Bizarre staffers discuss closure, why it was sold to Activision

By Stephany Nunneley, Friday, 20 May 2011 21:32 GMT

Bizarre Creations’ creative director, Martyn Chudley, has said that before the firm’s buyout by Activision, Bizarre was doing well financially and had “several potential projects” to work on.

Speaking an interview with Edge, along with former Bizarre members Sarah Chudley and Gareth Wilson, Martyn Chundley said the reason Bizarre was signed over to Activision in the first place was to “safeguard the future,” of the firm.

“We had money in the bank, and several potential projects to work on,” said Chudley. “However, coming towards the end of Project Gotham Racing 4 and The Club, we took a decision that – as signing up new projects was a time-consuming and costly venture – affiliating ourselves more closely to a publisher would help provide security [to] safeguard the future, given that there would be no downtime between projects, or needing to go though the whole demo/pitch/negotiate cycle.

“Activision’s desire for a racing project just seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Also, with our then current partners, Microsoft didn’t want an action team, and Sega didn’t need a racing team. With Activision, with the racing desire and Bond licence, the entire studio was deemed a great fit.

“We were always proudly independent, and we always tried our best to do what we felt was right for our people, the games and the company. However, when Activision took over, we – and they themselves, I’m sure – really felt that they would leave our culture alone, and for a while it was fine, but slowly, as it seems happens with many corporate takeovers, the feeling did start to change. We weren’t an independent studio making ‘our’ games any more – we were making games to fill slots. Although we did all believe in them, they were more the products of committees and analysts.

“And when you add in corporate HR, corporate email, etc, the culture we’d worked on for so long gradually eroded just enough that it wasn’t ‘ours’ any more.”

“Why Bizarre was closed is way beyond my pay scale,” added Gareth Wilson, now with Sumo Digital. “If you want a personal opinion, though, I think it was a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances. If anything, the mistake we made was underestimating how difficult it was getting a new IP off the ground at this stage of the console cycle, especially in the racing space, which tends to perform better when a new console is launched.”

Martyn Chudley goes on to say that there was the opportunity to buy Bizarre back from Activision before the publisher shuttered it, but he “personally thought that there was far greater potential for the security and well-being of the company if a third party could come in.”

“Sadly, this was not to be the case,” he added.

“Bizarre had grown even more since they took over, and we just don’t have the skills, capability or finances to look after over 200 people,” added Sarah Chudley. “Martyn and I were always small-company people, which is why we stepped aside when we realised it needed big-company skills to manage.”

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