THQ Studio Australia and Blue Tongue Entertainment to close this week

News type: 

In a "strategic realignment" to steer development away from "licensed kids titles and movie-based entertainment properties" and push "focus to high-quality owned IP with broad appeal", publisher THQ has decided to close its games development operations in Australia.

The two studios owned by THQ in Australia, THQ Studio Australia (formed in 2003 and based in Brisbane) and Blue Tongue Entertainment (the Melbourne based studio founded in 1995 and acquired by THQ in 2004, most well known for their de Blob series of console games), will be closing down this week. Both studios had 90 staff each for a combined workforce of 180 employees. An internal development team in Pheonix has also been let go, making the total amount of employees redundant at 200.

THQ have slowly been restructuring and refocussing over the years. A 17% workforce reduction in late 2008 left both the local Australian studios unscathed.

The Games Development Association of Australia (GDAA) is currently working on options and support mechanisms for the ex-THQ OZ and Blue Tongue developers, so please follow @gdaa_oz on Twitter for further updates...

Working furiously to develop support mechanisms for all the talent at the local THQ studios. Way too much talent for Oz industry to lose.

Not prepared to let THQ vanish without a fight. Already working on options.

Hiring

Sega Studios Australia (Brisbane)
They will be sending tsumea new job adverts on open positions shortly. Keep your eye out on the front page and the jobs page.

Firemint
Firemint are specifically after programmers and quality assurance testers.

Fmod (Melbourne)
If there's any tool programmers at Bluetongue we're looking for one at Firelight, please send resumes to jobs@fmod.org

The Binary Mill (Gold Coast)
They are hiring programmers, please find the job descriptions in our jobs page.

Halfbrick Studios
Concept Artist positions available.

Please visit our jobs board for the latest jobs, including game programmer openings at Firemint, Twiitch, and The Binary Mill.

The THQ press release in full...

AGOURA HILLS, Calif., August 9, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) – THQ Inc., (NASDAQ: THQI) today announced a strategic realignment of its internal studio development teams to better align resources with the company’s future portfolio of interactive entertainment. THQ is in the process of transitioning its portfolio away from licensed kids titles and movie-based entertainment properties for consoles and has also decided not to actively pursue further development of the MX vs. ATV franchise at this time. As a result, the company announced the closure of two studios in Australia, and the elimination of a development team at the company’s Phoenix location. The company is maintaining its Quality Assurance team in Phoenix.

THQ’s five internal development studios are focused on key initiatives and franchises: THQ Montreal, creating an unannounced new IP with a team led by industry veteran, Patrice Désilets; Volition, Inc., developing the highly anticipated upcoming game Saints Row®: The Third,™ and inSANE™ in collaboration with renowned film director Guillermo del Toro; Relic Entertainment, creators of Company of Heroes and the upcoming Warhammer 40,000®: Space Marine™ for PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system and the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system; Vigil Games, developing Darksiders® II and next year’s MMO Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online™; and THQ San Diego, developers of WWE All Stars and creating best-in-class fighting games.

Today’s actions will result in a personnel reduction of approximately 200 people. All affected employees are eligible to apply for open positions within the company globally.

“With this realignment, we are narrowing our focus to high-quality owned IP with broad appeal that can be leveraged across multiple platforms, and to work with the best talent in the industry. By right-sizing our internal development capacities for our console portfolio, our five internal studios are focused on delivering high-quality games with talented teams driving the execution of those titles to market,” said Brian Farrell, President and CEO, THQ. “As we have outlined in our business strategies, we are making shifts to reduce movie-based and licensed kids’ video games in our portfolio, which underscores our strategy to move away from games that will not generate strong profits in the future.”

Farrell added, “We will continue to evaluate our capital and resources to concentrate on fast growing digital business initiatives such as social games, mobile and tablet -based digital entertainment.”

The company has recently outlined its four-pillar digital strategy: 1) create a digital ecosystem around key console title launches such as the scheduled November 15, 2011 release of Saints Row: The Third, which includes plans for a robust DLC schedule, online Season Pass, and in-game store for consumables; 2) create a critical mass of users on social media platforms such as Facebook and mobile platforms, including iOS and Android™, using THQ-owned or branded content, such as the upcoming fall release of Margaritaville® Online, based on Jimmy Buffett’s popular brand; 3) create an ongoing digital revenue stream with the launch of the company’s MMO, Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium™ Online; and 4) continue to drive digital end-user sales through existing channels as well as through the upcoming re-launch of THQ.com.

Comments

Adam Boyle's picture

My sympathies for all the hard working, awesome THQ staff that are affected. So many super talented people leaving this industry now and it's very sad news to hear this.

2K Marin in Canberra is still searching for a suitable Technical Lead programmer to lead the engine department so please contact us if you feel qualifed. I know everyone seems to think Canberra sucks but its actually quite nice here! :)

Andrew Heath's picture

To all at Blue Tongue I pass on my very best for your futures. Blue Tongue was an amazing studio, and I have very fond memories of the early years.

The industry has changed much over the past few years, however the new mobile platforms that have emerged have provided may small companies to shine where creativity and technical know how come together as one.

There is a future for the gaming development community in Australia, and we will continue to flourish.

All the very best.

Andrew Heath
Co-Founder Blue Tongue Entertainment.

InformedGamer's picture

This really must have come out of the blue from THQ, because it was less than a month ago that I applied to, and received a response, from a QA Tester 6 month contract role that was due to start in the "second week of august".

Very glad I didn't move interstate to be hit in the face by that one.

It would have been nice if THQ had come out and plainly stated "Yes, we used you while you were cheap, your dollar is now too strong for us to continue exploiting your studios, we're shutting you down. Bye."

To all BT/THQ staff I wish you all the very best.

Here's hoping that the Australian Games Industry grows within 3-5 years, otherwise I'll be one sad, unemployed games developer.

NewGraduate's picture

Sigh!
Due to graduate with a Uni degree in games development in October and this happens?

Feels great knowing that I've just spent 4 years gaining a degree in an industry that seems to be failing in Australia. </sarcasm>

While I feel bad for everyone that worked at StudioOz/BT, this is terrible news for me. Companies are already reluctant to hire new graduates, especially now that they can hire someone with 5+ years who just became redundant.

Anonymous's picture

I actually see the flip side. From everything I've seen most indie start ups are basically made up of a couple of people with 10+ years in the industry. Then hire a bunch of graduates or people starting their careers because it's much cheaper to do so. Probably the best time to graduate considering getting in to a big studio a couple of years ago would have been really tough anyways. Nowadays there are way more junior positions around. It's actually toughest being a mid to senior level because those jobs no longer exist.

Anonymous's picture

Ditto. Also, graduates tend to have more generalised skill sets, which these little studios really like since almost everybody has to wear a lot of hats. I've found that over the years working in a big studio my skill set has become increasingly specialised while the rest of the my skills atrophied, and it's made job hunting difficult in this changed market.

And NewGraduate, you really have to consider a games degree like a fine arts degree - it doesn't come with any job security or solid prospects whatsoever, and what few 'employment' type positions are around come with fierce competition. That's always been the case, and is ever more so now. I do feel bad for you, but I also think it's been a bit irresponsible of so many universities and institutions to offer these courses in the first place. Not even ten percent of the year's graduates had a chance even in the good times.

funkyj's picture

Move overseas.

Finish your degree and get the fuck out of dodge. Move to Canada, the UK or Europe.

Ignore these anonymous tossers who are claiming indie development will be your saviour - it's a lie.

Indie developers only hire the best of the best, or people who have money they can invest.
(and that's gotta be true because it rhymes)

NewGraduate's picture

Cheers for the info.

I've resigned myself to the fact that to stay in games it's going to require me looking outside Australia. At least the uni degree gives me enough knowledge to slot into a general IT/BA/AP role outside of games.

Anonymous's picture

I initially agreed with the above commenters, but thinking about it more carefully, this is probably more true. Indies are usually too small to hire someone who isn't absolutely top-of-the-line or who can bring their own money to the table.

Some indies, though, can't (or don't want to) pay much in the way of wages and aren't reputable enough to attract the interest of anybody top-of-the-line. They're not going to be anyone's saviour, but they are an option.

Anonymous's picture

Qantm as well by chance?

Anonymous's picture

Shame for all those who lost their jobs.

Years ago, it was predicted that Australia would have to be more than a 'work for hire' games industry, especially since there are much cheaper places in the world to develop. However, too many companies stuck to the work-for-hire and movie/kids IP template (perhaps through no fault of their own). And there is always a risk of being folded later down the track when bought out by a larger company.

If the Aussie industry wants to survive, it has to find a way to own it's own IP and create interesting and original games and somehow manage to fund itself so that it doesn't rely so heavily on external influences.

The talent and ability is there -- just look at some of the iPhone developers but we should look towards some of the Scandinavian developers and how they do things.

Anonymous's picture

I generally agree with your point about work-for-hire. But in this case both Blue Tongue and Studio Oz were internal studios and the argument is does not apply. Blue Tongue in particular created some compelling original IP recently in the form of De Blob. My take is that THQ is in dire financial difficulty right now and they are drawing back to their core base in North America. In other words there's nothing BT or Oz could have done to prevent this. Sadly.

Anonymous's picture

Studio Oz grew from a kitchen table and a handful of passionate, focused, game-loving individuals. I feel thankful that none of those lads were around to witness the dis-assembly of something they worked so hard to create. THQ as an employer, lost a slew of extremely talented industry professionals today, and what is certain, is that many of those folks won't be shifting to Canada to pursue a job. Hopefully they instead get together around a few kitchen tables of their own and get to making some great games that THQ directors and their very nervous shareholders, can only dream of.
Good Luck to all those game-loving guys and gals who put countless hours of their own time into those projects. We should be comforted in knowing that it's THIS level of drive and commitment in which 'new' game companies are born.

Anonymous's picture

Weren't Evolution involved somehow?

souri's picture

I'm surprised someone brought this up as it was so long ago. I was writing about this in the initial news item but decided not to include it. Yeh, the emergence of THQ Studio Australia back in 2003 was followed with the sudden and surprising closure of Evolution Games (a Brisbane studio which had just won "Best New Start-Up" at the Australian Games Developer Conference, 2002, a year earlier).

THQ had signed them on in mid-2002 to develop their games, but in early 2003, opened up their own Brisbane studio and Evolution Games was shut down. A lot of Evolution Games staff moved over to THQ Studio Australia as well. The late Tim Richards sent in an article for us to publish which questioned how and why this was able to happen.

David MacMinn's picture

As one of those lads around that kitchen table, it saddens me to hear the news. Working there in the early years was a pleasure and I feel privileged to have worked with so many talented people.

I would like to clear up this mis-conception about Evolution though. From my memory, their funding (angel investor) was pulled, and they closed completely independently of us starting THQ up. We only hired one person from them, and that was after they were closed down.

Best wishes to all those out of work, your talent will shine, and you will go on to bigger and better things.

David MacMinn

souri's picture

Thanks for clearing that up for me. I guess it's one of those long lasting curiosities I've had.

Anonymous's picture

Not sure Justin Green would agree with you.
The "promised" but not signed job that Evolution were working on went down the road to THQ Oz causing the Angel Investor to pull out.

David MacMinn's picture

Well, to be honest, I am not sure what was "promised" or not. Anything like that would have been way above the Studio level. I can say that there were lots of projects on offer back then, and there certainly wasn't some kind of directive for Studio Oz to close down other Aus studios. Certainly a shame Evolution closed, they were a great bunch of talented guys.

David MacMinn

NathanRunge's picture

Without passing comment on causes I wanted to offer my condolences to all involved, for what little it's worth. No matter the cause, this is a blow to the industry, such as it is, and to many people's lives.

Anonymous's picture

There is so much talent in this country and from experience with the awesome people of Bluetongue I feel a lot of pain for the guys who have families to look after. THQ have no idea how to run a competitive games company, saints row 3 will never save their ass. As Aussies we need to be proud of the talent we have here and try and keep the talent here! I hope something spawns from this madness and big respects to all other companies and awesome people on this site for providing support!

Matthew Hall's picture

Only a handful of "mega" studios left now. Blue Tongue closing wasn't a surprise. THQ's share price + AUD + De Blob 2 taking. I think THQ clearly had a lot of respect for the studio and the team, but it wasn't sustainable. Commiserations.

I'd also like to offer advice and assistance for those thinking of going independent. I left the system 3 years ago and it's largely been a joy.

There's never been a better time EVER in ANY industry to make something small with 1, 2, 3 people - get out there and release product. I've seen one-man-bands put together amazing titles over these last coupel of years and earning themselves fortunes. With a great idea and great art and great marketing, you'll soon be able to pay your own way.

Mail me at: indie@klicktock.com.

souri's picture

When Krome Studios finished up, Blue Tongue and THQ Studios Australia took the mantle of two of Australia's largest studios with 90 employees at each studio.

So who are the large studios left? There's Sega Studio Australia, Electronic Arts Australia, and 2K Marin with roughly around 60 employees each. Next would perhaps be KMM Games, but that will change depending on how many Team Bondi employees they take in and when they finish up the Brisbane studio.

After that, now we're going into mobile territory, with Firemint, Halfbrick, and IronMonkey Studios. These studios have employee numbers in the 40's to high 50's...

Sidhe, in New Zealand, are the biggest game studio in Australasia with over 100 employees.

Anonymous's picture

and Big Ant.... they just released AFL Live PS3/X360 and had three 360/PS3 games out last year.

Wiked Witch also released AFL Live for Wii.

Anonymous's picture

Both with Tru Blu Entertainment as their publisher. At least there's one games publisher in Australia...

Anonymous's picture

EA employes around 120 developer's in Melbourne via their Visceral, Iron Monkey and Firemint groups with SKU's across 360, PS3, PC, iPhone and iPad.

Anonymous's picture

You are grossly overestemating the visceral studio numbers.

souri's picture

I'm getting these numbers from a survey and EA Australia is likely referring to the publishing / distribution side of things as well. My usual contact person for EA Australia has left their position, so I can't confirm how many are at Visceral etc..

Anonymous's picture

120 is about the number of combined employee's from the three groups.

Rough numbers are:
Visceral 20
Iron Monkey 50
Firemint 50

All three groups are EA. Publishing in Sydney is separate.

Kyuji's picture

It's very sad news..
it's not only news, this closure is real fear for all Australian video game employees.

I can't believe why government didn't have effective help for this industry crisis at all.
I believe government should care the growth of culture/software industries for Australia's own growth.
This industry don't need water and green so many, there is skilled people, it meant suitable for Australia.