Black Rock tried to fit Disney’s shift in focus

Black Rock tried to fit Disney's shift in focus

Black Rock, the Brighton-based developer which closed its doors earlier this month, tried to repurpose its high-octane racer Split Second to fit with parent company Disney's shift in focus.

In an interview, former game director Nick Baynes tells us that the studio did all it could to align itself with Disney's decision to turn its back on triple-A console games, but its plan to strip down its thrilling racer just wasn't workable.

"We investigated whether we could maybe do a scaled down version that would fit with the new market dynamics," Baynes says. "But to do a Split Second that's in any way constrained or scaled down, it's not really Split Second anymore."

Disney first signalled its intent to shift focus last November after repeatedly sustaining losses and it tried and failed to gain a foothold in the risky triple-A space. CEO Bob Iger said at the time that the company would "end up investing less on the console side…and have a presence, albeit with less investment, in terms of game manufacturing on other platforms."

In January, its strategic realignment began in earnest with the loss of some 250 jobs, and that was followed by a further 80 redundancies in March. In May, the shift hit Black Rock with the loss of 100 jobs and, early in July, Disney confirmed it would close the studio entirely. Art director Steve Uphill regrets that the developer's closure came not from its failure but from Disney's decision to join the lower-risk rush to social and mobile games.

"It was a terrible shame," he tells us, "because the Split Second team were super-talented. In the words of Disney, they really made magic happen."

The above are extracts from our look at the making of Split Second, the full version of which is in our new issue. E233 should be landing on subscriber doormats any day now, and will be with all good newsagents on September 27.

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