'When the industry you're in takes a hit, it's important to come together': Devs react to UK studio closures

'When the industry you're in takes a hit, it's important to come together': Devs react to UK studio closures
Marie Dealessandri

By Marie Dealessandri

May 13th 2016 at 10:49AM

Evolution and Lionhead’s collapses have shaken the UK sector, but also led major studios to offer help

These past few months have unfortunately seen the end of some of the UK’s most beloved studios.

In March, Microsoft announced the closure of Fable developer Lionhead. Then, it was Sony’s turn to announce that it was closing Driveclub creator Evolution, which has since been rescued by fellow racing specialist Codemasters.

If these collapses have weakened the UK games market, they’ve also had one ‘positive’ effect: highlighting the solidarity within the industry.

Indeed, following these two announcements, multiple studios reached out to help laid-off staff.

“When the industry you’re in takes a hit like this, it’s important to come together,” says Craig Pearn, talent acquisition manager at Ubisoft Reflections. “It’s vital to show everyone that the UK games industry is still strong.”

Reflections held a meet-and-greet for Lionhead staff following the studio’s closure. PlayStation held a similar event just a few days after the news was broken.

Pearn adds: “It was great to meet the developers from Lionhead and we have been talking with a large number of them since the event in Guildford. We have many of the developers at different stages of the recruitment process, so we are hopeful of making some hires soon.”

Codemasters made more of a sweeping move when it picked up nearly all of Evolution’s laid-off staff.

“We’d been looking for a strong development team to boost our portfolio of games for a while,” VP of publishing Jonathan Bunney explains. “When we met it was very clear that we have more in common than just racing.

“We’re all in this together, and we understand that peaks and troughs happen in the industry. By approaching affected studios directly, we can make the process of finding alternative employment easier, rather than using the traditional methods of job searching.”

Bunney isn’t concerned about the long-term consequences of the studios’ closures: “The UK ecosystem will continue to be strong as those impacted will inevitably join other studios that are growing – or start their own companies to become the next wave of leading developers.”

But the UK industry is not the only one to suffer from closures or redundancies. San Francisco-based JuiceBox and Gumi’s Vancouver offices both closed mid-April, while Gameloft shuttered its New Zealand outlet in January. This led British dev Climax Studios to open a new office in Auckland, staffed by developers let go by Gameloft (pictured).

CEO Simon Gardner explains: “We were already in discussions with [lead programmer] Andy Wilton when the closure was announced and, as we were already looking to hire coders, I just emailed him and said: ‘How many coders could you get if we set up a small studio?’ It became clear we had a real opportunity.”