Bizarre Creations closed on February 18, 2011 after 17 years in the videogame business. Its last two releases, 007: Blood Stone and Blur, were deemed to have underperformed, and parent company Activision dropped the shutters on the Liverpool studio as a last resort. It had tried and failed to find a buyer for the studio behind Formula One, Metropolis Street Racer, Project Gotham Racing, Geometry Wars, The Club and more, leaving around 200 staff facing redundancy.
Twenty months later, Bizarre alumni can mostly be found working at other studios or running their own studios. Stephen Cakebread, Nick Davies, Pete Collier, Danny Pearce, Martin Linklater and Matt Cavanagh all chose the latter path.
“There were rumours floating around the office towards the end of our last project,” Danny Pearce, former senior programmer at Bizarre, tells us. “People felt that Activision might not have been happy with the performance of our last titles and that the company [could] be downsized.” Those rumours were soon followed by official confirmation, as Bizarre’s former lead designer Matt Cavanagh explains. “The first that we heard was the announcement that the studio was going to close in three months unless a buyer could be found.”
With such pedigree at Bizarre, total closure wasn’t considered likely at all. “The anticipation and hope was more of a buyer being found, so it was a shock to everyone that Activision decided to shut down the entire studio instead,” says erstwhile senior level designer Peter Collier. “Discussions went on for a very long time, already my memory is fairly hazy of the time but I’m sure it was a few months of waiting.”
Closure was confirmed after an unsuccessful three-month search for a buyer. “At first everyone was in shock and denial,” says former senior tech programmer Martin Linklater. “How could Activision make such a decision? Surely this was just the worst-case scenario and once they did a proper review of the situation they would decide to reduce numbers instead. Then after a few days the realisation started to dawn that unless something extraordinary happened, closure really was going to happen.
“I remember the day after we found out about the closure a group of us, about half the Blur team, gathered together and decided to continue working on the game. ‘Let’s show them what they’re missing’, we thought, among other plucky and hopeful sentiments – but after a few days of relative inactivity it seemed obvious that people really couldn’t bring themselves to continue.”