The Week Ratbag Would Like to Forget

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A post in xboxworld.com.au from a former Ratbag employee describes how sudden and abrupt the closing down of the studio was...

"OK, here's what happened.

On Sunday, Greg Siegele got a phone call saying that Matt Booty and the HR guy were coming down. They arrived Tuesday, and we held a meeting at 2pm. We were told that we hadn't reached suitable quality levels in our deliverables, and that as a result Midway had decided to close the Adelaide Studio, and that we were all laid off. We were told that we had a day to offer suggestions to keep the studio open.

We suggested - bringing in people from OS, reducing the scope of operation, reducing the size of the team, and moving to another budget title, and a few other things.

We also had calls from the Premier and Federal Government asking if there was any assistance they could offer. With only one day notice, we had to decline.

Yesterday we had to go in, grab all our personal stuff, and delete our music, pictures, documents, emails, etc off our hard drives. We were given our redundancy notices. We went into the Ballroom next door, Greg put a tab on the bar, and we got hammered. They also ordered Pizza, which was always an in-joke around our office. When we've had bad news in the past, beer and pizza were ordered for the staff.

Some people have already found work interstate and overseas.

I am devastated and heart-broken. We all are."

In other Ratbag related news, Adelaide's The Advertiser has been probing into the cause of Ratbag's demise by detailing the heavy losses Midway have been experiencing in the past nine months. There has been a question of whether the founders and senior staff of Ratbag could start a new venture with the proceeds of the $7 million purchase (a large part of which included shares in Midway). The Advertiser reports that some of those shares are now in doubt...

"...Midway bought the company in August, giving founders Greg Siegele and Richard Harrison and 10 staff 418,570 shares in Midway's common stock - worth more than $7 million.

However, the sudden closure of the Pulteney St studio has left some share payments under a cloud because they were tied to performance targets up to August, 2008.

Former Ratbag chief executive Greg Siegele's rights to 38,052 shares - worth $1.2 million based on Midway's current share price - may also have been forfeited because the company terminated his employment.

"These shares were determined to be compensation for future service," the company said."

Ratbag's closure has sent shockwaves throughout the local industry, with comments posted in the Sumea forums from ex-Ratbag employees and industry personel such as Mario Wynards (CEO of Sidhe Interactive), John Passfield (Krome Studios co-founder, Creative Director at Pandemic Studios), and Ross Symons (CEO of Bullant Studios)...

Mario - "Sorry to hear when any Australasian studio closed down, whatever the reason. The timing certainly isn't the greatest in this case."

John - "I just want to say that this is a sad thing that's happened but I'm positive that people will find a place in the Aussie industry."

Ross - "This is more than sad for our industry and all involved. Further, if Greg leaves our industry then we will indeed have lost a very good friend, ambassador and spokesperson."

Offers for the now-jobless Ratbag employees have been forthcoming, with Sidhe Interactive, Pandemic Studios, and Bullant Studios expressing their interest in interviewing Ratbag applicants. Other studios such as Team Bondi are making a personal visit to Adelaide to arrange interviews this week.

Sumea was fortunate to get a response from GDAA President and CEO, Evelyn Richardson, on the situation...

The GDAA was surprised and very disappointed to hear of Midway's decision to close its Australian studio, particularly given that the acquisition was only finalised four months ago. However, we're focused now on ensuring that staff are given every opportunity to find employment within the local industry.

Finally, share your sympathies with this Romanian couple who had recently quit their jobs in their native country and were ready to fly to Adelaide for their new jobs at Ratbag....

"We are in a bad situation here too. two people from romania level designers (husband and wife) which were employed by midway australia. we received the airplane tickets, we have the visas (subclass 457) and we wonder if they are still available. before hearing this bad news we had left our jobs and now we are dessoriented. do you have some advices for us? ex ratbaggers pls... we still want to relocate in Adelaide."

Comments

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  • 1. MarkSA - Monday, December 19, 2005 - 10:19:43 AM
    Having read this article. It makes me ask these questions.
    If Midway was in dire straits, why did they buy RatBag?
    Why did they give RatBag such short notice to close down?

    When everything is just based on the bottom line, we truly lose sight of the bigger picture.

    Good luck guys

  • 2. Lorien - Monday, December 19, 2005 - 11:20:11 AM
    Not to mention the human cost, and the cost to the industry as a whole from people moving OS as a result of this debacle.
  • 3. Mark W - Monday, December 19, 2005 - 11:22:08 AM
    Wow! Reading this was shock to the system - best of luck to all the Ratbag guys..
  • 4. Ex-Ratbagger - Monday, December 19, 2005 - 9:12:24 PM
    There is another report on the demise of Ratbag here

    http://www.dignews.com/news.php?story_id=12929

  • 5. DogSmell - Thursday, December 22, 2005 - 1:14:47 AM
    I worked for Midway for 6 years, quitting in 2003. When I left the price of their stock was S3. Now its S20? Midway has one product: Mortal Kombat. Their marketing dept blows and has too much control. Booty is a joke. That guy turned one game he worked on into an industry for himself. Midway blindly gives too much power to individuals who are one trick ponys. Lots and lots of politics contributing to their poor decisions. And now Rat Bag pays the price for getting in bed with them. Midway would have died 2 yrs ago, but Redstone kept buying shares and everybody thought 'how could Sumner be wrong?'. Well, he was.
  • 6. Anonymous Coward - Friday, December 23, 2005 - 6:41:41 PM
    Gotta luv an industry whereby everyone rats on their former employers publicly. It's amazing anyone gets employed at all!
  • 7. x-ratbag - Sunday, December 25, 2005 - 1:08:48 AM
    ^ Small mind = broad generalisations

    If your business culture punishes honesty about incompitance then you are doomed; if you suppress it too much then it may well end in places like this

  • 8. Down to earth. - Monday, January 02, 2006 - 11:36:00 PM
    Unfortunately, Midway, is just another money making business. It's not a "family" like RatBag was. As another money making business, when they don't make money, they just sacrifice the one thing that makes them money (people and bricks & mortar). It's just business. I don't expect Midway to last very long at the rate they're going right now. Seems with all the losses and negative publicity, it'd be a wonder that anyone would work at such an unstable company again.
  • 9. CynicalFan - Friday, January 13, 2006 - 7:49:10 AM
    A weird job-ad, notice the date:

    http://www.gamesindustry.biz/jobs.php?action=view&job_id=22602

  • 10. CynicalFan - Monday, January 16, 2006 - 7:44:49 PM
    Yeah, someone definitely didn't get the memo ;)