we are no longer able to continue trading.

“It has been an absolute honour to lead such an extraordinary group of highly talented people who have consistently pushed boundaries and created amazing games that we’ve been hugely proud of. We’ve been humbled by the loyalty and commitment that they’ve all shown over the last 23 years and we would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all of our staff, past and present, for their years of loyalty, their creative drive and their commitment to Blitz and to us.

“We have done all that we can to make Blitz a success, and we have come frustratingly close in recent months. Major clients have felt unable to commit to investment in significant projects, others have changed strategy whilst appearing committed, and others have been slow to commit at all – all of these things have continued to hurt our finances. We have also sustained the business for some time with our personal savings but even those reserves have now been exhausted.

“We’d like to publicly thank Chris and Jason Kingsley from Rebellion for their support and friendship during this time – they are acting incredibly honourably and helping us to find new roles for as many of our staff as possible. They began their careers in games at around the same time we did and epitomise the positive and supportive culture of long-standing game developers in the UK.

“We wish the very best of luck to all the staff who are sadly leaving us today and thank them again for their drive, creativity and enthusiasm. They, like us, are passionate about games, and we call on the rest of the industry to capture their passion and continue the careers of some of the most talented young creatives in the country.”

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2 Comments

  1. Gheritt White

    Dead to Rights: Retribution was actually pretty fun, if hoaky as hell.

    #1 11 months ago
  2. TheBlackHole

    @1 the EP on that project is now at Bossa, making games like Surgeon Simulator and winning BAFTAs. They didn’t keep talent like that very long.

    I think Mike Bithell (of Thomas Was Alone fame) is another ex-alumni of theirs.

    #2 11 months ago

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