Rumour: Sleeping Dogs Studio United Front Closing

Rumour has it that Canadian studio United Front Games have closed down with a great suddenness. They’re best known for open-world crime simulator Sleeping Dogs, and most recently took multiplayer futurecrime brawler Smash+Grab to Steam Early Access. United Front haven’t formally announced anything yet, but scattered tweets and whispers suggest they’re done for. Smash+Grab has been pulled from sale too. Heck, this is mighty sudden – S+G held a free trial only last weekend. Hurling a brick as a Hail Mary pass.

The main evidence for all this is tweets across the datanet. To share just two, here’s former Smash+Grab producer Jen Timms:

And designer Kyle Jensen:

Plenty of folks from other Vancouver studios are a-tweety-twootin’ about it, and gabbing about vacancies they know of, so a shutdown looks fairly likely. At the very least, the Smash+Grab team seem done for – and United Front have not publicly announced any other upcoming games.

Smash+Grab is no longer on sale on Steam, though those who own it can still play. It had been in early access for less than a month, and United Front were gabbing about future update plans only last week. Buying early access games is always risky and I have enjoyed my time with Smash+Grab but yeah, for £13 I’d probably expect more than three weeks of support. Seems United Front didn’t expect this.

If I were given to blithe speculation, I might say something along the lines of: this looks like one of those situations where a dev has been in trouble for a while and hopes one game will carry them while they pitch other games, but none of those pitches landed. That’d be me wildly guessing, mind. Maybe they poured everything into Smash+Grab and thought it’d be a huge hit. Triad Wars, the free-to-play Sleeping Dogs spin-off United Front made for Square Enix, shut down this year without even leaving beta. And Smash+Grab was self-published, putting all the burden on United Front.

Maybe we’ll learn more when/if United Front actually make an announcement.

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15 Comments

  1. WeeMadAndo says:

    *sniff* Luv u Sleeping Dogs.

    And Smash’n’Grab had been the only vaguely MOBA-ish thing I’d enjoyed.

    Please don’t go away UFG.

    • DuncUK says:

      I loved Sleeping Dogs. It’s one of the few games that I bought and 100% finished on console and then did it all over again same on PC. I’ve even considered buying the redux edition knowing full well it’s barely any different to the original release. I loved the setting, the combat and the Infernal Affairs-ish storyline, it was a genuinely refreshing variation on the basic GTA formula.

      I will never understand why they thought a multiplayer-only MOBA-ish game was the way to follow it up. Take a leaf from AAA publishers, if you make a game that’s unexpectedly successful and popular then make a follow up that fans of that game would want to play. Don’t go wildly off-piste and try to create something revolutionary and different until you have the cache reserves to support a failure. Clearly they did not.

      It’s a real shame if this is true, I had hoped they would see the error of their ways and make Sleeping Dogs 2, however unlikely this was.

      • Unclepauly says:

        I always wondered why they didn’t just go into Sleeping Dogs 2 as well. I feel like the publisher didn’t like the initial sales and wouldn’t back it. Another case of moron publisher not knowing their customers because Sleeping Dogs 2 woulda sold well imo.

        • Poor People says:

          Yup. Square Enix has a long history of setting up higher sales expectations due to reckless, costly marketing plans, so plenty of well-received, profitable games are written off as failures because they’re fail to met SE’s unreasonable target. UG gets shafted and loses their financial backing, and it’s now isolated and forced to adopt a budget strategy of developing a MMO action game.

          • paddymaxson says:

            This is pretty much entirely correct sadly.

            I praised Square Enix for funding some great games and even funding bringing back some classic franchises, but they seem to be determined to dick it all up.

  2. Blackcompany says:

    Has there a studio that tried one of these quick, MOBA-esque cash grabs that DIDNT go under? What is it about video game development that makes those involved in the process completely unable to learn from history?

    • Shuck says:

      I think the cause and effect are somewhat reversed – for a studio that’s not doing well, developing a multiplayer game, especially in a popular genre like a moba, is a low-resource way of making a last-ditch effort to stay afloat. (Most of which efforts are going to fail, so…)

  3. Helderjfl says:

    They should have focused on Sleeping Dogs 2. Its been 4 years since Sleeping Dogs was launched, and it sold well.

    • aldo_14 says:

      Square owns the Sleeping Dogs license though and, from what I understand, didn’t want to greenlight a sequel.

      • Unclepauly says:

        So, Square doesn’t like money then I see. Glad I found this out now.

        • ArgenCR says:

          I remember that the original Sleeping dogs came around the same year as Tomb Raider (the reboot) and at the end of the year Squeenix complained that both games didn’t sell as much as they expected or something around those lines… And yet both games ended being really liked and well received, too bad that Sleeping Dogs got the wrong end of the stick, my favorite open world game by far

          • Regicider 12.4% says:

            Squeenix had a batch of games counting on ridiculous sales by just ballooning their marketing budgets.
            Tomb Raider even doubled the sales record for the series and they still called it a failure at 3.4 million sold (and in 2015 it reached 8 million).

            Some money is just as bad as no money in Big Publishing. Middle management heads will roll and upper management risk missing out on performance bonuses if they don’t hit the projected profit targets.

    • Shuck says:

      “They should have focused on Sleeping Dogs 2.”
      I’m sure they would have loved to, if they had the resources. People don’t seem to realize that studios (for the most part) make games dependent on the whims of publishers, begging for and receiving funds to make specific games, not based on what they want to make. Often the studio’s cut of even a successful game isn’t enough to fund a sequel – they have to go back to the publisher for funding. Sleeping Dogs was originally a canceled game – Square Enix stepped in at the last minute, after the studio had let most of its staff go, and gave them just enough money to hire a few people back and get the game out the door (with some help from another studio). Sleeping Dogs was considered a financial failure and Square wasn’t going to give them the money to do a game of that size, much less a sequel; the developer never recovered, limping along doing small projects for hire for the most part. Sadly, making good games is not always rewarded.

      • A Wanderer says:

        Which is a shame, because I feel like Sleeping Dogs will still remain the only GTA-like game with a somewhat consistent plot and which is not set in the USA for quite a long time.

    • vorador says:

      Instead we got that Triad Wars thingie that nobody wanted and nobody remembers anymore.

      Sleeping Dogs was one of the very few GTA-esque games that i enjoyed. Too bad to see UFG go.

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