Bizarre Creations staff discuss Activision takeover

Ex-management say company culture changed, studio had chance to buy itself back

High level management staff from defunct studio Bizarre Creations have discussed the effect which the Activision takeover had on company culture, also revealing that the studio was given the opportunity to buy itself back and become independent again.

In an interview with Edge magazine, creative director Martyn Chudley, commercial manager Sarah Chudley, and design manager Gareth Wilson spoke about the sense that control over projects was gradually taken away from the studio, eventually feeling like design by committee.

"I don't think the atmosphere differed too much during the years before Activision," Martyn Chudley told Edge. "We were always proudly independent. However, when Activision took over, we really felt that they would leave our culture alone, and for a while it was fine, but slowly the feeling did start to change.

"We weren't an independent studio making 'our' games anymore - we were making games to fill slots. Although we did all believe in them, they were more the products of committees and analysts. The culture we'd worked on for so long gradually eroded just enough so that it wasn't 'ours' anymore."

However, Chudley seemed in acceptance over the realities of large-scale development, saying that team size made it difficult to keep everybody engaged on a personal level.

"[It was] just the reality of managing so many people," Chudley continued. "It's a challenge for any studio these days to make everyone on the team feel like they're really contributing to a game when there could be well over 100 people on a single game in production."

Surprisingly, Activision, as well as looking for a third-party buyer before closing the studio, also offered management the chance to buy the studio back - something which was deemed non-viable by senior studio staff. The studio had grown too large, it was felt, to be managed effectively by senior staff, although a third-party buyer would have been welcomed.

"Without going into details, yes, there was [an opportunity]," Martyn Chudley clarified. "But I personally thought there was far greater potential for the security and well-being of the company if a third party could come in."

"In any case," his wife Sarah continued, "Bizarre had grown even more since [Activision] took over, and we just didn't have the skills, capability or finances to look after over 200 people. Martyn and I were always small-company people, which is why we stepped aside when we realised it needed big-company skills to manage."

Since the closure of Bizarre, two new studios have been formed by ex-staff: Hogrocket and Lucid Games.

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Latest comments (3)

Terence Gage Freelance writer 9 years ago
But of course your company's 'independent spirit' is going to change when you're taken over by a huge multi-billion dollar business. If they really wanted to retain that then a degree of autonomy should have been drafted into the terms of sale contract.

It's a shame they really felt the need to sell the studio rather than just contract themselves out to work with Activision or another big publisher - assuming that the rumours they were pissed of with MS are true. As one of the world's premier racing studios, I'm sure they could have worked on their own IP with a big publisher on board, or perhaps even looked to alternate distribution methods such as Steam, XBL, PSN, etc.

Such a waste, but at least studios have risen from the ashes. Best of luck to anyone still struggling or looking for work.
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Dean Parker9 years ago
Its interesting. Robot Entertainment had the same option to carry the Ensemble Studios name forward when that studio closed down. Instead they formed a new smaller studio. Robot also described that it was more ideal to have a smaller company as it is much easier to manage than a 150 + person studio.

There are definitely some similarities between what happened with Ensemble and Bizarre. Both strong studio brand names with both senior management deciding to make new, smaller studios post closure from the parent publisher

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dean Parker on 7th April 2011 6:44pm

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Alan Mealor Lead Artist, Lucid Games9 years ago
I'm not too sure about that, Ensemble was told they were to close but MS still wanted them to complete work on Halo Wars, Bizarre was told of closure the same day as all projects were cancelled.
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