Guitar Hero Live, DJ Hero developer divorces Activision after years of Call of Duty and Skylanders jobbing, hooks up with Ubisoft

By Brenna Hillier, Thursday, 19 January 2017 05:28 GMT

FreeStyleGames has divorced Activision and married Ubisoft. Love is beautiful.

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In another thrilling episode of “the games industry is a lot more interesting if you pretend its a soap opera”, Ubisoft has purchased Guitar Hero Live developer FreeStyleGames from Activision.

Founded in Warwick in 2002, FreeStyleGames later moved to Slough, Berkshire. A team of former Rare and Codemasters staffers, it made its name jobbing for Sony on the Buzz series. Activision purchased the studio in 2008 and put it to work on two DJ Hero games as well as stacks of Guitar Hero content.

It then spent most of its time in a support role for Activision, working on multiple Skylanders and Call of Duty games before getting another chance to take on primary development duties again with Guitar Hero Live.

Although it reviewed well and outsold some earlier Guitar Hero entries, Guitar Hero Live didn’t hit Activision’s sales targets, and Eurogamer reports the publisher downsized the team in April 2014 to the tune of 50 employees – about half its total staff.

Not the most loving relationship, there, so let’s hope the team find comfort with Ubisoft. The studio has been renamed Ubisoft Leamington, Ubisoft has announced, and will be working closely with Ubisoft Reflections in Newcastle as well as international Ubisoft teams. You know how Ubisoft does it – half a dozen global teams on every triple-A launch.

Ubisoft Leamington will be led by Richard Blenkinsop, who will also run Ubisoft Reflections now that former managing director Pauline Langourieux has stepped down so she can get her hands dirty actually making games again.

Given the skillset of FreeStyleGames staff we’d expect to see the studio helping out with Ubisoft’s Just Dance or Rocksmith titles, but Ubisoft Reflections is no longer involved with music games. It led development on Grow Home and Grow Up, but has otherwise been jobbing on games like The Crew, The Division and Ghost Recon Wildlands. Perhaps the fact that Ubisoft has acquired a helper for the team means we may see a new Reflections-led project over the next few years.

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