Epic's Gamble discusses studio closures

Disney buying Black Rock "made no sense".

Epic Games' European boss Mike Gamble has blamed the recent spate of high-profile triple-A game developer closures on "stupid acquisitions" made by publishers.

Gamble highlighted Disney Interactive's purchase of Pure and Split/Second developer Black Rock, which recently closed down, as an example.

"It's happened because of stupid acquisitions," he told Eurogamer at Epic Games' recent Unreal Engine University day in London.

"This is a personal view. In my person opinion, yeah, there have been acquisitions by publishers of developers they really had no right well, they had a right because they had the money - but what was the point of a well-known children's IP holder buying a hardcore racing studio? It doesn't make sense."

Analysts suggested last week the closure of Black Rock had more to do with owner Disney's desire to get out of console game development than any deficiencies at the Brighton-based studio.

Disney's decision followed Activision's shuttering of Blur and Project Gotham Racing developer Bizarre Creations after it failed to find a buyer.

"A lot of the pain we've had in the last 18 months has been down to the economics of games development, which has changed," Gamble continued.

"Big publishers have had to pull back in money wise and the casualties of that are the studios that haven't performed for them because the industry has changed."

A number of small developers have formed from the ashes of both Bizarre and Black Rock.

Bizarre has spawned a handful of studios, including Hogrocket and Lucid Games.

Black Rock's death has led to the creation of three studios so far: Roundcube Entertainment, lead by Split/Second director Nick Baynes; ShortRound Games, formed by a quartet of previous Black Rock department directors; and BossAlien, fronted by Pure director Jason Avent.

"It is sad," Gamble, who this week met with a number of start-ups to discuss the merits of Unreal Engine for game development, commented.

"It's sad in a sense, but it's fantastic in a whole other way. Of course, a percentage of those people have left the industry. But most of them haven't. They're still in the industry. They're now just doing other cool stuff.

"The games I'm seeing from indies and small developers are brilliant. I love it. Really interesting and creative. They're not ticking boxes for publishers that say, we've got this gap in the portfolio, and there's this demographic, so we need to create this.

"They're playing with concepts, with how things are controlled. It's very creative."

Overall, Gamble believes UK and European game development is in a healthy state.

But, "It's healthy in a very different way than it has been. We've had Bizarre go pop. We've had Black Rock go pop. There's been a lot of bad news.

"But the fallout from that has been that there's now a whole bunch of really interesting studios doing cool stuff. And they all have a really good shot at being successful. A lot of them are really focused on not becoming big studios.

"They're focused on, we want to stay 12 guys doing cool stuff, we know there's a route to market, we can self publish, and we know we can make enough money to continue to do the good stuff we want to do.

"There's a sea change in the European industry. People are not looking to create companies where they're going to buy Ferraris. They're looking to create companies where they're having a great time and making nice money, but really doing the cool stuff."

Split/Second: first 15 minutes

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