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THQ Shutters UK Studio,  Homefront  Developer Kaos
THQ Shutters UK Studio, Homefront Developer Kaos
June 13, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

June 13, 2011 | By Kyle Orland
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THQ confirmed to Gamasutra today that it is in the process of closing developers Digital Warrington and Kaos Studios as part of a "strategic realignment" less than three months after the release of alternate-reality shooter Homefront.

"THQ continues its strategy of aligning the best industry talent with the company’s marquee franchises," the company said in a statement.

"The Montreal studio will take over product development and overall creative management for the Homefront franchise. The Montreal studio actively collaborated with Kaos on Homefront," the statement added.

The company went on to say that it is actively hiring for its locations in Montreal, Vancouver and Austin, and that employees from the shuttered studios will be able to interview for those positions.

Despite lower-than-expected review scores that seem tied to a temporary stock dip for THQ, the Kaos-developed Homefront sold an estimated million copies worldwide in its first 10 days on store shelves.

THQ let go of 17 Kaos employees at the end of March, leaving the studio with roughly 70 staffers. Kaos also developed the 2008 shooter Frontlines: Fuel of War.

Over 45 employees were employed at THQ's Digital Warrington studio, according to the company's website. The studio was founded in 2003 as Juice Games and best known for the Juiced series of racing titles before being acquired by THQ in 2006.

The studio's latest release, XBLA's Red Faction: Battlegrounds, received poor reviews and sales of just over 2,000 units in the month following its early April release, according to a Gamasutra analysis.


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Comments


Rodolfo Rosini
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I do a lot of strategic realignment but only on the toilet. However when I shut down a studio I call it layoffs. Maybe it's just me.

Lo Pan
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Another lesson for studios, the price of not exceeding expectations is losing your job. If Homefront had done much better sales numbers, the team would now be working on the sequel.

Coray Seifert
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Good luck to the Kaos team. You guys are a great group of people and it was amazing to work with you!



Hiring managers, the Kaos team featured a number of truly amazing people. If you're hiring, this is a great group to talk to.

Joe kennedy
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Riiiiggghhhhttttt hiring managers!??!! Amazing at what???

I think that was a major issue on that project. Actually one of many reason the project couldn't do more that 5 single player campaigns. Why on earth would anyone want to hire managers that couldn't effectively manage their way into AAA hit title.



It wasn't the hit THQ was making it out to be despite of marketing overspending that was done to influence sales either.



This is my confession of an errant designer

Dex Smither
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So because the games did not live up to expectations (which were exceptionally high), every individual developer should just give up and never make games again? Do you think the successful companies are always successful? Do you believe talented developers would never work on something that wasn't a complete blow-out success?



And what is the measure of that success? 5 million sales? 10 million? Why should a developer even bother trying to work unless they are absolutely certain their game will exceed all expectations?

Maurício Gomes
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You worked at Kaos... You are only asking indirectly to get hired.



Hiring managers hire those that have nice portfolios.

Coray Seifert
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Yup, left about a year ago and am happily employed, Mauricio. Thanks for your concern.



Just because the studio didn't work out doesn't mean there weren't an amazing group of individuals working there. THQ spent a ton of money to attract top talent to the area, and the developers at the studio reflect that investment. The studio itself didn't work out, but that doesn't mean that there weren't great people brought in to work on Frontlines and Homefront.



Guys, remember that you're talking about peoples lives and livelihoods. How about a little respect and empathy?

Joe kennedy
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Yeah there was a lot of talented people that where attracted to work there; your right about that.

Unfortunately for you and many others that were trapped there,..all that talent left because they wouldn't put up with the BS management was invoking on that talented team of developers. If the management was so good and talented, why on earth did KAOS crunch so hard to spit out turd? Why the mass press about it either. Every studio crunch to some degree but why the BMW about it if it wasn't for poor management and leadership? Isn't that part of good management; staying on schedule and making sure the expectations of a hit title is being exemplified?



A lot of talented individuals left that production for a real good reason!!!



Mauricio is right "Hiring managers hire those that have nice portfolios."

and I'll go further in saying "hiring them for that valuable experience."



If management was so awesome why did it take several other studios to work on that same title? Why did Kaos ship with only 5 single player campaigns? That's a bit ridiculous don't you think? If I'm funding a developer I would want to make sure we hire good experience management and most importantly,...talented developers to craft that experience.

Dex Smither
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Joe, you are just plain wrong on so many things.



If you believe that every talented person that stayed at Kaos through Homefront development, or stayed until closure were trapped, that's just plain insulting. Many of us loved the studio and were completely invested in the product and the New York gaming community. Many of us have no intention of leaving NY with or without a AAA studio. And of those that left, do you know them? Do you know why they left? I do. And I know each one of their stories.



A short SP is becoming more and more common as the bar is raised for better graphics, physics, and animation. The consoles haven't improved in the last 5 years and we're still innovating ways to use these consoles. Go out and play Portal 2 or Black Ops and time your SP campaign.



Crunch has unfortunately become a part of AAA game development. Take Two, Treyarch, EA, and Kaos have all had very public crunches. Nearly every studio has gotten in the habit of doing it. We can discuss it academically about how crunch relates to bad management, but the reality of the business is that you are in direct competition with other teams of similar size and talent pools. If they are willing to crunch, they are going to get more features on the back of the box. When money talks, dev's start working weekends. It has become a nuclear arms race between studios and signs are that things will only get worse before they get better.



Go out and become a funding manager. Really take that on. Find your talent pool. Find experienced management. Craft that experience. See what happens.

Peter Kojesta
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Joe, I think you misunderstood what corey said. He said "hiring managers, there are good people from Kaos available".



He was not saying that anyone should HIRE THE MANAGERS from Kaos, he was speaking to the managers (AT OTHER STUDIOS) responsible for hiring people.



Meaning the "hiring manager (A job title)" at irrational (for example), should consider hiring the workers from Kaos.



In any case, good luck to everyone from Kaos.

Coray Seifert
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That's exactly what I was saying. Thanks for the clarification Peter.

Rob Wright
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Further proof that the model of big publishers buying indy developers is fatally flawed...



Anyone here play Homefront? I love story-driven campaigns and was intruigued by the premise. But even though I don't put a lot of stock in reviews, it's been pretty hard to ignore all the negative (read: 7 and below) scores and complaints about a short single player campaign.

Joshua Sterns
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I actually just got Homefront through Gamefly. Haven't finished it yet, but so far so good. Feels like a Half-Life 2 meets Modern Warfare.



That said....



The plot is pretty silly. I've yet to find a game where the studio does a believable invasion of the USA. Japan caves in. No threat from China. Europe is on the sidelines, and so are Mexico and Canada? Who's feeding the global economy with American gone. Homefront is interesting if you don't pay attention to detail. :)



Gameplay wise it feels like any other shooter. For being set in the future there could have been some neat gadgets or inventions. Instead it's run n' gun with a helicopter segment (just like Bad Company, Black Ops, MoH).



Overall the game is decent, but in an ocean of shooters it fails to set itself apart.

Joseph Gonzalez
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Best of luck to everyone involved. Studio closures always suck but for most, there's usually something better around the corner.

Paul Lazenby
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I find it interesting that nobody has actually dug deeper here to reveal a more obvious issue: All of the hype with this game talks about it selling over a million units in the first 10 days of release, but doesn't talk about the fact it fell off like a lead balloon after that. Then look at statements by THQ that HF needed to sell 2M units at retail to break even, and its pretty obvious that HF was a rather serious risk that failed to payoff for THQ.

Couple all of that with the previous poor performance of numerous THQ properties (and now Ref Faction too) and you're looking at a publisher in deep, deep trouble.

I have stated it before and will do so again: THQ will not survive without a serious executive shakeup at the highest levels. The above continues to prove this point.

Michael Thornberg
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I an age of greed they forgot how to make the games fun to pay.. err.. I mean 'play'.

Joe kennedy
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You hit it right on the nose. Where's Danny Bilson now?



Maybe we should have another concert for the resistance. Maybe that concert wasn't loud enough to rake in sales to payoff his marketing mess.

brandon sheffield
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"employees from the shuttered studios will be able to interview for those positions."



well, that's cute, isn't it? "we afford you the same opportunity as anyone else, see ya!"

Ron Alpert
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When ATVI laid a few of us off several years ago, the HR person at the studio told me I could re-apply to other divisions through the corporate website :P

brandon sheffield
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classic, ron!

Allen Brooks
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I guess Bilson wasn't kidding when he said this:



"What matters the most is IP. For Take-Two, it's about GTA. It's about Red Dead. It's about the properties. It's not about even the individuals. So that's how we build our business."



http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/34097/Analysis_THQs_Long_Farew
ell_To_Creative_Mediocrity.php

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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That's what I thought at first too. To give credit where it's due, I was part of a THQ layoff in the past and we were pretty well taken care of (job search training at a well-run company was paid for, we were referred to other studios 'ahead' of random internet resumes). I still have an ethical issue with how disposable core talent is treated in this industry and apparently at THQ, but I imagine here the interview process at other THQ studios will be expedited in a useful manner.



That said, I chose not to work at another THQ studio after my layoff thinking 'why give them a second chance', and sure enough the one that I was kind of considering moving to (picked another studio, though it was a tough choice that came down to not wanting to be burned by THQ again) was shut down a couple of months later, so... D:

Joe kennedy
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"employees from the shuttered studios will be able to interview for those positions."



LOL yeah, that ought to tell ya about credibility. Your able to re-interview for a position you've held already. Then what,..get restaffed again to sink that production.

Christopher Thigpen
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Well, if they would have released the game NOT broken (multiplayer was FUBAR), then it might have had people who bought the game actually STAY and play the game. which is good, but was just broken. How do you release a multiplayer game with a broken multiplayer grouping system and other dynamics? Inexcusable. Blame THQ for forcing it out before it was solid and done.

Allen Brooks
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Maybe THQ's apparent obsession with 'transmedia' properties like the I-can't-believe-this-is-a-thing Red Faction Syfy series is a concession that they shouldn't be in the games business. It certainly lines up with their addiction to closing studios.

Sebastian Cardoso
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Really tough break. If memory serves, these guys had to crunch a LOT to get Homefront out in that timeframe.

Matthew Kerr
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Yes, like 6 months worth of crunch.

Andrew Grapsas
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Hard day in NYC. I miss working with many of Kaos's great developers, playing Dungeons & Dragons, and having fun. That studio truly had some brilliant talent. I wish every one of them luck--though I have no doubt their talents will be more than ample for them to land stellar jobs.



To all of my friends, I'm sorry. We should all grab beers and tell war stories.

Joe kennedy
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Maybe they should have worked on the game instead of playing D&D,..they'd have a hit title and we wouldn't be talking about this

Coray Seifert
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That's the problem! We played D&D at lunch! How could we have been so blind!



Andrew, I'm starting to think we should have put this Joe character in charge...

Andrew Grapsas
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Definitely! Sounds like he'd have us lashed to our chairs with barbed wire, whipped when we ask for a sip of water. I bet he'd have us programmers flogged whenever we introduce a bug--that'd be sure to stop them!



Obviously building hit titles is easy and just requires us to all spend every hour of our lives on the project.



All sarcasm aside, these guys were very talented and I hope they can all find jobs in NYC. We should all show them a little empathy, they just lost their jobs.

Dex Smither
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An hour lunch to enjoy ourselves a little during a 96-hour work week and we should have focused more on the game. Thanks for the insight.

Joe kennedy
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Hey I have a little inside joke for you Coray,...what's the difference between interviewing for Rock star games (right around the corner from Kaos studios) and working at Kaos studios itself?



One is still making hit titles!!!!!



Come to think of it,...is still making games as well!!!!!

Are you still convinced that Kaos studios can make hit titles under an 8 hour day schedule???





LOL

Dex Smither
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Yeah, that's up there with Lebron not having 4 quarters to make change for a dollar.



You got anything else?

Coray Seifert
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"Joe", clearly you've got some unresolved issues with your time at Kaos. If you want to hash it out, add me on Facebook or LinkedIn. Happy to talk through things.



And yes, I still believe you can make hit titles in an 8 hour day. Check out the IGDA Quality of Life Whitepaper for some good information on how to get it done: http://www.igda.org/sites/default/files/IGDA_QualityOfLife_WhiteP
aper.pdf

Joe kennedy
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No thank you,..don't want to waste my time being lectured by an amateur.

Good luck with your next endeavor. I'm so looking forward to seeing your 8 hour a day; next hit title.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"THQ continues its strategy of aligning the best industry talent with the company’s marquee franchises,"



God I hate PR speak. So very much.



It's scary when selling 100,000 units a day for over a week is not enough to keep your job. Maybe the powers that be can too easily sever those without power in this industry.

Joe kennedy
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Yeah,..look at it this way,...your only as good as your last title. These guys had 2 chances in shipping AAA status. They obviously failed and that's more than most developers will get in this economy.



I wish these guys well,...hope they get jobs,...just stay away from my neck of the woods!!!!!

Richard Carrillo
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Will do!!!!! I believe that I and everyone else who reads your comments hopes to never work with you or be a part of anything that you would enjoy.



Worst of luck to you, sir!

Dennis Crow
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It's really easy to troll and hide behind a fake name. Why not tell us who you are Joe?

Mason Mccuskey
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Guys. Guys. Check it out. I'm going to dream up some opinions on why these studios were shut down, and then I'm going to post them on the INTERNET! Everyone will read and think hard about what I say! My comments will change everything!

Dex Smither
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Whoa whoa whoa! Calm down McCuskey.



It's not like Kaos devs suddenly have a lot of free time and are highly motivated to go onto dev job sites like Gamasutra. And these devs will have no reason to read an article and attached comments about themselves.



I mean, to just berate the people of one studio is just rude, but since these guys are soon going to be spread out across development studios across the globe, alienating them would be be epic. If you don't find a challenge in your career, that would definitely raise the bar.

Coray Seifert
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lol why you gotta win at everything Mason.

Adam Hunter
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I'm sorry to hear about this...Kaos was a bright spot in NYC, and Homefront was a good game. I spent a great year and a half there learning from some very bright people and enjoyed myself immensely. If any of you guys come out to SF, I'd be happy to buy you an adult beverage and reminisce...

Joe kennedy
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So touching,....I just poured a 40 on my homefront.


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