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Ex-Bizarre Employee Ben Ward on Closure

When Activision acquired Bizarre Creations, creators of Geometry Wars and Project Gotham Racing, many saw it as bad news. Now, Bizarre Creations is no more. After they developed Blur (a seriously underrated game) and 007 Blood Stone, Activision put the studio up for sale. When no one came a-callin', Bizarre closed, and some members went on to form their own studios. Three of them--Peter Collier, Stephen Cakebread, and Ben Ward--got together to form Hogrocket, a new "micro-studio" targeting iOS, PC, and Mac.

In an interview with Eurogamer, Ben Ward spoke about the closure and his own thoughts on the Activision relationship: "Some of us (myself included) found it difficult working under a huge publisher; moving from proudly independent to an internal team took a lot of getting used to. We lost that ability to say what we want, do what we want, and (most importantly) make what we want." He doesn't fault Activision, though. "I don't blame Activision for that--it's just the way things work when you become internalized," Ward said. "It certainly affected the atmosphere at the studio; for better or worse Bizarre became more 'corporate.'"

Ward went a step further, giving Activision credit for the way it handled the closure. “Business is business," he said. "Those guys wouldn't be top of their game if they didn't make difficult decisions. Everybody at Activision has been supportive--they've operated recruitment drives and tried to redistribute Bizarre peeps to other Activision studios throughout the world. The situation sucks ass, but they've been good in how they've treated us.”

It's hard to shake the sentiment that Activision is the "big bad" of the industry, but it's impressive when someone like Ward speaks positively about them, even after taking the brunt of their calculated decision-making. Still, Ward remains largely removed from the factors that forced the decision. “Was this marketing, distribution, the attitude of gamers, or just [Blur] not being good enough to compete?” he said. “I don't know--I don't have access to the stats that decide it. I guess Activision do, and that's how they made their conclusions and took the decision to close the studio.”

I'm no insider either, but I can say with some certainty that releasing Blur within the same week as Split/Second and ModNation Racers may have had something to do with it.

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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