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TOP 10: Closed Game Studios

Yesterday, it was announced that Australia's Team Bondi, makers of 2011's LA Noire, has been placed into administration, which could very well be the first nail in the coffin for these guys. The travesty of the development period for the gritty detective game has already been widely circulated, as has the industry's backlash against the brutal practices supposedly enacted by the studio in the name of getting the game done, headed by company founder Brendan McNamara. Although LA Noire was a surprisingly entrancing title for me, I'm not surprised at the reports of horrible working conditions, and neither am I stunned by the idea that the company is pretty much on its way out the door. To be honest, 2011 has been pretty tame given the closures of the past few years.

The shake-up down under has gotten me nostalgic for some of the other studios that have departed this mortal coil. I was a little astonished when I started thinking about all the great names that are simply gone in today's world. There's a lot of them, and certainly more than a mere top 10 can cover, but I tried to select my favorites for this week's Friday feature...

Before I begin, let me point out at that it's a given that most of the incredible talent (and probably then not-so-incredible talent, in some cases) that worked at these establishments have already moved on to other studios, often in groups, and often with the intention of continuing to make the same kinds of games that these studios are renowned for in the first place. But that doesn't mean we can't mourn the fallen just the same. Weep with me!

10: Free Radical Design (Timesplitters)

The Timesplitters games were a hot mess of fun in the PS2 era, somehow taking the GoldenEye experience and changing it into a fun game. (I'm not being facetious as I write this. I hated N64 GoldenEye.) Free Radical has since become a UK division of Crytek, falling low after the crapheap that was HAZE and a long-rumored but never-announced Battlefront III dev cycle. Maybe we'll see better things of the Timesplitters franchise in the days to come.

9: Pandemic (Battlefront, Saboteur)

Pandemic brought us Star Wars: Battlefront, Mercenaries, Destroy All Humans!, The Saboteur ... they were one of my favorite go-to studios for pulpy gaming experiences. Sadly, Electronic Arts thought otherwise.

8: Flagship Studios (Hellgate:London)

Waittaminute ... Flagship only made one game, and it was crap, right? Hellgate: London wasn't even finished when they put it on store shelves! Regardless, I mourn Flagship for what it could've been, had it been given another chance to prove itself. Staffed up with ex-Blizzard talent, we should've seen great things from Flagship. Now all we've got is Hellgate and a bad taste in our mouths.

7: Shiny (Earthworm Jim, MDK)

Shiny Entertainment brought us some great games in its earlier years ... but I hold a private appreciation for them, as one of the only people on Earth that played The Matrix: Path of Neo from start to finish and loved it.

6: Clover Studio (Viewtiful Joe, Godhand, Okami)

A lot of Japanese studios try to make quirky, off-brand titles their "thing." Clover actually did it correctly, by taking quirkiness and coupling it with great gameplay. Thankfully, a lot of the talent is still working together in other, more "open" companies.

5: Broderbund (Carmen Sandiego, Myst, Prince of Persia)

Broderbund was huge back in the day! If you played a game on a PC in the 90s and it wasn't a shooter, you were probably playing a goddamn Broderbund game. I still don't know how to pronounce that O with a zero-sign dash through it though.

4: Bizarre Creations (Project Gotham, Blur, Geometry Wars)

Sure, Bizarre made some racing games, and closed out with a big James Bond title, but you know what I'm gonna miss? Goddamn Geometry Wars. I've logged a foolishly large number of hours in that title.

3: Ion Storm (Deus Ex, Daikatana)

Deus Ex. C'mon. ... although to be fair, that was Warren Specktor's other Ion Storm office. The other one was busy failing as soon as they opened.

2: Looking Glass Studios (System Shock, Thief)

Looking Glass broke some fantastic ground with their titles - ground that's still being ... walked on ... to this day. ... Look, I'm not too happy about this metaphor - I'm gonna work on it a bit more. Here's the bullet point version: System Shock, Thief, great games.

1: Black Isle Studios (Fallout, Fallout 2, Icewind Dale, Planescape Torment)

Speaking of great games ... Black Isle Studios was a busy place. Both of the original Fallouts, some incredible Icewind Dale work, one of the Baldur's Gate entries, and one of the best games ever, Planescape: Torment. A lot of PC RPGs had their origins in the incredible titles that Black Isle rolled out, and given some tolerance for graphics, a lot of them still hold up.


There's a lot of defunct companies out there, dear reader, and I know I've only scratched the surface of what once was. Did I leave out your favorite? Badger us on the Facebook page!

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McBallsenstein on :

*Muthafuckin' Ocean! And Rare to an extent. They died when Microsoft bought them.
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