Updated: Black Rock Studios closing

Disney confirms closure of Brighton based Split/Second developer

UPDATE: Sources speaking to Eurogamer have revealed more about the studio's last project. It was a browser based game, apparently similar to RTS League of Legends, based in an alternative world and starring a god called Loki.

"The idea was that you had to do PVP and PVE to gain XP to somehow escape," the source told Eurogamer. "The game was intended to be released quite quickly, in beta anyway, in about six months or so," they added.

Brighton developer Black Rock Studios, best known for racing titles Pure and Split/Second, has been told by Disney that it is to close.

Eurogamer broke the news this morning, and Disney gave GI this brief official statement.

“Disney Interactive Studios confirms that Black Rock Studios' current project has not been greenlit for further development, consequently the company informed employees yesterday of the intent to enter a consultation process on the proposal to close the studios.”

Eurogamer heard from an anonymous source that the 40 remaining staff were told the news yesterday, in a meeting at Brighton Town Hall.

The source went on to accuse Disney off handling the developer "clumsily," outsourcing projects that Black Rock was more than capable of dealing with in house. The source also complained about an apparent lack of marketing for the developer's racing games.

Recently Disney cut back on staff numbers at Black Rock, which led to the creation of two new studios led by former employees. Roundcube Entertainment, headed up by Split/Second director Nick Baynes, and ShortRound Games, with game director Andrew Hubbard, creative and art director Steve Uphill, technical director Kim Burrows, technical art director Stuart Pharaoh.

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Latest comments (37)

Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D10 years ago
Good luck to the people down there, you're a great bunch. I used to do a LOT with Black Rock, but it's been a while since they've done anything other than handle most of their recruitment internally. I still keep in touch with a lot of them though.

Here's to better times for those affected.
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Steven Pick Lead Graphic Designer, Atomhawk Design10 years ago
Horrible news. I wish everyone affected all the best and hope you all land safely on your talented tootsies soon.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 10 years ago
Ugh, it's a horrible climate for big development studios in this country at the moment. Good luck to all affected, and **** you to Disney.
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Show all comments (37)
Antony Johnston Writer & Narrative Designer 10 years ago
Ah, bollocks. I was working with them on that latest game, it had real potential.

Best of luck to everyone there (and those who left earlier), a great team who've produced some fantastic games.
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Alex Wright-Manning Head of Recruitment, Splash Damage Ltd10 years ago
What a nightmare. All those guys who had to go through the process of securing places on the streamlined team, now have to start all over again. I really can't fathom exactly what Disney were thinking (other than saving money of course). Good luck to all the guys affected - I helped a lot of the guys from the first round of redundancies, but with several high profile layoffs at Ignition and THQ Digital it's an even tougher market now - hopefully we can assist these guys. Not a good year so far for the UK industry. :(
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Charlotte Snowdon Programmer 10 years ago
Good luck to them all. There goes another wonderful UK game developer, just because of bad management from higher up.
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Shame. Black Rock was a great studio. Hopefully everyone finds something soon.
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Jonathan O'Connor10 years ago
Sucks :/ Good luck to all the guys down there.
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I think Black Rock should just cut its ties from Disney and start themselves as a serious racing studio. It feels like Disney purchased a good racecar, took it to the local fair, then decided to pop round the local shop for groceries, stuck it in a garage, took out its engines and stuck it on a ford mondeo.

Deals via EA partners would probably have a better long term prospect and independancy.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Dr. Chee Ming Wong on 1st July 2011 11:22am

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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D10 years ago
@ Chee. I'm hoping another couple of start ups will emerge - I'm sure they will. This isn't the end for the people at Black Rock, it's just a new beginning.
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Mick Crane Technical Support 10 years ago
Disney = Mickey Mouse. Hardcore gamer = No thanks.

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David Amor Director, MAG Interactive10 years ago
Commiserations to those that remained at Black Rock. Better times lie ahead.

Quite a few videogame types will be in the Victory tonight. I'll buy you a beer and tell you about those better times.
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Andrew Robinson Art Quality Assurance, CCP Games10 years ago
Black Rock was somewhere I always aspired to work after they spoke at my university and shared a few pints at Develop a few years back. Great people and another harsh blow to UK games. Best of luck in the future to all involved.

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Tommy Thompson Studying Artificial Intelligence (PhD), University of Strathclyde10 years ago
*sigh* It's almost becoming a weekly event on this site...

Best of luck to all at Black Rock. Here's hoping you find something soon.
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Padraig Crowley Resourcing Manager, Eurocom Entertainment Software10 years ago
Was genuinely saddened to hear about this, it looked like they managed to hang in there and make a fresh start of it.
We'll be looking to head down there next week to chat to anybody who might be interested in the vacancies we currently have at Eurocom:
[link url=
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Adam Campbell Studying Games Technology, City University London10 years ago
I'm genuinely shocked. I hope the guys do alright for themselves in the future.
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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 10 years ago
Oh dear, good luck to you guys.

And I agree with Dr. Wong there, you guys could really do well by yourselves.
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Unfortunately, the era of starting up a 30-40man studio like Respawn in UK is slim without some modest investment.
That could really be a nice gap for a FPS IP to take on the global market, with the availability of middleware engines these days.
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Thomas Smith Technical Artist 10 years ago
Sorry to hear about Black Rock, I would advise to the dev's to get out of the UK, the industry is going the same way as the film industry did.
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Getting out of the UK does not solve anything.

Stay, fight and create. Be awesome!
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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 10 years ago
'Getting out of the UK' is one of the attitudes that has been ruining the country.

Business and investments being sold off when we can be perfectly self-sufficient here.
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Rich Sturgess Business Development Director - EMEA, Marmalade10 years ago
really quite sad, best of luck to those few that were left.


thanks, Mr Amor - for those that don't know or aren't connected to me on facebook, the second (first Friday of the month) Brighton Games People drinks is tonight at the Victory. Nothing precious about it, just nice people who work in (or are connected to) games coming together for a drink and a chat. Come and join us - 6pm upstairs at the Victory. Mine's a Sagres.
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Thomas Smith Technical Artist 10 years ago
Hey, I'm not having a go at the UK, and my "attitude" is about self preservation and its not ruining the country.
From my experience a number of work colleagues who stayed in the UK and went to other studios after Bizarre Creations was closed by Activision have found themselves made redundant 6 months down the line, Sony, THQ to name recent closures. Others who have moved further afield are still employed and are working on some great projects. The country does not support large developments, Thats not to say the micro-studios which which have risen from the ashes won't be successful but I see the situation for big studios only getting harder and the knock on effect is being a dev working on big titles is harder.
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Gregory Keenan10 years ago
@Thomas Smith you comment on the film industry is miss-placed. The film industry is doing brilliantly in the UK thanks to very nice tax breaks and a well established supply chain. I think last year was a new record on the number made in the UK.
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The thing to look at is the ratio of British owned independents vs foreign owned or major publisher owned companies.

I call this the Cadbury-Kraft effect (Kfarted).

A indie at some point in its journey reaches a mass effect whereby Cashflow = Expenditure, and has growing pains.
It can either stay organic (and maybe stagnant) or seek external investment.

Historical anecdotal evidence shows that once you are part of a larger group, I estimate there is a 23.5% chance of foreclosure (8/34) vs and equal 38.2% staying afloat as a larger group (13/34) or long term survival as a independent (13/34) .

Game history and popular culture can be very interesting in itself:

- Bizzare (bought by ATVI. Closed - undisclosed reasons)
- Bullfrog (bought by EA. Close) ---- > Lionhead
- Core Design (bought by Eidos. Kept Eidos financially solvent. Sold to Rebellion. IP sent to US. Studio gutted, looted and closed)
- Criterion (amazing pedigree of games. Produced Renderware. Bought by EA. 3D rendering tech used throughout EA. IPs owned, gutted. Derby Studio closed. Guildford studio assimilated)
- Juice Games (THQ Digital Warrington. Project Stormbirds was juiced. Closed)
- Oxygen studios (financial RIP?)
- Pivotal Games (SCi - Restructured and closed)
- Ultimate (-----> became Rare -----defunct)

Surviving (old skool) Indies

- Bitmap Brothers (Xenon, Speedball)
- Blitz games (mass market family titles & licensed IPs)
- Climax group (Overlord, Silent Hill: Shatterd Memories - large pedigree games
based in Portsmouth)
- Codemasters (F1 2010, Bodycount)
- Firefly studios (Stronghold series)
- Frontier Developments (Elite, Lost Winds & Kinect Disneyland Adventures, Kinectimals)
- Eurocom (Dead space Extraction, Goldeneye007; large pedigree of licensed IPs, arcade to console titles in Derby)
- JAGEX (Runescape, Stellar Dawn - largest indie developer/publisher online games)
- Introversion Software(DEFCON, Darwinia +)
- Kuju (tri-force of Zoe Mode, Headstrong & Vatra studios)
- Llamasoft (one man minter machine - mum/son super combo)
- Monumental (ex climax Nottingham)
- Red Redemption
- Relentless ( strategic partenrship with Chillingo)
- Revolution ( Broken Sword & Dr.Who series)
- Strawdog Studios (peppa pig anyone?)

Part of a larger family

- Creative Assembly (main beating drum of SEGA fortunes in the west, after SEGA US churned out failure after mediocre failure...)
- EIDOS (Square Enix London - manages western squeenix IPs)
- Free Radical (Crytek UK)
- Evolution Studios (SCE)
- Media Molecule (ex Lionhead ---> MM -----> SCE)
- Playfish ($400 million dollahs! by EA)
- Psygnosis (Lemmings.Wipeout. Multiple other titles ----> SCE Liverpool)
- Rare (from great games to all things Kinect ----->MS)
- Rocksteady (one good reboot makes it all worthwhile ------>Warners/SEL)
- Rockstar (North, Leeds, Lincoln, London - Rockon!)
- Splash Damage (Mod FTW + long term development with Bethesda)
- Sumo Digital (independent but part of a large group Foundation 9)
- Traveller's Tales (Successful symbiont: From Psygnosis to SEGA and now churning out Warner's Lego games these days as a independent)

- Edge Games (not really a functional game company)


Blackrock - A recap.

Pixel Planet was acquired by Climax and renamed Climax Brighton and subsequently Climax Racing (2004). Best known for the MotoGp series. Climax Racing was successful in its production of racing titles, and Buena Vista games (Disney) was keen to add a racing studio to its stable of games. (this was when Disney was following the AAA approach of games development prior to a total about face in circa 2010).

Thus, for a good few years, Disney (DIS) was relentlessly badgering Climax to sell off Climax Racing. Circumstances proved mutual at some point in 2006, and formed the Blackrock that went on to produce some great destructible environmental racing.

I even heard rumour that the conditions for the sale were, that DIS were to allow Black Rock studios independence as a racing studio unlike the current top down management. Chances are, since the closure of propaganda, all AAA disney studios stood no chance.

This in fact parallels the Disney culture whereby it has 30 odd VPs at any one time, and they let go some really senior talent in animation, went totally flat in terms of animation until John Lasseter rived the Walt tradition in its fullest. Will lessons be learnt, who knows.

Officially, there is no real reason why DIS would turn down perfectly great sequels to Split/Second and Pure. DIS new unholy pursuit of all things digital and fremium is probably a contributory management factor. We will never know for sure except to speculate to madness of it all.

Long story short, those that are part of a larger family survive best as a Independent. To all those at Blackrock, a final salute and hopefully from this, something greater can be achieved. Independent. British. Proud!

PS/ Apologies if I have missed any British indie game developer of note pre-2010

Edited 7 times. Last edit by Dr. Chee Ming Wong on 4th July 2011 12:49am

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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D10 years ago
Yeah, the film industry has gone from strength to strength and, ironically, we have other jurisdictions now complaining about the tax breaks we give the movie industry here. At this Canada Day thing tonight, I've just worked out there will be a group of about 10 of us - and all but 3 will be Canadians who have moved HERE to work in movies etc. On today of all days. You couldn't make it up.

Chee, that's a great post you just made.

Oh, and I'd highly recommend Padraig's post above - he's a really good guy, and Eurocom are a really good bunch in a beautiful part of the country.
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Jamie Ferguson Lead Designer, The Creative Assembly10 years ago
Yup, agree with Fran and Chris. Excellent post Chee.
The UK is quite capable of producing massive games that sell worldwide. I'm proud to work for a growing company born of British and European innovation and know-how. Keep lean, work hard, always try to improve and don’t stop to look back at your handy work.
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@ Chris - ah whoops. I dont have anything against the Scots. Honest!

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James Francis Assistant Producer / Production Assistant 10 years ago
My time at BlackRock although short was a great experience, all great and highly talented people, this is very sad news and I wish the best of luck to all my friends there.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Francis on 1st July 2011 9:53pm

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Josef Brett Animator 10 years ago
Good luck to everyone affected.
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Jamie Watson Studying Bachelor of Games & Interactive Entertainment, Queensland University of Technology10 years ago
hopefully everyone affected will find new paths and create new wonderful things!

they had so much potential as a a studio....
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@Chee You missed us! Relentless, founded 2003, based in Brighton. Still going strong and still independent. We've created a franchise that's sold over 10million games, won a BAFTA and have successfully self-published Blue Toad Murder Files. On the 14th of July we will publish Quiz Climber on iPhone with Chillingo. And there's more to come...
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@ Andrew - Thanks for flagging this gross faux pas. Anyone else we're missing you reckon?
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RJ Festejo Creative Director, Microsoft10 years ago
I've had the pleasure of working with a few of the guys there who did a great job with Split Second... Best of luck to you all at Black Rock!
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Joe Winkler trained retail salesman, Expert10 years ago
Great post, Chee! Thanx for the intel.
It's always bad to see a good developer close because of these (mostly rentability) reasons.
Didn't THQ recently close the KAOS studios -Homefront- just to announce a sequel to the very same game?
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Stuart Green Studying BTEC Games Development, Derby College10 years ago
@ Chee - I can't believe you missed out Codemasters. ;)
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Robert Chen Community Manager, InFieldPlay10 years ago
Pawned by Mickey Mouse... Ironic much?
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