Krome Studios to close doors on Monday, contractors will continue work

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While attendees enjoy the second and final day of the Game Connect: Asia Pacific conference held on the Gold Coast which aims to inspire local developers in these tough times, news is flooding out that just nearby, a major Brisbane based studio is on the verge of collapse.

More troubling and credible reports concerning Krome Studios are currently spilling onto Twitter as well as into our comments areas, and if these new details along with the additional reports received yesterday relating to the Emergent agreement are true, then there is considerable cause for concern for what was once Australia's largest game development studio.

The rumours began with more drastic job cuts today (confirmed to be hitting both the remaining Melbourne and Brisbane studio), but it seems to be a lot more serious for the company than that.

The current report is that Krome Studios have let go of all remaining staff, including those in their base studio in Brisbane, and will be closing their doors on Monday. Some staff will be rehired as contractors to finish some remaining work.

The latest developments at Krome Studios ends a tumultuous twelve month period for the company which had started to dwindle down as the global financial crisis hit after having just reached a milestone of 400 employees.

Beginning with the axing of 60 employees in November 2009, the company shed an additional 50 employees in April this year. Four months later in August, an undisclosed but estimated 100+ employees were further let go from Krome, marking the end for the Adelaide branch of Krome Studios.

While admirable attempts to save Krome Studios Adelaide proved unsuccessful, the closure of the both the Adelaide and Melbourne arms of Krome Studios will mark the final end for the Ratbag Games and Melbourne House legacy. Krome Studios acquired the iconic 80's games developer, Melbourne House, in late 2006 from previous owner, Atari, while a studio was opened in Adelaide by Krome to accomodate the remaining Ratbag Games staff who were left unemployed after Midway closed down the Powerslide developer in late 2005.

Comments

Anonymous's picture

I don't think the talent at Krome was in question at all - I was looking through some of the portfolio sites of a few ex-Krome employees who were let go in the last round of redundancies, and their personal work is *stunning*. Really great stuff.

I can vouch for this, having just employed a few from the last round I can say the level of skill, talent and dedication is outstanding.
I would encourage those looking to stay in this industry to approach simulation companies as another potential avenue, the skills are for the most part directly transferable. While it doesn't have as much of the creative aspects of games development, the better work life balance and career opportunities are a big benefit. Whatever ex Krome employees end up doing, best of luck.

Anonymous's picture

To be honest the talent level at Krome was a mixed bag. Yes there were some very talented people but on the other hand (just one example) they also had some (not all) concept artists who..er..couldn't draw. And i'm talking about people who ended up as seniors at Krome, not merely juniors...That kind of thing really makes you wonder about the hiring (and promotion) processes.

NathanRunge's picture

I made it clear in my comment that I was supplying the opinion of someone outside the situation. If you are suggesting that only those individuals within Krome are in any way entitled to comment on the situation, then you have a sadly narrow perspective on the issue and an undue sense of ownership. Furthermore, despite your less than polite and constructive tone, perhaps you'd like to correct me and provide your own analysis? It's all very well to 'defend' the company you worked at, but the very fact it's shutting down proves there were problems and you can hardly claim it to be without flaw.

You also address the talent of the individuals employed at Krome. This is a matter I did not address, with the exception of management. That said, I do have insight into such things, knowing a number of employees there quite well. Certainly there were a lot of talented people at Krome, the majority I am sure, but once again their hiring practices were at times a touch indiscriminate.

Regarding independent studios, I am sure there are few that are particularly successful. I would never claim otherwise. The fact is, however, that there are far more job-seekers than there are jobs. Whether or not independent development is likely to be financially prosperous, it is an option many will consider.

You seem to have a great problem with my posting as a new-entrant, a fact I made clear in my post so as to provide context to my opinion. You yourself, however, have posted anonymously with solely ridicule and allegations of ignorance, without supporting statements and only alleged experience. So if you do take offence to what I say, perhaps you would at least like to match my level of professionalism and candour before replying?

Anonymous's picture

But your opinion is based on speculation and hearsay.

In a topic discussing the very real and very serious impact this has had on many people's lives, people who have first hand experience and left highly emotional after these events... you would have to expect that your comments would be unwelcome, so why share them?

It's all very well and good to share your opinion, that's what this website is for. But when you start taking about specifics when you have admitted you don't know anything about it...

why do it?

NathanRunge's picture

Do you honestly think this event has no impact upon those who are not employed at Krome? This is a significant event for the local industry, one that affects a great many people, myself included. Whether or not it is an emotional issue, I said nothing intended or expected to offend anyone personally, or to besmirch the work they have produced.

Additionally, this is not a court of law or an investigation. Speculation and hearsay, despite the negative connotations, are legitimate expressions. Speculation could more positively be phrased as analysis and hearsay is the citation of a primary source, albeit an unnamed one. Assuming you are the same 'anonymous', you have yet to supply any reason that my comments were invalid or offensive. I also never mentioned specifics, as management (and its components) are generalities. Were I to name individuals, specific decisions or company policies then your complaints would hold water.

I have no interest in defending myself from nameless and meritless complaints any longer, so any further negative commentaries on my posts shall be ignored unless there's at least some actual substance to them, or at least a name attributed.

Anonymous's picture

Well I for one don't much care for vague generalities about managment (mis or not) of things that I was involved in.

Given that I've also been made redundant from a place I've spent a third of my life, I would prefer not to go around the merry-go-round of speculation and hearsay - if people who were on the ride with me want to say something or ask questions, then please come talk to me (or email me at this point, I guess?). I'll give you the best answer I can, same as always, and would appreciate it.

Cheers

Linds

Anonymous's picture

I was the initial anon who responded to Nathans comments and this is my 1st counter response.

I do give you credit Nathan for not posting anon as I will continue to do. The games industry is small, even internationally everyone knows everyone, so its best not to burn your bridges.

Linds basically summed it up nicely, and he's one of the few at Krome that would really have a genuine insight on the goings on regarding things such as "the management of the star wars license". I worked there for over 5 years and I certainly didn't, so it laughable to suggest that a external person have enough insight to make statements such as yours.

Anonymous's picture

I worked at Krome for 5 years back in the day. I've never liked everything about the way Krome and the people who ran it worked. No-one who had any sense or integrity could have. It was simultaneously a terribly frustrating and inspiring place to work. But there was a laissez-faire attitude to development and an indie style to hiring that made it a friendly, open, and utterly fun environment. People there - particularly John and Steve originally - loved games and loved making them. They were fresh, and naive, and enthusiastic, and nice. Director meetings were held in the stairwell as people walked past. Beer was turned on every Friday afternoon at "beer o'clock" as a matter of course. People were given free trips to E3 flying business class.

It was also responsible for the absolute worst management and resulting crunch periods of my career, and the most sycophantic, nepotistic, dishonest work culture I've ever seen. The business practices were totally shonky, and (literally) criminal. I often wondered why the Tax Department never took a good hard look at the books, or why publishers didn't do genuine due diligence before signing huge contracts. Everyone knew what going on was dodgy. But every year we'd put out another 1-2 games, and the several superstars there would pull failing projects out of the crapper at the last minute *again*, to the gratitude and awe of the rest of us. Krome was always a mess of brilliance, incompetence, blind determined mediocrity, and used car salesmanship. But it was also at it's heart a bunch of mates working hard together on something they, if not always loved, at least wanted to love.

I learned an enormous amount at Krome. I earned every cent I was paid and then some, but I probably would not have gotten a start in the industry without the company. I am completely thankful for the opportunities given to me as a result of John, Steve, and Walshy's generosity, vision, and good fortune. I made a lot of friends there, and am proud to have worked alongside all of them.

Despite all the bad and true things that can be said, and the dirty underbelly of intrigue that was always a part of working there, in the end I just want to honour Krome and the guys who made it for what they did. I take my hat off to John Passfield, Steve Stamatiadis, and Rob Walsh for what they achieved in a time and place where no-one else could. I pay homage to the several superstars that brought projects to successful conclusion by force of their talent and determination. I wish the best forall who have ever been involved with the company, and hope we all find future and better success in the future.

Anonymous's picture

Who says Anonymous doesn't deliver? A great summary and well said, sir, madam or otherwise.

Anonymous's picture

As a former employee of some 7 years, I have to agree with every single word above. I left while they were still growing, how things change in two short years. I can't add anything to what has already been said other than I'd like to know who has said it, but that seems unlikely :)

Anonymous's picture

I think I'm pretty sure who wrote it, anyone who work with said person would recognize his distinctive style of writing.

Anonymous's picture

If you guys really think that overseas is the best option, just do it!
I came in Australia to work for Krome and all that I can say is that it's the best company I have been working in 15 years. Best environment, best management and best work mates.

Probably they've made some mistakes but who doesn't? We are humans after all and we cannot predict the future, and as most people working in the game industry knows, game industry is one of the most umpredictable business. It's almost like gambling.

If you think that going overseas it's the best thing to do, just do it mate. Then you'll understand what it means to go back home after 10-12 hours of work per day (Sat included). It's very hard to find an environment like Krome, with flexible hours, 7.5 hours per week and short Fridays...

Go ahead mate and go working overseas ...

I think that Australian game industry will rise again, cause there's a lot of talented people there. What is missing is just a common direction and a sense of cooperation to rise the quality and the working power of this industry.

About the Australian Dollar, it's surely rising and affecting the investors, but do you guys really need investors? You already have the power to create your business by yourselves.
About taxes.. please check the taxation rate in Europe and US before talking about it.

Trust me, Australia is the best place to work mate.
You'll think about what I wrote here when u'll be working overseas.. good luck.

Anonymous's picture

As someone who made the jump from Oz to OS, I can say the conditions and pay generally are better over here. The US is another world when it comes to pay and conditions in comparison to Australia. However, the real difference is opportunity. The games industry exists overseas, not in Australia. That is just the economic reality. You will get many, many, (many) more opportunities once you actually get out of Oz than you ever will staying there - especially if you want to work on something decent. If you're happy with kid's games and ports, no problem (and not that there's anything wrong with that). But if you really want to make a mark, and do more than just 9-5 living, you absolutely have to go overseas.

Getting overseas should be the priority for every young-ish developer. You can always go back to Australia with the experience of having worked overseas, and you will be a better developer for it.

Anonymous's picture

When you made the jump to overseas, did you sort out the job before leaving or move first and find the job second?

Anonymous's picture

... I did however fly myself over and organised some interviews before I left. I worked for a company in Australia that was based in the US, which made it easier. Once you have worked for the same place for 18 months, they can "transfer" you internally i.e. it's much easier to get a work visa in the US. However, Australia gets 30,000 work visas a year with the US. They're called E1's I believe, and so it's not that difficult.

Obviously it's better if you can do it internally with a US company, but lots of us have applied cold and landed jobs. The one good thing about the Oz industry is that you generally get to ship a lot of games for the time you spend. Shipped games are everything when it comes to resumes.

NathanRunge's picture

I understand the quality of your experience here in Australia and, believe me, I would love to work here. We have some great talent and some excellent studios. The fact is, however, there just aren't the jobs and there won't be for many years. While I too am sure the Australian industry will eventually recover, I lack the optimism you seem to hold for the time-frame. I suspect it will be over a decade before we are back to where we were, and probably significantly longer than that. At the same time, new graduates out of university, experienced modders and independent developers will all be vying for entry into the industry, increasing job competition much more rapidly than the increase in jobs.

If you've already got a well-respected foot in the door, I would certainly say there's no reason to leave. If you lack experience, however, Australia may not be the best place to get it.

Anonymous's picture

I'm currently still employed in the AU industry and I can say that the recent studio closures over the past 2 years have opened my eyes to the declining health of the local industry and have urged me to scout for opportunities overseas. Even though I'm quite comfortable with my position now and enjoy the work, I've come to realise that virtually no company in AU is particularly safe from closure (especially those with overseas owners) and I'm sure there's more bad news to come which keeps me from getting too comfortable and taking my job for granted. In any case I know that I will have to make the move overseas sooner or later.

Anonymous's picture

If there's anybody who would like to comment on this on or off the record please feel free to contact me at luke@citrusmedia.com.au

All the best to those involved.

Luke, Official PlayStation Magazine - Australia

Anonymous's picture

... its probably easier now to list the Oz companies left standing,

Best of luk to everyone,
get those resumes looking dapper

ps..i will add that, in the absence of the traditions of Captains sinking with their ships, management should take some criticism for this debacle like men. To run a studio of 400 staff and not deliver at least one five star (five star as in game fun not level of budget) game each year, they have put their own staff "under the axe" long before it was a fiscal necessity.

Anonymous's picture

As an animator whose dream was to work for the Ozzie game industry. Guess I have to kiss them goodbye and stick to TV animation........sigh

Anonymous's picture

For those that were listening, Jason Rubin predicted the outcome for the Australian Game Industry in 2004 in his jaw dropping opener to the AGDC entitled "Fear - An Appropriate Response to the Future of Game Development" in which he quoted himself with "Australian Development is a Good 5 Year Investment". 5 years is up last year.

Anonymous's picture

Anonymous's picture

Heh. I remember that talk like it was yesterday. We all talked about it a lot among the staff, I even remember some of the guys "up top" giggling at that talk. But it just made so much fucking sense to me. I pushed to get some original things made and change the paradigm, but - admittedly - there was very little outlet for original content at the time unless you so as Jason Rubin said, bet it all on a AAA title. But everyone was just too comfortable.

The big winners in all of this are companies like Firemint and Halfbrick (Sidhe also) who saw the writing on the wall and moved out of the way positioning themselves for a bright future. Not to mention the many independent studios that have formed and making good money in the wake of all of this. TrueAxis, Klicktock, Voxel Agents. There's definitely hope in all of this. Everyone just has to step back - realise that a number of factors have made Work For Hire in Australia dead in the water and then find a new niche.

Anonymous's picture

The big winners in all of this are companies like Firemint and Halfbrick (Sidhe also) who saw the writing on the wall and moved out of the way positioning themselves for a bright future.

The monopolised studio system didn't work for film in the end, why would it work for games? In the end It just breeds safe bets by suits and mediocrity.

Anonymous's picture

That final slide is a masterstroke. How many more names to add to the gravestones?

Anonymous's picture

Well...Krome certainly were a work for hire company.

Anonymous's picture

Yes, that is what they became, but they didn't start out that way. The original and much touted game plan was to use the WFH model to allow them to make their own, hopefully great, original IP. The problem was Steve's middle of the road, psuedo manga aspirations were the best they came up with (which IMO was ego driven - noone had the balls to tell him it wasn't good enough). There were several great game ideas floated over the years, some of which made it to demo stage. But they never got the backing of the studio, likely because Steve wanted the resources for his own stuff. Fair enough, it was his studio, but at the end all they have is Ty and Blade Kitten... and a bunch of out of work developers :(

Anonymous's picture

Actually, we did start out that way. There were always two teams - Steve/johns doing Ty and later blade kitten, and another team doing work for hire. It all went pear shaped when Adelaide and Melbourne were bought and we started doing projects and engine fractured over 3 states plus outsource work to other companies like half brick

Anonymous's picture

... way before there were two teams there was one team working on one game at a time. The company was split into two teams later, as part of the original IP/WFH plan. It was a good one too, and worked for what it did. Krome had huge success relatively for a small Australian startup.

Things were always on the verge of falling apart though. We had the serious "you guys have to work 12 hour days for the next 3 months at least or we will all be out of jobs" talk at least 4 or 5 times when I was there. The period of time between projects was great fun (i.e. Counter-Strike), but a little tense too. We were all always relieved when a new project was announced and signed.

I was never not paid though, and I know the bosses had to dig into their own money to pay wages at times - something that wasn't generally known but which I always admired.

Anonymous's picture

It's slightly off topic, but with all 'rounds of layoffs' mentioned in the article, I just thought I'd mention the QA guys that were let go, they were the first round of redundancies...in August 09 I think (basically right after Clonewars Republic Heroes was submitted). They seem to have be overlooked in all of the articles I've read recently.