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Why Disney closed Black Rock

"No longer sees console as a priority."

Analysts have suggested the closure of Pure and Split/Second developer 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 has consciously stated that it no longer sees console as a priority," Nicholas Lovell of GAMESbrief told Eurogamer.

"I'm completely unsurprised that they shut down the studio, when they are no longer focused on console."

Last Friday Eurogamer broke the news that Disney was shutting Black Rock down.

Disney blamed the decision on the cancellation of Black Rock's then in-development secret project, which Eurogamer subsequently discovered was a free-to-play game provisionally titled Champions Alliance.

But according to Wedbush Securities' Michael Pachter, Black Rock's fate was sealed by Disney's new focus on social games and cutting costs, implemented months ago.

"The new management of Disney Interactive is under a lot of pressure to become profitable, and they are looking for any way to cut costs," he told us.

"I can't say that closing Black Rock is the most expedient way to cut costs, but the leadership of Disney Interactive comes from internet backgrounds, and they seem pretty focused on social games rather than on packaged products.

"Accordingly, it appears to me that they are more inclined to cut costs on the packaged goods side than on the social games side, and I think this is evidence of that inclination."

In May Disney reduced its Black Rock workforce, putting around 100 jobs at risk. Aborted projects included a sequel to 2008 quad-bike racer Pure and a follow-up to last year's Split/Second.

"After SS wrapped, we started work on SS2 pre-prod which was cancelled last December due to DIS's new management and their changing priorities (the push towards freemium etc) - SS2 didn't really fit in with that (despite some efforts to shoehorn it in)," a source told us.

"In short, Disney is a family company," Lovell continued. "Families now look as if they are playing away from core consoles and on Facebook, mobile and tablets. Therefore Disney moving away from console is not surprising, it's inevitable."

EEDAR's Jesse Divnich believes no-one is to blame for the Black Rock closure.

Instead, it's yet another example of an increasingly competitive AAA video game market.

"Over the last five years we've seen many media conglomerates attempt to build internal studios and talent to self-develop and publish AAA video games (Viacom/MTV, Warner, Disney, etc.) he said.

"Unlike the movie industry, where nearly every blockbuster movie is backed by some form of alternate financing, the video game industry has yet to open themselves up it, which results in companies having to sink all of their own capital into these AAA video games that often take two to three years before revenue can be recovered.

"There is an enormous amount of risk that goes with creating a AAA new intellectual property, and I believe a lot of companies have simply just realised the risk isn't worth the reward. This is especially true when one looks at emerging markets such as mobile, social and free-to-play where the cost of capital required for entrance is minimal and could potentially have a broader reach.

"What occurred with Black Rock is saddening, and I don't think anyone is at fault; rather, it simply is just an extremely competitive market to create a top 20 AAA product."

While Black Rock is no more, its spirit lives on.

From the ashes of the racing game developer three studios have emerged: 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.