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Free Radical is Closing Shop

by Francesca DiMola - December 18, 2008, 7:17 pm PST
Total comments: 36 Source: Edge

Poor game reviews and loss of LucasArts contracts forces them to close their doors.

Free Radical, creators of well known titles such as Second Sight and TimeSplitters were forced to close their doors for good today.

Early this morning the staff of Free Radical discovered the building's locks had been changed with no explanation and were heavily guarded by security. A notice taped to the door informed them of a meeting that was to take place at a local hotel.

Co-founder Steve Ellis was described as "visibly upset" as he delivered the news to the staff, and apologized for the situation. The company had known for several months of the trouble after unfavorable reviews of their latest game Haze, along with the collapse of an exclusive contract with LucasArts Entertainment. They had been struggling to find a publisher for TimeSplitters 4, but without any financial backing were forced to close doors.

The company employed between 150-200 people and an inside source described them all as "shell-shocked" by the incident. Twenty employees are rumored to have been offered new positions at Ellis' new company, Pumpkin Beach while the rest of the staff received termination notices. Employees are expected to receive compensation through December, but no further.

Talkback

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusDecember 18, 2008

:( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :(

I really wanted Timesplitters 4...

EnnerDecember 18, 2008

Releasing a poorly received PS3 exclusive and being in these dire economic times has taken quite a toll. I hope some body helps either the company or its employees out. While Haze was a blemish, Timesplitters 2 and Future Perfect were good shooters. Also, Second Sight was fine as well, from what I can recall.

nitsu niflheimDecember 18, 2008

Just goes to show.... PS3 will ruin your business.  Seriously, though, when you spend so much on visuals and then spend the rest of your time/money to create a game/story around them, you are just asking to be punched in the nuts over it. 

If companies were more apt to take risks, and I don't mean by backing the Wii, I mean internally, like getting rid of deadlines, release the game when it's ready instead of when you need to hit a certain selling season.  If more companies thought like Nintendo, then there would be a lot better games out there.

*sigh*... they should've bet on the Wii...

ACTUALLY... wait... should Nintendo pick them up? Should Nintendo buy the company and take TS4?

GoldenPhoenixDecember 18, 2008

Quote from: Kairon

*sigh*... they should've bet on the Wii...

ACTUALLY... wait... should Nintendo pick them up? Should Nintendo buy the company and take TS4?

Many of the guys at Free Radical made Goldeneye and PD right? If so they could be Nintendo's action FPS developer.

DjunknownDecember 19, 2008

Quote:

They had been struggling to find a publisher for TimeSplitters 4, but without any financial backing were forced to close doors.

Can't tongue-in-cheek FPS sell themselves? Must everything fit a Halo/Gears/Resistance Call of Duty mold? :'(

Somebody want to do a eulogy for Free Radical? They were one of the good ones...

broodwarsDecember 19, 2008

Damnit, that's one gaming company going under that I actually liked.  I was really looking forward to Timesplitters 4 on the Wii, based on how well-done TS 2 and TS 3 were.  Nintendo really should think about picking this company up, as it would shore up their FPS resources.

MaleficentOgreDecember 19, 2008

personally i'm glad these failures don't have a job anymore. Merry Christmas to them, hope they enjoy ramen and hot dogs for Christmas dinner.

jakeOSXDecember 19, 2008

Quote from: MaleficentOgre

personally i'm glad these failures don't have a job anymore. Merry Christmas to them, hope they enjoy ramen and hot dogs for Christmas dinner.

well, that is a nice thing to say.

besides, what's wrong with ramen and hot dogs? that's been family tradition for me.

Quote from: MaleficentOgre

personally i'm glad these failures don't have a job anymore. Merry Christmas to them, hope they enjoy ramen and hot dogs for Christmas dinner.

T_T Harsh man...

SheckyDecember 19, 2008

Quote from: Kairon

*sigh*... they should've bet on the Wii...

ACTUALLY... wait... should Nintendo pick them up? Should Nintendo buy the company and take TS4?

Little too late for that...  Sounds like the boss jumped ship to a new small company with some of his closest buds and will probably work to take the trademarks with him.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusDecember 19, 2008

Quote from: MaleficentOgre

personally i'm glad these failures don't have a job anymore. Merry Christmas to them, hope they enjoy ramen and hot dogs for Christmas dinner.

Wow, really?

E3 Hype Train EngineerDecember 19, 2008

Goodbye Free Radical
Though I never knew you at all
You had the grace to hold yourself
While LucasArts around you crawled
They crawled out of the woodwork
And they whispered into your brain
They set you on the PS3
And they made you change your game

And it seems to me you dev'd your life
Like a flying monkey shootout in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When HD set in
And I would have liked to have played you
But I was just a Wii gamer
Your profits burned out long before
Your heir apparent to Goldeneye ever did

Haze was tough
The toughest game you ever made
Gamestop created a superstar
And pain was the price you paid
Even when you died
Oh the press still hounded you
All the papers had to say
Was that

Quote:

the building's locks had been changed

Goodbye Free Radical
From the gamer in the 22nd row
Who sees you as something as more than hardcore
More than just our FPS Miyamoto

White MageDecember 19, 2008

SUPERB!  That had me laughing from the beginning.  I wish I had the talent to write stuff like this.

Ian SaneDecember 19, 2008

Quote:

ACTUALLY... wait... should Nintendo pick them up? Should Nintendo buy the company and take TS4?

That would be cool (though apparently impossible according to Shecky) but if they did that why bother with TS4?  Timesplitters doesn't really have much name value.  Might as well have them make a new FPS IP that Nintendo owns.

But then a new FPS IP from Nintendo is a good idea anyway.  We'll never get it though.  I just don't think it's something Nintendo is interested in.  If they did they would have given it a serious shot sooner.  Goldeneye was a huge hit on the N64.  If NCL was interested in first person shooters they would have made sure to keep that FPS success going on the Cube and they didn't.  The genre is too American for NCL to pay attention to it.

NinGurl69 *hugglesDecember 19, 2008

"The genre is too American for NCL to pay attention to it."

Agreed.  Nintendo has expressed spreading more "Japan" to the rest of the world than vice versa (DQX).

MaleficentOgreDecember 19, 2008

no, I'm not serious. but that's what some of you guys really enjoy saying for developers you don't like. I hate seeing people lose their jobs, but I've not really enjoyed many free radical games so I figured I'd give them the awesome gamer treatment.
Hope they become well ingrained in the San Francisco bum community.

You can't blame this ALL on the PS3.  Free Radical had a contract to produce multiple titles with Brash Entertainment, who went under a few months back, and they also had a contract with LucasArts that fell through.  Releasing a critically-panned exclusive FPS on the lowest-selling platform certainly hurt them, but external factors also played a huge role.  Haze put them in a hole, and then all of their future contracts dried up so they couldn't dig out if they tried.  This story simply isn't as one-dimensional as the dozens of Sony haters on here want it to be.

KnowsNothingDecember 19, 2008

Hey Ian, wasn't Geist a new Nintendo published FPS IP?  That game wasn't the best in the world but I think it has potential.  They should get these dudes to make a sequel :)

GoldenPhoenixDecember 19, 2008

Quote from: Lindy

You can't blame this ALL on the PS3.  Free Radical had a contract to produce multiple titles with Brash Entertainment, who went under a few months back, and they also had a contract with LucasArts that fell through.  Releasing a critically-panned exclusive FPS on the lowest-selling platform certainly hurt them, but external factors also played a huge role.  Haze put them in a hole, and then all of their future contracts dried up so they couldn't dig out if they tried.  This story simply isn't as one-dimensional as the dozens of Sony haters on here want it to be.

I don't blame Sony but I blame the overall structure of next-generation games. Budgets are so massive now that some companies, even moderate sized ones, could go bankrupt on one game alone. It is something that needs to be curtailed, because it is getting out of control.

Quote from: NinGurl69

"The genre is too American for NCL to pay attention to it."

Agreed.  Nintendo has expressed spreading more "Japan" to the rest of the world than vice versa (DQX).

Actually... I sorta buy that...

Iwata is the guy doing like, loads of aggressive maneuvers. Developers in Japan are the recipients of his beneficent gaze. On this side of the pacific ocean though, Nintendo's subsidiaries are more tied to mandates from abroad. Though it sounds like NoA definitely had some initiative in the Mystery Case Files: Millionheir partnership.

DeguelloJeff Shirley, Staff AlumnusDecember 19, 2008

Quote:

You can't blame this ALL on the PS3.  Free Radical had a contract to produce multiple titles with Brash Entertainment, who went under a few months back, and they also had a contract with LucasArts that fell through.  Releasing a critically-panned exclusive FPS on the lowest-selling platform certainly hurt them, but external factors also played a huge role.  Haze put them in a hole, and then all of their future contracts dried up so they couldn't dig out if they tried.  This story simply isn't as one-dimensional as the dozens of Sony haters on here want it to be.

Nah it's pretty straightforward that the PS3 sunk them.  Since the PS3 is a lowest selling platform, when third party games flop on it, it is solely the platform's fault.  It's Sony's responsibility to make their console desirable and make its userbase large, not the other way around.  This is even worse than when it happened on the GameCube, because they would just cut GC support and focus on the market-leading market leaders.  In this brave new generation, you seem to only get one shot on the PS3, and if you fail you die.

Good times.

MarioDecember 19, 2008

Thank you very much once again Sony.

MaleficentOgreDecember 19, 2008

If their game was of higher quality and they ran on a tighter schedule maybe they'd be around.

NephilimDecember 19, 2008

Quote from: Mario

Thank you very much once again Sony.

Well remember that other launch window game (timesplitters 1) was also a flop on playstation2.

If Haze received 9.5's across the board from every media outlet out there, then I'd buy the argument that being on the PS3 killed it (and Free Radical).  But you can't pin the failure of a studio that creates a game that received an aggregate Metacritic score of 55 (seriously, it's pretty hard to score that badly on Metacritic) solely on the console that that game appeared on, especially when the console in question is ripe for a good FPS.  There's the issue that, you know, the game blows.  It would have been roundly ignored on Wii or 360, with the only difference being the amount of money that Free Radical lost in the venture.

The biggest factor in their closing is the fact that LucasArts dropped them from a multi-game deal (and cancelled Star Wars: Battlefront III after two years of development, meaning that all the money spent on it went right down the tubes), and nobody would pick up publishing duties for TimeSplitters 4 because Haze sucked so bad.  The PS3's smaller userbase is only a minor piece of a much bigger Free Radical sh!t pie.  It's hard to stay in business when the entirety of your future funding dries up in a three-month period.

Jon, I'd say the PS3 exclusivity may well have been a major factor, depending on how lucrative the exclusivity terms were.  The 360s much larger installed base (I believe it was 3 to 1 at that point) could have greatly helped absorb some of the costs.

The fact the game wasn't good also factored into the situation.  As for the LucasArts deal, LucasArts is still on the hook for "work completed."

DeguelloJeff Shirley, Staff AlumnusDecember 20, 2008

It's not like the decision to put the game on the PS3 was met with derision when it was announced in 2006.  They thought, like everybody, that the PS3 would rise up and steamroll the 360 and the Wii is a non-factor only Nintendo fans and nobody else would buy (Ha!).  Haze for the PS3 seemed like a sure bet, a talented developer making an absolutely gorgeous looking game, for a major player in the industry.

Flash forward to now, 2 years later, the Wii's on the rise faster than the PS2, the 360 is outdoing the original 360 by marginally, at the expense of the collapse of the PC market, and the PS3 treading water and flopping left and right.  It's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback here, but in 2006, anybody telling them to not make a PS3 game and instead make a few Wii games was called a Nintendo fanboy who knew nothing.  To NOW say what they should and should not have done is pointless because this wasn't what they heard when they announced the game.  I know I said that making Haze on the PS3 was a bad idea, and that they should make Wii games.  To which that idea was scoffed and shoved into a corner where it could be seen and not heard.

And you're right, the game sucked.  So did Lair.  So did Heavenly Sword.  Do those developers deserve to DIE because of one bad game?  It wasn't so harsh on the PS2, and it really isn't on the Wii.  However, the PS3 and to a lesser extent the 360, making a game that doesn't SELL (regardless of score) seems to kill you dead.

There also seems to be a weird double standard brewing here, where when a third party game fails on the PS3 (and to a lesser extent the 360) it's the game's fault, yet when a Wii third party game fails, it's the Wii's fault or the fault of their customer base being Nintendo fans (2006) or a bunch of unwashed casuals (2008), despite it's great size.

Anybody really wanting to blame Free Radical or Factor 5 or EA's myriad studios that they just closed might want to read a short story called The Lottery to see what happens when you support a general strategy, and then deride it once it gets personal.

MaleficentOgreDecember 20, 2008

If Haze came out on 360 free radical still wouldn't be around if they ran their business the same. If the game was as punishingly mediocre and the marketing was a vague and non noticeable and all factors were the same we'd have the same outcome. It's not the PS3, it's the developer.

DeguelloJeff Shirley, Staff AlumnusDecember 20, 2008

Part of that business model being the refusal to support market-leading market leaders.  The Ps3 itself didn't just storm their offices and throw pudding into their computers, but the low userbase coming off the PS2 is the PS3's fault and Haze was selected to be put on PS3 because they assumed that the PS3 would just stomp everything instead of flopping about in last place.

It is not as simple as the PS3 killing Free Radical (and Factor 5), but that is how it is going to be PERCEIVED on the soundbyte internet.

KDR_11kDecember 21, 2008

Well, they threw all their money at a game that wasn't so hot. Maybe they should've thrown less money at it?

UrkelDecember 21, 2008

The problem is HD games are expected to have big budgets. If Haze was a good game but relatively low budget, it probably wouldn't have sold well then due to being overshadowed by bigger blockbuster games.

blackfootstepsDecember 21, 2008

This is sad news indeed. TS2 was one of my favourite games of last gen. I thought it was strange that Haze's multiplayer was turned off so quickly, it must have been 3 months ago now.

Hopefully the dev team that rises from FR's ashes focuses on making FPS's for Wii. A TS game with Metroid Prime 3 controls would be pretty special.

Quote from: Deguello

Anybody really wanting to blame Free Radical or Factor 5 or EA's myriad studios that they just closed might want to read a short story called The Lottery to see what happens when you support a general strategy, and then deride it once it gets personal.

Woah. That's applied knowledge. Now that one/two weeks in eighth grade has some meaning for me Deguello! Thanks!

ThePermDecember 25, 2008

as good as the company is they don't make games that sell. They need to adjust the theme to something people normally buy. WWII Vietnam, or Iraq

i'm betting so many terrible games sell well just because they have a look thats like call of duty

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