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Layoffs At Robomodo Amid Uncertain Post- Shred  Future
Layoffs At Robomodo Amid Uncertain Post-Shred Future Exclusive
October 12, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

October 12, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

A reliable source within the Chicago development community has told Gamasutra that Tony Hawk: Shred will be independently-owned Robomodo's last project in the Activision franchise, and that the company has had to lay off a significant number of staff.

Affected employees were told today, the source said.

[UPDATE: In a statement to Gamasutra, Robomodo president Josh Tsui confirmed: "It is always difficult to let hard-working and valued employees go. Robomodo has retained all of the company’s directors and leads, along with other staff members."

"All are busy working on future projects and ideas, which will become the innovative games of tomorrow," he said. "We hope to bring back some of our team as we ramp up on our next projects."]

Robomodo's prior project, Tony Hawk: Ride, was criticized for the performance of its skateboard peripheral and for its $120 price at a time when constrained consumers were resisting high price points.

However, despite the fact Ride sold only 114,000 units across three platforms in its first calendar month on sale, Robomodo head Josh Tsui touted the game's "retail success," and in March revealed the studio was staffing up for the project that turned out to be Shred.

In August, the Chicago-based studio officially unveiled the game as an Xbox 360 and PS3 project targeted toward a younger audience of kids 6 to 12, who would use Ride's board peripheral with adapted controls.

Robomodo was formed in 2008, after the closure of Electronic Arts' Chicago studio, by Tsui and four other partners, most of whom began at Midway together on Mortal Kombat and worked together through Fight Night 3 at EA Chicago.

Soon after the studio was established, it struck the Tony Hawk: Ride deal with Activision thanks in part to the team's experience working with arcade hardware. Work on the franchise and its associated hardware was the studio's only announced project, which may leave the studio in uncertain straits if it does not continue a relationship with Activision on that property.

Gamasutra has contacted Robomodo's official public relations representative for comment and will update with any information we receive.

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Marcus Miller
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I wonder if Kinects has made their skateboard controller obsolete on the 360. $120 bucks was pretty expensive at the time but I know you can pick it up pretty cheap on close out right now.

Andrew Dovichi
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I picked up a new bundle for $30 at Target, my 5 year old is going to love it.

Robert Green
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I doubt Kinect could accurately monitor the kind of subtle ankle rotations needed for skateboarding, but your question is redundant, since their skateboard controller was obsolete by design. It also could not accurately measure the things the game was trying to measure. I wrote an article about it (and the general implications of accelerometer-based games) here:

George Hufnagl
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It has not been a good record for the Midwest these past two months. First Raven in Madison, WI, now Robomodo in Chicago and, in early August, High Voltage Software laid off approximately 25 people. Mid-size to AAA games just can't to seem to permit too many in the pool.

Jason Bentley
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Considering the loss of EA Chicago a couple years ago and Warner Bros' purchase of, a paired down, Midway Chicago; the Midwest is losing it's claim to being a hub for game development.

Duncan McPherson
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Eh. Things go up, things go down. Austin looked pretty rough for a while, several years ago. Things are pretty good there right now. Chicago is a strong city. The fact that WB kept the Chicago hub running after the buyout actually implies they see hope in that part of the U.S.

Several members of EA Chicago's staff created Robomodo, so there's resilience there. The Robomodo team is very talented, and if anyone can bounce back, they can.

HVS did release about 15% of its staff, but that company isn't going away anytime soon. Heck, the zombie apocalypse could happen and HVS would still be making games. Day 1 is still in play, as is Wideload. Plus, Volition is still going strong downstate in Illinois. (Volition is another company that will weather well the zombie apocalypse.)

I imagine that Raven is figuring their next steps, but they're also a resourceful bunch. Frozen Codebase and Human Head are also still populating WI.

The thing is, there are people who love making games and living in the Midwest. I doubt it will stop being a hub, simply because the game of making games is mutating once more.