A Strange Tale: Dark Days For Bizarre?

By Alec Meer on November 16th, 2010 at 8:47 pm.

The internet moved at especially frightening speed this evening, with a tale that 007 Blood Stone/Blur/The Club/Geometry Wars/Project Gotham developer Bizarre Creations was allegedly to lose staff or even close its doors slamming from 0mph Twitter rumour to 100mph damning Activision statement within 90 minutes.

Online chatter’s divided into roughly two camps. 1) Owners Activision are greedy so-and-sos who have no right and far too much to money to do this 2) Bizarre have been churning out duds in recent years and this is only logical.

It’ll be a while before the full story’s out, I suspect, but while I fully appreciate that the mediocre-tastic Blood Stone might leave the casual observer convinced the studio’s no good, I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to it than that.

With the exception of ambitious semi-failure The Club, their last game before joining the Acti-fold, Bizarre seemed to do pretty well both critically and commercially when operating as an independent developer. Hell, Geometry Wars played a vital part in establishing Xbox Live (shame the same couldn’t be said of the too-late, power-hungry PC version, though the game remains a landmark shmup). The developer’s actually been around since the early 90s, formerly known as Raising Hell and pumping out clever Amiga things for Psygnosis. They’re Important.

The same couldn’t be said of Bizarre following Activision’s buy-out of them in 2007, alas. Earlier this year, they came up with new racer Blur, which seemed to tank at retail despite being pretty decent. Activision made noises about the franchise continuing nonetheless, but before that happened came the rather surprising news that Bizarre were to develop a James Bond shooter instead.

Bloodstone was announced, released and critically slammed within the space of just over three months. Two weeks later, the studio may be about to die.

Allegedly. It’s all at rumour stage, though supported by a lot of industry chatter. Word on the wires is that potentially all of the 200 staff at Bizarre may lose their jobs, but Activision’s cautious official statement is the following:

“Over the past three years since our purchase of Bizarre Creations, the fundamentals of the racing genre have changed significantly. 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.”

Which hopefully means there’s some hope, though in apportioning blame for whatever’s going on neatly doesn’t mention Bloodstone, I note. The tale of Blur is strange – it seemed to have a lot of funding and a lot of time, but didn’t seem (to me at least, but admittedly I’m not much of a TV watcher or magazine reader these days) especially heavily marketed around release-time. Then again, it was released into a market dominated by Red Dead Redemption (though the same wasn’t true of its PC version), which apparently also meant Alan Wake underperformed. Another Activision title, Raven’s Singularity, also pratically disappeared at retail, with the publisher even admitting in an investor call that it had stepped down marketing efforts due to diminished faith in the title. So whose fault was Blur’s commercial failure? It’s easy to point fingers at a dev in that instance, but when it’s a publisher-owned dev it’s hardly that simple. Was it not good enough, was it gunning for an audience that didn’t exist, or did it lack vital support at a vital moment?

Bloodstone’s even stranger – it was such a hard-switch from Blur, and brought to market so quickly that I couldn’t help but wonder if Bizarre had had it forced on them at short notice, and with their own clout dimished by Blur’s sputtering weren’t in any position to say no. Another potential factor there is that Bond owners MGM have been damn near on the rocks themselves, unable to fund a new 007 movie, so a request for a quick game or an existing deal with Activision to release one based on a film due around now which didn’t materialise may also have been a factor.

I’m speculating wildly. Sorry. I just don’t like the “well, they should have done better, shouldn’t they?” mentality that I’ve seen in some commentary on this. Maybe they should; but that’s presuming they were given the chance and resources to do better, most especially in terms of their last game.

It’s a sad day, not just for the goodly folks at Bizarre, but also for the promise of big publishers dabbling in new ideas. Increasingly, Activision is the Call of Duty company, propped up enormously by sister firm Blizzard’s WoW mega-monies. Is that sustainable? I suppose there is definitely some new IP inbound, thanks to the deal it has with the newly liberated Bungie. That’ll certainly be an interesting one to watch, especially if it ends up head to head with whatever the first game from ex-Infinity Ward types Respawn turns out to be.

In the event that Activision doesn’t find some way of saving the studio, best of luck to everyone affected: I hope you find excellent gigs working for considerate bosses.

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87 Comments »

  1. Shakermaker says:

    A strange tale indeed. Good luck to all the people at Bizarre.

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    Killing Game Show and Wiz ‘n’ Liz still make me smile. Geometry Wars 2 is one of the best shooters of all time. And then all the other great racers they did. I’ll miss them.

    KG

    • Angry Internet Man says:

      Metropolis Street Racer had revolutionary graphics for its time. It boggles the mind that developers seem to live and die on their last releases, how is that sustainable?

      Grrr.

    • iainl says:

      KGS was them? Wow. I’ve just given my MSR box a hug, and I’m about to go play some Gotham 4 in tribute, but I didn’t twig they were the guys behind KGS as well…

    • kwyjibo says:

      Why the assumption that Bizarre will die? The management sold out to Activision in 2007, they could probably buy it back at a profit.

    • Benjamin L. says:

      Wiz ‘n Liz was a fantastic game, these guys were involved with that?

  3. Catweazle says:

    I’ve seen a few people say that Blur wasn’t heavily marketed – I saw the Mario Kart baiting TV ad quite a lot, but maybe it’s just me. Of course, being released almost simultaneously with Split Second and Modnation Racers can’t have helped anyone.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      The first I heard of there being a PC version of Blur was in this post.

  4. scott ossington says:

    i want a pc version of red dead redemption =0

    • RagingLion says:

      Yup. Same.

      Interesting thoughts Alec.

    • Matt says:

      Don’t worry, you’ll get it – two years late with exceedingly high technical requirements, mind…

    • coldwave says:

      RDR is not that good, got repetitive and old very fast for me.

      It’s also clunky and glitchy, framerate is jumping around in some areas( PS3 version).

      Gunplay and physics are good, however.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Glad someone else has mentioned this. I had great fun spending an evening on RDR on a mate’s PS3. I felt considerably worse about shotgunning a horse in the face than I did about slaughtering a whole airport of Russian jet setters. I confidently predicted at the time that it would show up on the PC after a few months, but I’m starting to get twitchy. The game doesn’t exist on the PC games media radar. I really want a big budget runandgun that isn’t contemporary city/battlefield set.

  5. jeremypeel says:

    This is a sad day if it’s true. Was Blood Stone really a dud? Already?

    RealtimeWorlds and Bizarre have to have been two of the biggest dev employers in the UK. I know there’s Rockstar North and Leeds… who else is left?

    • Shadram says:

      For the big AAA studios, off the top of my head, there’s Lionhead, Frontier, Rare, Creative Assembly… and lots of others I forget.

      If the studio does get shut down, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the large majority of the staff form a new studio. Hopefully they find a more supportive publisher if they do, rather than the one-strike-and-you’re-out tyranny of Activision.

    • RagingLion says:

      Off the top of my head add Black Rock (Pure), Relentless (Buzz!), Media Molecule (LBP), Rocksteady (Batman: AA) and there’s probably more sizeable ones before you get to the indies.

    • ChrisF says:

      There’s also Codies (Guildford and Leam) , Sony (Liverpool and Cambridge), EA (BrightLight and Criterion) and Supermassive, just off the top of my head.

    • Shadram says:

      Wow, look at us and our super strength, balancing all these studios on top of our heads.
      Aren’t the guys who made ET: Quake Wars and making Brink Brits, too?
      I think it’s fair to say there’s still a load of big British dev teams in action, so it’s not quite all gone to shit yet. So long as they don’t all sell themselves to Activision.

    • Ilinx says:

      Rebellion too – not necessarily triple A, but not a tiny dev house by any stretch.

    • RogB says:

      TT and TT Fusion. we’re going strong. (and nearby, and very much on a hiring spree.. cough) :)

    • Tom Armitage says:

      Yep, Splash Damage (who are the ET/Brink lot) are still going strong, as are Ninja Theory (Heavenly Sword/Enslaved/forthcoming Devil May Cry).

    • windlab says:

      CCP Games also recently opened a new office in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne:
      http://www.ccpgames.com/en/public-relations/press-releases/ccp-newcastle-open-for-business.aspx

  6. terry says:

    The reason I didn’t buy Blur on release is it was bafflingly unavailable in the UK on Steam until a month ago and that was a prerequisite for me for such a heavily multiplayer focused game. When it became (equally mystifyingly) available on Steam, there was little-to-no mention of it. I had a look at the stats and found less than 100 people playing it at peak times and erred on the side of caution. It’s odd, because if that game had had a weekend sale it I suspect it would have been a moderate success.

    But then, this is Activision, and success is irrelevant without profit. Good luck to everyone affected by this craziness.

  7. Dominic White says:

    I didn’t even know Blood Stone existed until after it had released. Activision, being the publisher, completely failed to publicize it in any way, shape or form and released it silently alongside two massive AAA surefire hits – one of which was Goldeneye, ANOTHER Bond game.

    It just reeks of self-sabotage. They could have easily held it back for a Christmas launch and made it a decent earner with a little marketing blitz, but instead they chose not to. The quality of the game is almost irrelevant here. Activision sent it out to die, seemingly knowingly.

  8. Brumisator says:

    Well the best of luck to all the people at Bizarre, but on a strictly egocentric level, I won’t miss them. Geometry wars may have been a good shooter with a controller, it certainly was a landmark, but everything else was pretty meh to me.

  9. DiamondDog says:

    Well, Blur got solid reviews from what I remember. I’d guess the problem was releasing it so close to Split/Second meant they forced people into making a choice. They didn’t choose Blur.

    If we’re going for big statments I’d chalk that up to Activision as a fuck up. Maybe they thought the game was good enough to beat Split/Second in a straight contest for people’s money. I can’t believe they’d be stupid enough to think customers would buy two racing games in the space of a week.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      “Well, Blur got solid reviews from what I remember. I’d guess the problem was releasing it so close to Split/Second meant they forced people into making a choice. They didn’t choose Blur.”

      That’s what I was going to say. That and the fact that Penny Arcade made a comic about Blur and not about Split/Second makes this even more interesting. It’s not that Penny Arcade making a comic causes it to be a hit, but

      1) They don’t make comics about duds. (That I recall.) In fact, they don’t even make a comic for every game they like.

      2) They don’t go out of their way to make obscure jokes. For example, D&D 4th edition may seem esoteric and geeky to kids whose first FPS was Halo, and some sort of vague occult abomination to certain uninformed people, but it’s really the most vanilla, mainstream, “safe”, widely known pen & paper RPG there is.

      3) The publicity one gets for being mentioned in a PA comic universally has a positive effect on sales. See Notch having to shut down the Minecraft authentication server for a weekend because it was too popular after PA made a comic.

      So how the crap could Blur fail? SERIOUSLY. I didn’t buy it, but only because racing games are one of the few genres I’m really not equipped to play on my PC.

      This may end up being as big a scandal as Infinity Ward. This is not looking good for Activision execs.

  10. Linfosoma says:

    Metropolis Street Racer continues to be the best racing game ever made IMO. I’ll miss you Bizarre.

  11. pakoito says:

    It’s pretty clear: it doesn’t fill Koticks safe with mone to swim in so they will get fired.

  12. ZIGS says:

    This makes sense. If Activision truly wants to become the new EA, just being big won’t do it. They’ll also have to buy independent studios previously known for good games, then somehow make them release duds then promptly close them. So they’re on the right track

  13. iainl says:

    Is it too late to do my part and get around to buying Blur? When it came out I was still in the depths of Trials addiction.

  14. Navagon says:

    Look on the bright side: The smaller Activision gets the better the industry becomes.

    Hopefully other developers are taking note and won’t sign to Activision under any circumstances.

  15. Dan(WR) says:

    I’ve brought this up before (to deaf ears), but there was continual oddness in the sales shenanigans of Activision, particularly for the UK PC market. I kept an eye on things out of curiosity a few months ago.

    MCV and Eurogamer covered GAME group’s lack of stock for Blur: http://www.mcvuk.com/news/39221/GAME-clarifies-Blur-stock-rumours &
    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/game-denies-rift-with-activision

    I read these because I had been interested in Blur and was planning to buy it, only to find that it disappeared (on all formats) from Game, Gameplay and Gamestation’s websites in the week/fortnight preceding release. Although it did go on sale through GAME group eventually, what I read on forums was that there was actually very little stock of the game available in any UK retail stores (Game or otherwise). Blur was sold on Steam in the US, but its page was pulled from non-US Steam at the end of May without the game ever going on sale.

    Similiarly, GAME group weren’t selling War for Cybertron on the PC over the opening weekend, and it was on US Steam but not UK Steam. Both PC Blur and PC WfC were on Amazon and some other retailers, on time, with no problems that I could see. WfC got a Steam release a few weeks after its main release date.

    Then Singularity was released, and once again the PC version wasn’t available through GAME group over the opening weekend. It still isn’t on Steam.

    When PC Blur, WfC and Singularity did become available through GAME they were priced at £35+ on their online store, which made them pretty much the most expensive non-collectors edition PC games on there.

    While the PS3 and Xbox360 versions were available for preorder/opening weekend at GAME, I also saw comments that there was relatively little stock for any of the three Activision games in Game/Gamestation high-street stores – but this wasn’t something I really investigated that closely so I’m not sure how true it is.

    • Navagon says:

      It’s almost enough to make you think that Activision is the absolute worst publisher there is or ever could be, isn’t it?

      Whereas we all know that title belongs to Ubisoft.

    • Ravenger says:

      It is strange that good games like Singularity got such a limited release, and weren’t even available on Steam.

      I managed to get a copy from an online retailer, but it was hard to get hold of. It was a decent game too.

      It’s almost like Activision wanted the game to fail.

    • Malcolm says:

      I had to purchase my copy of Blur from Argos of all places, as Game/Gamestation were “All sold out” according to the man in the shop. This was the weekend of release btw.

    • 7rigger says:

      Well I can confirm part of that. My store (Gamestation) didn’t receive ANY blood stone, 1 copy of War for Cybertron. On xbox 360

      I have never seen any of the mentioned games for pc in store :(

  16. Mike says:

    Geometry Wars was such a fantastic shooter. Why force a developer to work in genres and platforms they’re not experienced on, instead of giving them the freedom to do what they do best? Especially when you have money to fund stuff like that.

    It’s a shame.

    • Shadram says:

      Don’t forget Boom Boom Rocket, I loved that game. Played it for hours until my fingers eventually fell off. I now type with my nose.

  17. SirKicksalot says:

    http://seekingalpha.com/article/120099-activision-blizzard-inc-q4-2008-earnings-call-transcript

    “We made a strategic decision to move our next James Bond release from late 2009 to 2010 to benefit from a better launch window and avoiding having to compete with the large holiday lineup and going head-to-head with Call of Duty, both of which negatively impacted the performance of this title this holiday.

    The movement will have an added benefit in staggering the completions of our racing title and the next Bond, both in development at Bizarre Creations. This will allow the studio to give each title the time and attention it deserves for finish and polish”

    There were some major fuck-ups behind the scenes of the Bond game, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out they restarted from scratch at least one time.

    • Delusibeta says:

      Considering Activision abjectly failed to miss Call of Duty’s wake, as well as Red Dead spoiling Blur’s party, I’m going to blame them for the failures. GoldenEye might have got away with it, considering CoD is not nearly as established on the Wii thanks to Infinity Ward completely ignoring it, and the small fact that it’s branded as GoldenEye.

    • Ziv says:

      CoD had become too much of a moving force in the industry. It’s like The Godzilla of Christmas eve, all the publishers moving their release dates away from Christmas so they won’t be trampled over by the next iteration in the series (which by the way are getting more and more minor improvements to constitute a new game).
      This reminds me of need for speed which since underground 2 had gotten minor revisions till the industry just forgot about it because of the lack of innovation. I really hope the gamers will do the same for CoD.

    • Tobias says:

      @ziv:
      Not to approve too heavily here, but publisher’s moving release dates away from CoD might not be such a bad thing – at least the holiday season isn’t as swamped with releases as it used to be, and the rest of the year doesn’t nearly look as blank as it used to.

  18. noom says:

    Man… I think I can honestly say that I would not be the person I am today without Psygnosis. Those games have shaped my psyche to a worrying degree. Nothing can give me the nostalgics like looking at old Psygnosis/Psyclapse box-art.

  19. Nelsormensch says:

    This is the risk when you get in bed with a ginormous publisher like Activision, right? You have to rely on them for marketing which, let’s face at, at the scale of these games makes a big difference in whether or not they’re commercially successful. And if ATVI drops the ball there, you still get the blame and they start assigning you projects that aren’t in your wheelhouse with all kinds of other strings attached. It’s hard to make a project like that turn out well, putting further unwarranted blame on the studio’s shoulders.

    That tailspin is really hard to pull out of and honestly, it may well be the future for Raven and other ATVI studios that aren’t shipping CoD-level success or extremely cheap, low risk licenses.

    It really sucks for the folks at Bizarre, they made awesome, creative things when they were autonomous. But they inked that deal Activision. Once again, that just says to me no matter how much money they’re offering, the cost of selling to a gigantic publisher is almost always too steep.

  20. Rob Hale says:

    Actually Split Second also sold very poorly (worse than Blur but not by much). RDR Stamped all over every game release for weeks afterwards including both of those titles. Console games are just so expensive and people are so hard up that they are down to buying maybe one game a month at most and they all chose RDR.

    I think Bloodstone was in development for a long time because one of my old Midway chums went to work for Bizarre after Wheelman and he was an animator and he certainly didn’t spend 2 years animating racing cars.

    • Dan(WR) says:

      Wasn’t Split/Second released as a Direct2Drive exclusive or something? I seem to recall that it was nigh-on impossible to get hold of a PC copy in the UK.

    • Rob Hale says:

      Yep Split Second was a D2D exclusive online and just not stocked in retail or on Amazon. I remember moaning to my mate at Blackrock that there wasn’t a PC version and he pointed out that there was just that nobody could buy it.

    • RobF says:

      Which is totally insane for one of the best racing games of the past decade. Idiot Disney.

      I really must get round to trying Blur at some point soon, too. Although now it’ll be tinged with a certain sadness.

    • minipixel says:

      i saw split second at retail for 39eu for a few weeks. i was interested in buying it at around 20eu because i read it’s very short and has some bad DRM for multiplay. sadly all the updates, dlc and patches are console only, so there’s no reason to buy it at the moment

  21. kwyjibo says:

    Blur’s market performance was totally expected. I remember reading a preview feature and just thinking, “what the fuck?” You had some Bizarre guy telling us how it was going to be built around a fake social network. This feature was eventually dropped, but why the fuck was it even considered? How does a virtual offline social network help the navigation/narrative of a racing game? Why are you using real world cars and locations and giving them pew pew lasers? It was addressing a niche that did not exist.

    They do have pedigree though, and they do have talent. I would be unsurprised if Bizarre don’t continue on in some guise, the management only sold out to Activision in 2007 – so they could probably buy back the company at a reduced price.

    If those guys have faith in their staff, then that deal will happen. I’m almost certain they could pitch for and win a contract for PGR5.

    • SirKicksalot says:

      They won’t make PGR5 since they left Microsoft and had some harsh things to say about them… There are a billion smaller, cheaper European studios eager to make PGR with input from Turn10 and MGS.

    • Dan(WR) says:

      It was Mario Kart with better balance, and presumably meant to appeal to those who wanted multiplayer arcade racers with a little extra. People like me. Unforunately it was graphically uninspired and had very bad track design and slightly dubious car handling.

      It actually needed a social network much more than you’d think. The game thrives in multiplayer but there was no text chat or voice support. Bizarrely it did have Facebook and Twitter support though.

      /facepalm

    • Malcolm says:

      Turn 10 were formed out of the PGR test team if I recall correctly.

      The PGR series remains one of the best racing experiences of all time in my opinion. I know the handling was not as realistic as the GTs and Forzas of this world, but I would contest that PGR was the better game. I still remember the massive feeling of elation in successfully piloting my Lotus Exige around one of those ridiculous cone challenges without dropping the combo at all and getting the top medal (and an obscene score, and a Ferrari F50 to play with – win!)

      I sincerely hope news of Bizarre Creation’s demise is premature, but if not; RIP Bizarre.

  22. Amanda says:

    A few people have mentioned Geometry Wars as an example of a company being allowed to work on a game genre they had experience with, but I thought (and I could be wrong) that Geometry Wars was created by a lone coder in the office, determined to make his own game, and he pushed it through so enthusiastically that he was eventually taken notice of? Then, when it became such an unexpected hit as a mini-game in the garage of one of the driving games they made, they realized they had some gold under them, and took advantage of it.

    I thought that it was never planned, never requested, but that one inspired dev had the idea and the best thing that Bizarre Creations did for it, was realize it was good enough to put in the game, mini-game or not?

  23. mandrill says:

    Activision again, eh? Hopefully Bizarre come through their brush with the devil that is Bobby Kotick reasonably intact and go on tho make more great games without Activision. I would hate to see them go the way of Infinity Ward.

    Is it coincidental that Activision is associated with two (possibly more I haven’t researched this in any great depth) developers running into difficulty once they are brought into the leather winged embrace of this behemoth of games publishing? IMO Activision is a monster that gorges itself by sucking the soul out of game develpment and throwing aside the husks, leavng a trail of once great developers crumbling in its wake. The sooner it gets too big and collapses under the weight of Bobby Kotick’s inflated ego the better it will be for games, gaming and gamers.

    I just hope Bungie are keeping their distance.

  24. rocketman71 says:

    It’s sad. However, it’s not surprising. Everything Activision touches turns to shit.

  25. fugo says:

    for the record, Blur was a brilliant game. Literally mario kart for grown ups. Some of the best times i’ve had infront of my xbox this year have been four player Blur games.

    I’ve been playing Bizarre racing games since F1 97, and I still think it was a mistake for them to ditch the PGR franchise and move to Activision.

    I have to give the award for most annoying publisher to Activision.

    • Shadram says:

      I thought Mario Kart was Mario Kart for grown ups? Certainly is in my house…

    • fugo says:

      don’t get me wrong, i love mario kart too (well not really the Wii version, but still)

      I meant the tone and feel of it

  26. reticulate says:

    This just reminded me of how thoroughly RDR trampled that entire release window.

    Doubtless Activision will learn that next time they’re filling out a calendar, anything combining ‘Rockstar’ and ‘Sandbox’ should be avoided by months if at all possible.

  27. free2game365 says:

    You know, a fews years back as soon as I saw that Bizzare was being bought by Activision. The first thing that popped into my head was “I’m sure they’ll get shut down in a few years”

  28. Javaguy says:

    Blur remains an absolutely amazing multiplayer racing game. It was never going to sell though and they really, really didn’t need to be taking risks in this climate.

    Oh well :( First the Crackdown devs, then the Blur devs.

    • Delusibeta says:

      Correction corner: While Crackdown 1 was handled by Realtime Worlds, Crackdown 2 was done by Ruffian Games, which AFAIK still exist. However, apparently CD2 was inferior to CD1, so that might not be the substitute you are looking for.

    • Javaguy says:

      Yeah, I was very dissapointed when I found out Crackdown 2 wasn’t being done by RTW and so never tried it. :(

    • RobF says:

      Crackdown 2 is absolutely lovely (and pretty much put together by a lot of the original dev team -anyway-)

      It’s Crackdown with the silly ramped up even further and it’s pretty much everything I could have wanted from a sequel, daft ending aside. Yup, it would have been nice to not retread Pacific City but it’s still a massive toybox to jump around in and explode stuff now with the added bonus of freaks to kick in the face (and streets filled with them to mow down at high speed in cars – never gets old, that), Robotron styled arena segments and a wing suit.

      It’s got rubber ducky bombs ferkrissakes. Rubber ducky bombs! How could anyone not want rubber ducky bombs?

    • RogB says:

      I would never have considered Blur ‘taking a risk’.. racing games are one of the safest genres.

      maybe it suffered from coming out at the same time as split/second?

    • Rob Hale says:

      Fun fact: Crackdown 2 was made in only 9 months. For a 9 month game it is ridiculously good.

  29. ps3key says:

    The first I heard of there being a PC version of Blur was in this post.r4i
    PS3 Jailbreak 1.1
    PS3 Jailbreak

  30. fugo says:

    the new spam filter is working well then?

  31. UncleLou says:

    The Blur PS3 demo was multiplayer only, a PC demo didn’t exist. Not exactly a huge marketing effort on that front, either.

  32. drewski says:

    What was the last predominantly multiplayer “hardcore” racing game to succeed? None of the racing games I’ve ever thought of as being successful, apart from Mario Kart and it’s clones (and I suspect the clones cost an awful lot less to make than Mario Kart or Blur) are multiplayer focused. When I think of the big racing titles, they all have big single player focuses – even Need for Speed didn’t really pull off the switch to multiplayer focused, and from what I understand, is putting a stronger single player focus on the new version.

    Blur and, to a lesser extent, Split/Second, were big budget titles chasing a surprisingly small niche market – hardcore multiplayer racers who want racing determined by power ups, not skill. So basically hardcore multiplayer racers who want casual multiplayer racing. Eh? I never understood the market they were going for, frankly. The people who play Mario Kart aren’t going to spend money buying a racing game like Blur – some of them they might rent it for a weekend, but that’s about it – and the people who play games like F1, Gran Turismo and Dirt/Grid aren’t going to mess about with a kiddie powerup racer, no matter how fancy the graphics are and cool the explosions are.

    This was a game that needed to make it’s own market if it wanted success, and there was way too little support for that – if it was even possible. Maybe Activision realised the market wasn’t there, and decided not to throw good money (on marketing) after bad (that already spent on development). It was a gamble, and without big support from Activision, for whatever reason, it’s hard to see how it was supposed to work.

  33. Durandal says:

    Aw man, I really liked Blur.

  34. ran93r says:

    An extension of that social network idea is what’s powering the new NFS:HP. In Blur it did feel half finished and tacked on. I don’t think it was an especially great racer, half Mario, half Wipeout (and perhaps a bonus half of PGR for those not keeping track of the maffs). On paper it ticked all the boxes but it didn’t blow me away.

    edit – meh, reply to something way up there ^

  35. clownst0pper says:

    Personally I believe a good, profitable publisher should support it’s innovative studios, even if their games sell poorly. It’s good PR and shows care for a high quality, original industry product.

    Blur is a stunning game, and Bizzares track record on games is brilliant. I fail to seewhy Activision cannot continue to support them, profitable or not.

  36. qqq says:

    Blur was an enjoyable game, but a very hard sell, in my opinion. It doesn’t feel casual enough to be a Mario Kart replacement, but it also doesn’t look serious enough to be a racing gamer’s racing game. It’s a weird mix that has a pretty narrow appeal, in my opinion.

    Anyway, it’s a tough time to be a racing game developer without a big IP behind you. All new IPs have failed recently, Split/Second and Mod Nation Racers included. It’s very hard to create a new game that can distinguish itself from the pack without looking gimmicky (and, in my opinion, all of these 3 games relied on limited-appeal gimmicks).

    Grid, while a much more hardcore game, actually did better than all of those put together. ‘Going casual’ is not a sure way to success.

  37. zipdrive says:

    I think Blur also suffered from being released at the same time as Split/Second. Was that more successful?

  38. Gravy says:

    Shame The Club was just about the most style over substance, fast action shooter yeaaah download demo, play the club!!!! Delete it after playing 30 seconds and ask WTF?

    • Dominic White says:

      Style over substance? Seriously? I thought the game was almost completely devoid of style (generic men with generic guns running around generic worn-down industrial environments shooting generic colour-coded badguys), but substance was something it had in spades, and genuinely surprising depth of gameplay.

    • Gravy says:

      Bad first impressions then because i literally turned it off after 30 seconds it wasn’t a game i could see myself playing to see that ‘depth’. I’ll take your word for it! Me and a friend had downloaded the demo albiet on PS3 as we had nothing to do, It seems we’d rather be bored stiff than play the club.

    • Baines says:

      My friends and I still sometimes break out The Club for split-screen multiplayer on the Xbox 360, simply because sometimes you want to shoot each other in the game that isn’t trying to be Call of Duty (so no thanks, Wii Goldeneye).

      It can be quite fun, though it needed more work. Some of the stages could use some work, and it could have used a few more. Some are just too big for four players as well. Yes, the game had online support, but online eventually goes away and then you only have split-screen. I wish more games would offer smaller versions of its large maps as an option, as it gives you more stages to play without much more work on the developers part. (And not just forced “You have only four players, so you can only play this corner of this large map”, but rather “You have four players, do you want to play the full version of this stage, or the outdoor part, or the interior of the giant building, or the parking lot with the small buildings?”)

  39. Curious_Orange says:

    I think the Mario Kart-baiting ad was a real advertising clanger – it failed to establish anything of what made the game interesting and special, and at a time when Split Second, another larger than life racer, was also released, I think it just got lost in the crowd.

    If I worked for Acti I’d be extremely concerned at being given a big budget title, as it seems their marketing and PR departments either have no clue how to market a product that isn’t COD, and therefore completely alienate the target market or just give up on it altogether like they did with Singularity.

    I fear for Raven’s future next, they’ve not exactly torn it up since Elite Force, and from what I hear, I’m about the only person who bought Singularity. It’s a shame, was playing it last night – a solid game with some really interesting mechanics. A good advert and it could have done well.

  40. Andrei Sebastian says:

    I loved Blur – I’m just saying.

    In my opinion this is all Activision’s fault. The publishing and marketing of this game was from start to finish just awful. Take into consideration all the “not available in stock” issues that have been mentioned above, it’s just ludicrous. Add to that the fact that it was launched in the exact same week as Split/Second, a game that clearly was targeting the same audience (I’m obviously talking about the hype factor, we didn’t really know Blur was going to be “hardcore”). It’s also helpful to mention the game had almost zero marketing.

    I’ve recommended Blur to all my friends, and not one of them regreted it. The multiplayer is absolutely (good) crazy, and I honestly didn’t have this much fun in multi since a long time.
    I uninstalled Split/Second after three races (it stayed on the computer for about a month, forgotten), who knows maybe sometime in the future I’ll get really bored and install it again. Blur is probably going to stay on my computer for another year at least. I don’t know, it’s just what I was looking for – a racing fix now and then. I even felt a strong satisfaction at the end of the career mode, something wich I lately thought impossible for a racing game.

    Why exactly they wanted to launch it then is mind boggling, it made absolutely no sense, even for the casual observer of the gamming scene. I don’t think you have to be a genius to launch a game in a dry(er) period.

    Activision fail, clearly not Bizzare’s fault.

    P.S.
    I think it’s safe to say Blood Stone was forced on them. Probably something of the sorts “here!, make this game in three months!”. To judge a development house in this sort of context is, well… kinda stupid.

  41. CreepingDeath says:

    The thing with Blur (and Singularity) underperforming at retail may have something to do with the fact I STILL haven’t seen a single copy of either of those games on store shelves since release. Game, HMV, hell even tesco, everywhere I’ve looked I havent seen a hint of those games.

    Which is a shame, because I really wanted to try Blur.

    So yea, if you want your game to sell well 1. make sure you have enough stock to go around and 2. don’t pull them from Steam a days before release (an oddity that happened to both titles)

  42. camazotz says:

    I really enjoyed both Blur and Singularity, but can say that I have never seen either game in any of the local retail outlets (for PC, anyway). I honestly don’t know why Blur didn’t do better; it is a very well-done racing game; it did come out at the right time for me, as I embraced the entire racing genre earlier this year, a portion of gaming I had previously ignored (and was surprised to find I really enjoyed).

    Likewise, I don’t know why Singularity seemed to get limited PC release; its a great game, but as near as I can tell is only available on Direct2Drive where I picked it up.