The latest news is that Transmission Games, formerly IR Gurus, are closing up and have shed all staff.
It's been a troublesome year for the long running Melbourne game studio, beginning with milestone payment problems with publisher Red Mile over their Heroes over Europe title earlier this year. While Ubisoft has stepped in to take over the publishing duties for that title, the axing of a Red Tails movie licensed game for LucasArts as well as the failure to find interested publishers for the current games they were working on (including an arcade style helicopter game called Rotorhead) has inevitably broken Transmission Games' back. The studio had recently shed 28 staff members (a third of the company, consisting mostly of full-time coders and QA personnel) in a cost cutting effort to reduce the company's burn rate.
Although an official statement is unlikely in these circumstances, numerous sources have confirmed that Transmission Games have indeed let go of their remaining staff and went into voluntary administration today. Transmission Games was established as IR Gurus Pty Ltd in 1996, and at its height reached over 135 employees (late 2008). As one of the more larger established game studios in Melbourne, it became well known for its numerous AFL titles as well as the critically acclaimed Heroes of the Pacific aerial action game and more recently, Ashes Cricket 2009 and Heroes over Europe.
A pretty dark week for Melbourne game dev what with Redtribe's recent collapse too. I haven't heard good things coming out of BigAnt either. Lets hope any other companies that have been struggling can weather the storm.
Pessimistically even if a few new start-ups are formed in the wake of these problems, there won't be enough new jobs created to house all the people who have suddenly found themselves jobless - myself included. Worse, the industry will lose the talent it has as many move into other industries and can't be coaxed back into games.
What do people think - is this just a low-period, or will the local industry claw its way back in a year or two?
Work for hire is no longer a good model to fall back on as the contracts are few and far between, and we're competing with cheaper (and better) studios in Asia for them.
Australia will probably reinvent itself as a haven for small indies working on independent projects... but only the worldbeating products will enjoy any kind of success at all.
I think the future is what we make of it.
You are quite right. It’s true that the Australian and Victorian game industry is suffering. It’s been in a poor state for a while now and we’re all now feeling the consequences of it.
I really do feel sorry for the talented individuals who, in the last hours of these studios continued to work at their jobs productively and with professionalism, rather then screaming that it’s doomsday at the top of their lungs.
Some of you talented dudes will indeed find it hard to obtain a new job.
Some will get absorbed into other studios. Some wont.
Some will start their own small studio ventures. Some of these ventures will collapse and fail due to any number of factors. Some will find a level of success that allows them to survive and possibly grow.
Some will leave the industry out of discontent and never look back. Some will leave the industry out of necessity to find a more economically stable profession and career.
You’ll need to decide for yourself what direction your going to head. And maintain pursuing that direction.
In my personal opinion:
If we as a state and country wish to survive in game development. We need to establish a number of small, independent studios that contain staff that are professional and multi-skilled. We need to create fun, interesting and compelling products that clearly demonstrate an intended target market and an ideal to be not only be made with personal touches, but to also be profitable.
We need to take smaller steps then we have in the past. I think too many start-ups have their sights set on consoles and MMOs and far over-scope their abilities. It’s wise to start with a project that you know you have more then enough resources to finish through with. If and when those projects reap rewards then you can grow and expand your project scope to bigger waters.
We cannot compete on an international level for being cheaper then another country any longer. Our dollar is almost on par with the USA. We are no longer in any way cost effective, even for asset creation.
We need to show an ability to create exceptional quality in our development projects no matter how big or small. Quality and understanding of the marketplace is the goals we need to strive for.
Our dollar has gone crazy in the last 6 months.
Went from like 0.50 cents per US dollar, now almost on par.
I know some companies used the dollar being so good earlier in the year for the basis to get extra things, wonder how they are doing now.
Dude we haven't been at 50c to the US dollar for decades if at all ever. You make a point tho, until the US and UK currencies pick up we are going to struggle without help from the govt. Parity with the film industry tax breaks will go some way to helping when it comes to work for hire but a dramatic shift in market focus is also being called for.
True but the AU dollar has been fluctuating a lot. In July 2008 the AU dollar was at its highest level ever in history at about 0.98 US cents and then within 3 months had come crashing down to low 60's. Then it steadily rose back to where it is now. Upon the announcement that Australia had weathered the GFC better than other countries has caused a recent increase in the AU dollar so a lot of it's due to our stimulus spending.
Sure the AUD is hurting developers that are currently getting milestone payments in USD at the current rate but it can't be the blame for sending a company to the wall.
And don't expect the AUD to remain so high for the long term.
There is many a thought that the US dollar is rooted. At the rate they are printing money, it will be worthless. Thats why there are already murmers about the US dollar being replaced on international trading markets.
And witht he ammount of debt the US has racked up, they are also likley to embrace it.
GCAP wouldn't be so dreary if it wasn't so overpriced. GCAP could be a great opportunity for people recently put out of work to network, but the price is quite prohibitive, considering there is such a lack of value for that money.
Screenplay has mentioned that the remaining staff are heading into the office this morning to see what their entitlements are, and as anyone who's experienced being let go can attest, it's a pretty crappy period to go through right now.
There's a lot of history at IR Gurus / Transmission Games, many triumphs and lessons learned, mergers, links to Melbourne House, and other office politics. Perhaps we'll hear about some of them in more detail in the future. I'd be curious to hear where the veterans at Transmission go from here. It would be a huge shame to lose people like Mike Fegan from the industry as he's been very supportive and outspoken when it comes to bettering the local games industry.
So where did it all go wrong? Surprisingly, it hasn't been a big mystery how Transmission Games has ended up in this situation. In fact, all the problems the company has been recently experiencing has been pointed out by Mike Fegan himself in a statement to Edge-online when they shed 28 staff just a few weeks ago..
(Mike Fegan) "The decision to lay off staff is not easy for any company, and we delayed taking this course of action for as long as we possibly could. Transmission Games has grown rapidly over the past couple of years. The recent releases of Ashes Cricket 2009 and Heroes Over Europe, both of which have been incredibly well received in the market, are a testament to the talents of the Transmission teams. We are genuinely proud of both games.
"We, like many other developers, have not been immune to the global financial situation. Securing new projects is difficult; the publisher's decision making process is, quite understandably, more considered and thus longer. Even getting a rejection from a publisher is difficult. We currently have two unannounced game in development, but our inability to secure a third project in time has forced us to reduce our operating costs to ensure the long term health and viability of our company.
"On Tuesday, September 30, we were forced to let 28 people go. These were some of the most talented members of the Australian development community and it was incredibly difficult to see them leave. We naturally wish them the very best for the future and can't thank them enough for their contributions to the company over the years.
"Transmission Games remains focused on delivering high-quality titles and are continuing to work with publishers to secure additional projects. We're optimistic the next news stories from Transmission Games will be exceptionally positive."
To summarise, and as others has mentioned:
1. The economic downturn (causing publishers to tighten up) and the strong Aussie dollar have been lethal for work-for-hire (this is out of Transmission's control)
2. Failure to secure publisher interest for in-development titles (out of Transmission's control, considering point 1. Rotorhead was proposed to some 15 publishers, so it definitely was not for the lack of trying)
3. The axing of the LucasArts project stemming from legal IP issues (out of Transmission's control)
In fact, all the other issues such as Red Mile not paying their milestones for Heroes over Europe, and Sin City changing hands from Transmission Games (an issue with the publisher and IP) were also not of Transmission's doing.
I know when we report on company closures on tsumea, we usually get an influx of angry ex-staffers and a whole lot of finger pointing in the following discussion thread, but it's something we've not seen this time. It looks like just rotten luck, red tape, and outside circumstances that has caused Transmission Games to find themselves at this predicament, rather than managerial, staff, or development related negligence.
It's unfortunate, in my opinion, as they were starting to bring out some really quality titles. Two of their more recent games were critically acclaimed (Heroes of the Pacific, and Ashes Cricket 2009), with the latter topping the UK games charts and making Codemasters a whole bunch of cash.
The Edge article revealed that they had two unannounced games in development
- Rotorhead, an arcade style helicopter game - shopped to 15 publishers
- Janes F22, a flight sim for Evolved Games (publisher of Raven Squad)
- Ashes Cricket 2010 was getting finalised with Codemasters
Some details on the state of these projects were revealed a few weeks ago at IncGamers.
I disagree, I think these guys really failed to get beyond doing arcade flight games. Anything they tried to do that was more complex, never got anywhere -- I think that Sin City was probably all style and no substance. And most of their in development titles, are all more arcade flight games, not enough diversity IMHO -- there last one, was not rated that highly by the gaming media; another indicator pointing to not being all that strong in design.
Anyway, that's my opinion.
I just wanted everyone to know that THQ has the below jobs open. More importantly we are always looking for great talent in general, so please contact me if you would like to discuss what opportunities we might have for you, either in Australia or abroad.
THQ Studio Australia
Senior PS3 Tech programmer
Temp QA Tester
First of all sorry to hear about this, lots of good dudes over there in TG. Just to come at this from another angle. To survive as a software development company regardless of the content being created, you need to state quite clearly what it is your being asked to build, quote on that and try to stick to it. Passion is great but if nobody is paying your company to build/change/enhance it then ultimately the cost to make the game will exceed the bottom line..... I think Heroes over Europe contained blood sweat and tears...and probably 1000's of hours of unpaid work.....
business is business....
"...and probably 1000's of hours of unpaid work.....
business is business...."
Regardless of what's happening out there, that's one thing I'd like to see change. Of course the business aficionados would call me one of those lazy hippy artists that are living in the stone age.
Pretty much the most selfish thing I could say is "darn! all that new competition in the rat-race!" But at the same time these guys and gals are talent that should be tapped. While I surely can't compete with them for the jobs they now surely need, if they get them and rebuild the local industry then more opportunities will open for me to hopefully finally join their ranks. So good luck people!
A start-up is far far far easier said than done, particularly in this climate. If a company with the experience of Transmission collapsed, I wouldn't view that as encouragement that some people without the contacts, goodwill, and cash are going to be able to make a go of it.
Sure, you can create iPhone or other direct-to-market product, but the reality of recovering your investment from that is pretty depressing - without those contacts and the goodwill anyway.
Don't want to crush any dreams, just do your due diligence before launching into this.
I'm just an artist, sure I'd like to be a director one day but there's no way that I have the know-how, the skills, or the money to start up a company myself.
I also didn't say everybody from transmission should rebuild the industry by just going out and making new start-up studios, if they want to sure that's fine but I wanted to wish them well just by landing their feet in other game related roles to promote the industry that me and many others want to join.
Firstly to all Transmission Games employees and Mike Fegan you have my sincere condolences on the loss of this great company.
These are dark times for Games Development, and fortunately our business in unaffected by the crisis for a number of reasons:
- We have a government funded program that allows us to not rely on Publisher money whilst developing.
- As "designerwatts" very appropiately suggested, we've created our business model around deploying small studios the create their own IP and grow from cash profits, not on the hope of future profit.
- Both myself and our partners have been privalged enough to have cashed up from previous businesses before entering the IE industry.
I'd personally like to invite any Transmission Games staff (and anyone else appropriate for that matter) to apply as we expand into Victoria.
The link to the jobs is below:
Best of luck to all of you, I hope you still see the potential for growth in the IE industry compared to others, stay aboard in some way or another and that we as a whole can continue restructuring to see a new Golden age of Games Development in Australia.