EA switches off Bright Light studio

EA switches off Bright Light studio

By Rob Crossley

January 5th 2012 at 3:01PM

Guildford group axed; Portion of staff switch to other EA studios; Elliott parts ways; Develop Obituary

The lights have gone out at EA’s Bright Light studio, Develop understands, with the group’s closure resulting in job losses and staff relocations.

The Guildford development outfit – whose games catalogue includes a trio of Harry Potter titles – was emptied late last year, likely in mid November, following a consultation period with employees.

EA has declined to comment on the specifics of the matter but confirmed to Develop that the consultation period has concluded.

Two people connected to the matter have confirmed that the studio closed late last year.

It has been difficult to build a clear picture on how employees have been affected. Various Bright Light staff have moved to other EA studios, such as Criterion and Playfish, while others have joined studios such as Jagex and nearby Guildford group Supermassive Games.

The extent of job losses is unknown. In 2007, the BBC reported that Bright Light was employing about 100 people.

Harvey Elliott, who was general manger of Bright Light until it closed, is no longer working with EA. He is believed to be taking break from the industry, after an eight year spell at the publisher.

In October EA said it was considering Bright Light’s future as part of its aim to “help centralise development on future projects, reduce development costs and will allow for better knowledge and talent sharing within the organisation".

“The UK is a vital centre of game development for EA and we intend to maintain a strong presence here,” the company added.

The fall of Bright Light leaves Electronic Arts with two remaining UK studios - the Burnout group Criterion and social games firm PlayFish. EA closed its Warrnington studio in 2006 and its Chertsey office a year later.

OBITUARY


Bright Light was born in 2008 at the commencement of Electronic Arts’ sweeping transformation to its development and publishing businesses.

Under the command of John Riccitiello, who was appointed CEO in 2007, the publisher worked under the new credo of original IP, high quality titles and less reliance on entertainment licences.

Months after Riccitiello took responsibility to reinvent EA, the publisher closed its UK facility in Chertsey and, soon later, rebuilt much of that team in Guildford.

The relocated Guildford outfit was given a new name, Bright Light, in accordance to EA’s new philosophy. The group was tasked with creating original IP with fresh ideas, the first being the playful DS title Zubo.

Despite a fair critical response, Zubo’s commercial failure had triggered EA to amend its policy. Bright Light built another unique DS series, called Flips, but the thrust of its output was in building three licensed Harry Potter games in as many years.

Throughout this time, EA had toyed with the idea of using Bright Light to reinvent classic IP from the now-defunct Bullfrog studio. That never materialised in the end. The studio closed with an unannounced “Maxis IP” sim project incomplete.

Some would argue that EA Chertsey, which formed in 1995, was the true origin of Bright Light. If true it would be a bittersweet legacy – both have a heritage in Harry Potter games, though one was never supposed to.