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Activision considers Bizarre Creations sale

Tue 16 Nov 2010 7:21pm GMT / 2:21pm EST / 11:21am PST
PublishingDevelopment

Publisher admits new IP Blur failed commercially and is "exploring options" for Liverpool racing studio

Bizarre Creations

Bizarre Creations is a medium sized video game developer based in Liverpool, England.

Established...

bizarrecreations.com

Respected UK racing studio Bizarre Creations may be sold by owner Activision, after its most recent new IP, Blur, failed to find a commercial audience.

Activision has today said that it is exploring options for the business, after rumours emerged of lay-offs and a possible closure.

"Over the past three years since our purchase of Bizarre Creations, the fundamentals of the racing genre have changed significantly," said the publisher in a statement.

"Although we made a substantial investment in creating a new IP, Blur, it did not find a commercial audience.

"Bizarre is a very talented team of developers; however, because of the broader economic factors impacting the market, we are exploring our options regarding the future of the studio, including a potential sale of the business."

Activision bought Bizarre Creations in 2007. The studio is best known for its work on the Project Gotham series for Microsoft, but since being acquired has worked on Blur and a new James Bond game.

Staff at the studio are now on 90 days notice while their fate is considered.

46 Comments

Paul Smith
Dev

189 148 0.8
If Blur was priced better and given some ad-space it would of sold a lot better than it did, same for Singularity.

Posted:3 years ago

#1

Andrew Goodchild
Studying development

1,235 396 0.3
I wish Microsoft would buy it. Although it may be that they don't want to do nothing but PGR titles.

Posted:3 years ago

#2

Josef Brett
Animator

296 0 0.0
Blur was screwed by Acti from a marketing standpoint. It just wasn't given a fair chance IMO.

Posted:3 years ago

#3

Andrew Goodchild
Studying development

1,235 396 0.3
The timing, clashing with another game aimed at the same audience can't have helped, it just ended with people debating which was better, despite the fact that both were really good games. But I agree, Blur seemed to have weak advertising.

Posted:3 years ago

#4
I like how whenever a product doesn't succeed, people blame the marketing.
Blur just wasn't an appealing game, and got very mixed reviews. It was okay, but okay doesn't sell anymore, especially for a completely new license.
They just need to do better, period.

Posted:3 years ago

#5

Richard Gardner
Artist

123 32 0.3
I don't understand this, Blur wasn't exactly a massive success, but it did sell half a million. I don't see that as been a profitable margin but it also wasn't a catastrophic failure. As a studio with such a good track record it feels like an unhealthy way to invest into something. But with a solid list of titles under their belt I hope they find a good buyer, unless that's exactly what Activision are thinking.

Posted:3 years ago

#6

Paul Smith
Dev

189 148 0.8
@shann biglione

The game was good, It just wasn't worth Its price tag and its not going to be a big seller if no one knows about it, Iv seen far worse games sell more because of their marketing.

Posted:3 years ago

#7

Peter Shea
Contract Game Designer

18 14 0.8
@Shann Biglione

Blur has a metacritic of 82 with only 7 mixed reviews out of 78 total- 72 positive and 0 negative (using metacritic's criteria).

82 is the same metacritic rating as Split/Second incidentally. And a good average for any game.

Don't see how this adds up to "very mixed reviews" and the game just being "okay"?

Posted:3 years ago

#8

Ben Furneaux
Lead Designer

114 48 0.4
Bizarre are smart and very talented guys. They created one of the most successful racing franchises of all time and followed it up with Blur which was solid and actually attempted some really interesting online/social integration. A very commendable game released at perhaps the wrong time, but 500k is by no means a failure.

Not only that, but Bizarre also proved their flexibility with Geometry Wars. Given the budget to try something new I have no doubt they would have created something awesome.

Good luck guys, and feel free to come and work for Turbulenz :) (http://www.turbulenz.com/biz/careers)

Posted:3 years ago

#9

Ben Furneaux
Lead Designer

114 48 0.4
Also:

"Although we made a substantial investment in creating a new IP, Blur, it did not find a commercial audience."

..stinks of:

"See! Told you new IP doesn't make money. We did the right thing and look what happens. Only Call of Duty and Hero games forever now."

Posted:3 years ago

#10

Peter Kraus

5 0 0.0
This game was doomed from the start. Why would someone want to build up a realistic Setting with licensed cars and authentic locations, just to spoil it all with powerups that totally felt out of place? It's like topping your Vanilla-Ice-cream with olives.
A little more consistency into one of the two directions (either making a Sci-Fi-Racer with Sci-Fi-Powerups, or making a Real-Setting Racer with Real-Setting-Powerups like Hot Pursuit) would have prevented consumer-confusion. Blur screwed up on it's fundamental concept.

Posted:3 years ago

#11
Blur has a Metacritic ranking of 82, so I think it's a bit unfair to say it had mixed reviews. Especially given the "low" reviews of 70-80 were from mostly minor websites, while most major outlets gave it 80+. It wasn't the critical darling that the PGR series was, but to call its media reception "mixed" seems like a stretch. If anything, it was consistently well received. I did think the release conflicting with Split/Second was a very poor decision though.

Very sad to see *any* studio in this position, but particularly Bizarre as I've always had a soft spot for 'em. Been a huge PGR fan since the original MSR and although I did feel the series lost a little of its charm with the 4th iteration, I found Geometry Wars, The Club, Blur - hell, even Boom Boom Rocket - a lot of fun!

All the best to the team, hope you find a way to come out of this situation intact. Teaming with Microsoft to continue the PGR series as your bread and butter, with some smaller experimental IP on the sides, would be very nice from this fans point of view ;)

Posted:3 years ago

#12

Zan Toplisek

44 16 0.4
Everybody's forgetting a veritable Game of the Year contender, that is Red Dead Redemption. I'd say positioning Blur's and Split/Second's release dates that close to Red Dead's had a lot to do with their unsatisfactory sales.

The timing was most definitely wrong, as was the whole concept of Blur, like Peter Kraus pointed out in his comment.

Posted:3 years ago

#13

Samuel Chay Mottershaw
Studying Scriptwriting

10 0 0.0
That's a great shame, Blur sits proudly on my shelf as one of my favourite racing games.

Posted:3 years ago

#14

David Amirian
Writer

59 3 0.1
Bizarre has seemingly been nothing but a money sink for Activision. They haven't made anything that was supremely profitable for them, not to mention they need to make up whatever they spent on the company in the first place.

It shouldn't be altogether surprising, but it sucks seeing a developer get closed shortly after its bought since another suitor could have potentially kept it open longer. Maybe it was the marketing, maybe it was just the game itself, or maybe it was just the release. There's a reason why it didn't sell, and as far as Activision is concerned, it seems like its Bizarre's fault.

Posted:3 years ago

#15

robert troughton
Managing Director

219 93 0.4
What I really hate about stories like this is that publishers are simply laying the entire blame for failing products on developers. When a product is created in a Dev-Publisher partnership, there's a lot of interaction to get the product to market. Milestones. Playtests. The games are (usually) taken to the community to gauge response.

The fact that Bizarre's last 2 games weren't as big as Project Gotham shouldn't mean that 200 people could be made redundant.

There will be some fantastic programmers, artists and designers there. Don't scatter them to the wind - go in there, change things, get them a better product to work on and do something positive with the situation.

I really hope something positive happens for those guys.

If not, there'll be another 50-60 people going to Canada - and it'll be the cream of Bizarre's devs who go.

Posted:3 years ago

#16

Stefan Pettersson
Specialist Consultant

77 19 0.2
Blur was too hard in singleplayer to attract solodrivers while multiplayer online was a treat. Multiplayer alone is usually not enough to shift fullpriced units at retail. At least not on consoles. In my opinion they didn't do their homework when designing the game; who's our target audience should always be among the first questions settled straight. Looks like Bizarre aimed for grown up Mario Kart-players and there simply wasn't enough of them out there.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Stefan Pettersson on 17th November 2010 8:27am

Posted:3 years ago

#17

Mike Kebby
Marketing Manager

19 2 0.1
In regards to those discussing Metacritic; for the average consumer it doesn't matter what reviewers say, or that there is a site out there that aggregates scores, all that matters is that their attention is caught...and the majority of that is done by the marketing (or word of mouth).

Metacritic is a very useful tool for those within the industry, and to a small vocal minority of gamers, but to everyone else they probably don't pay it much mind.

As for the news on Bizarre, there is a huge wealth of talent that needs to remain in the industry and I wish them all well whatever happens.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Mike Kebby on 17th November 2010 8:34am

Posted:3 years ago

#18

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,156 1,076 0.5
Metacritic is a tool, period.

Posted:3 years ago

#19

Ben Furneaux
Lead Designer

114 48 0.4
I don't think it's fair to put 'blame' on either side. For whatever reason the product did not meet expectations (perhaps unrealistic expectations) which has been a contributing factor in Activision's decision.

But from my point of view Bizarre were bought by Activision, and as such they should have been given longer than 2 years to produce the 'hit' Acti were counting on. Blur 2 could have be exceptional, but there was not opportunity for iteration.

Bizarre are/were one of the UK's biggest devs since 1994, with bundles of personality (check out the staff quotes page on their website http://www.bizarrecreations.com/staff_qu... I'm just gutted to see them disperse like this.

Posted:3 years ago

#20

Del Hartin
Senior Designer

9 24 2.7
I have my fingers crossed for them. I hate that a studio is sometimes only judged on their last game. Geometry Wars? PGR? Hell, Fur Fighters! BC was a company that I thought would tread water easily. Good luck to them all.

Posted:3 years ago

#21
Here's to a buyer being found. I have a feeling at least one potential buyer might be out there, let's hope something happens to keep them going.

Posted:3 years ago

#22

David Blewett
Lead Artist

6 0 0.0
Good luck to all of the people there. Its another sad day, with this news coming a week after the news about the Monumentals layoffs. Fingers crossed that Bizarre Creations get bought by a more deserving owner.

Posted:3 years ago

#23

Ron Festejo
Creative Director

19 0 0.0
I thought Blur was a good game. Fun to play and had some really nice social networking features. It came out the same time as Split Second, right? It's going to be interesting to see what NFS: Hot Pursuit does, number wise. It's done massive numbers with its demo... which should translate into sales. I'm looking forward to getting a copy.

It's interesting to see if Criterion make another Burnout - or if EA can only sustain one racing game franchise. I see NFS: Shift 2 has just been announced too.

It's interesting times for the industry, at the moment. Lots of studios either closing, downsizing or being sold off. I hope it's just a blip and that it picks up soon.

Posted:3 years ago

#24

Terence Gage
Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
I haven't played Blood Stone, but Blur's a decent game that suffered from a few factors in my opinion, including: poor marketing (it did have a TV ad campaign, but seemed to have very little pre-release hype comparative to Split/Second), a horrible release window (going up against S/S, ModNation and, of course, Red Dead) and a concept that from the start many gamers found a bit too weird - i.e. the mash-up of licensed cars and real-world locations with power ups from Mario Kart or Wipeout.

I would like to see it get a sequel with some iteration and refinement, and I think it would snowball and turn into a solid franchise for Activision. It is, of course, worth bearing in mind that we are still in the midst of global financial problems, and most new IPs this year have underperformed.

Posted:3 years ago

#25

Stephen Woollard
Online Infrastructure Specialist

146 71 0.5
This to me signifies an important point that many overlook - "gamers" are apparently screaming out for new IP, but twhen someone makes said new IP, the "gamers" then go and buy a sequel to an existing franchise because it's seen as more of a safe bet.

Mirrors Edge was a classic example of this - scored well at review, maybe could have done with a bit more marketing, but I remember reading countless forum posts in the runup to that particular Christmas with folks posting their wish lists, and ME was on all of them, but almost to a man people bought MW2 because they knew it was going to be epic, it was a known quantity.

The trouble is people nowadays just don't have the disposable income to take a chance on new IP, especially if it comes at a time when an established IP is releasing a sequel.

Posted:3 years ago

#26
Blur was a very good title due to the expert balancing of the weapons and how this was intergral to the online experience. The social apsect of it was also very interesting, and I wonder if the game would have fared better had the online aspect been more heavily advertised. After all that's what Hot pursuit is banking on and while COD would still sell extremely well of the strength of it's singleplayer, 22m MW2 sales I am sure are down more to the proven multiplayer than anything else.
It was marketed, but not correctly in my opinion, and the ideal while off the wall, could have attracted a lot of people. LBP is a mix of platforming, scoial networking and level modding and no harm came to that franchise as it was not just marketed appropriately, but previewed appropriately for about 2 years before release. same with Assassin's Creed. Proven now....but if someone told you that you were to develop a free running game set in the middle ages with no guns, shooting ro typical 1st and 3rd person mechanics, while hardocre would have lapped it up, do you not think a lot of others would be skeptical. New concepts DO work, you just need to make sure your consumers UNDERSTAND these new concepts to get them bought in!

I've not seen anything for Blood Stone and singularity I didn't see any advertising (and that was a very good game). This has got to be instrumental to the demise of these products???

Someone should really buy Bizarre - with the right games and backing, they could turn their fortunes around.

Posted:3 years ago

#27

Steven Pick
Lead Graphic Designer

70 14 0.2
I really hope a buyer gets found sooner rather than later - I think that the staff won't be in for a great time waiting for outcomes to deals and may start moving to other prospects. I've been there myself, it's a horrible situation which ended in the worst possible way. I wish only nothing but good things for these guys.

It seems to be the norm these days to wipe clean studios which have had heritage and a lot of talent. It doesn't bode well at all for the future, especially for the UK dev industry.

Posted:3 years ago

#28

Matt Lowe
Associate Producer

6 0 0.0
Blur was a fantastic game. By no means was it perfect but it's a new franchise that showed a lot of promise, it just needed time to mature like all good IPs.

Call of Duty had several iterations before it finally broke into the 'mainstream', it seems unrealistic to expect Blur to immediately dominate the racing game market on its first release, as well as strange to give up on it after one attempt when the design showed so much potential.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Matt Lowe on 17th November 2010 2:44pm

Posted:3 years ago

#29

Keith Andrew
Editor, PocketGamer.biz

31 28 0.9
Blur was superb. Activision had no idea how to market it.

We can spin it out to a number of other factors, but that's basically the long and short of it, and why some folk are rather angry with Activision over the whole sorry affair.

Posted:3 years ago

#30

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,072 1,007 0.9
Talk about low maintenance this is it. If EA just puts a Need for Speed sticker of approval on every Bizarre Creation game, nobody would go home empty handed.

Posted:3 years ago

#31

Ben Furneaux
Lead Designer

114 48 0.4
@Peter "New concepts DO work, you just need to make sure your consumers UNDERSTAND these new concepts to get them bought in"

- Couldn't agree more. Hope you're well :)

Posted:3 years ago

#32

Stefan Pettersson
Specialist Consultant

77 19 0.2
At the time of Blur:s release I was hired by a chain of stores as a purchase manager. Due to the review embargo of Blur (+ an average demo) we skipped stocking Blur at all. There was no telling of Blur:s qualitys before release and stores don't wanna take unnecessary risks. Safe was Red Dead, taking a leap of faith was Blur. The choice was easy. This was only 20+ stores so Activision doesn't care.

The strange thing is Blur then ended up getting great reviews. We actually discussed this at the time of release; WHY have a review embargo if the scores top 80+?!?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Stefan Pettersson on 17th November 2010 4:16pm

Posted:3 years ago

#33

Terence Gage
Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
@ Stephen: "This to me signifies an important point that many overlook - "gamers" are apparently screaming out for new IP, but twhen someone makes said new IP, the "gamers" then go and buy a sequel to an existing franchise because it's seen as more of a safe bet."

I agree, and I think there's a balance to be maintained; I mean, of course people are going to want to buy sequels to their favourite games (I can't wait for sequels early next year like LBP2, Dead Space 2 and Trine 2), but we should also make the effort to support new franchises too. This year has been a mixture for me - I've loved titles like Demon's Souls, Heavy Rain and 3D Dot Game Heroes, and I've also indulged in the more typical sequels such as GoWIII and Red Dead.

"Mirrors Edge was a classic example of this"

Yeah, I really enjoyed MEdge - if any game this gen is crying out for a sequel, it's this one. It was definitely flawed in ways, but achieved some really clever ideas very smoothly and confidently in my opinion. The potential for a follow-up would be huge.

Posted:3 years ago

#34

Lewis Marriott
Functionality QA Tester

10 0 0.0
To say the power-ups in Blur were ill-placed is a bit short sighted - not everyone wants to play simulation games all day.

Posted:3 years ago

#35

Jason Sartor
Copy editor/Videographer

104 33 0.3
Blur's release window was very brutal. Split Second and Mod Nation Racers, which was a cart racing game released on the same day stateside, but with a major marketing push from Sony, and of course Red Dead.

Three racing games, three combat racing games in 14 days in particular, and Red Dead was just unfortunate or poor planning or a combination of both.

Still, Bizarre is a talented studio and their history and pedigree should have been enough for this not be a problem. Not every game is going to sell 10 million units.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jason Sartor on 17th November 2010 5:40pm

Posted:3 years ago

#36

Paul Smith
Dev

189 148 0.8
@Christian Slater

People still watch TV?!

Posted:3 years ago

#37

Josef Brett
Animator

296 0 0.0
Controversial statement: I prefered Blur to PGR.

Posted:3 years ago

#38

Jordan Lund
Columnist

25 59 2.4
I was vaguely aware of Blur but I had no idea it was done by Bizarre. I might have bought it had I known. Perhaps Activision needed to do a "From the development house that brought you Metropolis Street Racer and Project Gotham Racing comes... BLUR!"

Posted:3 years ago

#39

Andrew Goodchild
Studying development

1,235 396 0.3
@josef. So did I. It was great fun.

Posted:3 years ago

#40

Andrew Wilson
3D Artist

27 1 0.0
I don't recall even seeing Blur on the shelves over here in NZ, let alone in th media.
I reckon it was a stupid concept (from a marketing standpoint) well executed. I love racing games and love PGR but have zero interest in Blur.
I do however think Bizarre are awesome and hopefully someone can come in with the funds to save them!

Posted:3 years ago

#41
To those pointing metacritic at me... Yeah, Blur was "okay".
If you do not have a concept or name that sells, then you need a game that's awesome. Not just good, awesome. And Blur wasn't, period (you may have found it amazing, but it's not like there was a huge wave of amazed reviews out there crying for everyone to try it out).
The racing genre is clearly overcrowded, and Blur clearly had difficulties to stand out as a "pay full price" alternative to others.

Blur was so amazing that it didn't generate any buzz nor had a long tail, so please excuse me for pointing out that it's too easy to blame it on the lack of marketing.

I'm not saying that Blur was a bad game (and by no means do I say that Bizarre is a bad studio, they've done some amazing games!), but it's pretty clear to me that this particular game just didn't have what it takes to get people on board.
You may disagree with Activision's decision, but on the other hand, it's not your money at stake, and they're not running a charity.
Bizarre is a great studio, I can only hope someone will be inspired (and rich) enough to get them moving.

Posted:3 years ago

#42

Jamie Watson
Studying Bachelor of Games & Interactive Entertainment

179 0 0.0
overall i believe it looked like a good game,and i will be picking it up when i can.

BC is one of my favorite devs to support and i buy most of thier games when i can.

good luck guys

as for a buyer a 2nd that MS should buy them...would do them well...

Posted:3 years ago

#43

Adam Campbell
Studying Games Technology

101 0 0.0
I find it 'Bizarre' how publishers consider selling a studio after one, generic, failed game pegged by them. They should take more responsibility.

Posted:3 years ago

#44

Krasimir Koichev
Producer

35 0 0.0
Good luck to the guys of Bizarre Creations, I hope they find a better "master" than Activision.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Krasimir Koichev on 28th November 2010 3:26pm

Posted:3 years ago

#45
"Why would someone want to build up a realistic Setting with licensed cars and authentic locations, just to spoil it all with powerups that totally felt out of place?"

I'd have to disagree with you there. Personally I thought that mixing a realistic racer, with the arcade-style fun of games like Mario Kart was a great idea, and a really cool concept.

BurnOut isn't all that realistic if you think about it, but who cares if it's fun?

That said, vanilla racing games bore me to tears, so I might not be the audience that they really need to hit with a title like that.

Posted:3 years ago

#46

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