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Pandemic Brisbane Closure: More Details

By on January 18, 2009
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pandemic

Details remain obscure, and sources anonymous, but light is gradually being shed on the apparent closure of Pandemic’s Brisbane arm, as reported earlier in the week.

The new info is broadly in two areas: what went wrong, and what’s left?

According to ‘inside sources’, four central errors lead to the studio’s closure – errors compounded by parent company EA’s ongoing commitment to reducing head counts:

1. The studio was working on an untitled Batman game. Six months into development, EA changed the focus of the game to being a Dark Knight film tie in. A lot of work was lost.

2. EA’s control of the property was due to expire in December 2008, and despite the project being rushed, that deadline was still missed.

3. Pandemic Brisbane tried to create an open world game. Pandemic Brisbane had no experience in making an open world game.

4. The Saboteur game engine was to be used. The Saboteur game engine is not intended for open world projects.

So, a mixed bag, with blame lying both with EA and Pandemic.

Of more interest is the reality behind the talk of the studio being ‘set free’. As Nicholas noted at the time, Pandemic is owned by EA, who can’t just relinquish their ownership of the company.

It’s sounding more and more as if some kind of management buy out has occurred. Supposedly the team was split into Alpha and Bravo elements, the latter working on The Dark Knight, the former on an unannounced Wii title. When The Dark Knight was canned in September / October, 20 staff from Bravo were lost, with the rest disappearing  over the past month.

Alpha, meanwhile, is said to be to at least some degree still functioning. They retain the rights to the Wii project and are now described as needing a new publisher, which would seem to suggest EA hasn’t chosen to keep the team on in any capacity. The fact that they have the rights to their work indicates some kind of deal has been struck between former parent company and this new team.

Of further interest is a more general discussion of EA’s new studio-centered approach to development. It’s been suggested the autonomy afforded by greater independence for internal studios, plus the associations with big name external studios garnered from the EA Partners program means cuts and closures are easier to implement, while EA still benefits from the good reputations of the studios under its wing. EA back to its old tricks?

Time, as ever, will tell.

For the full and fascinating story, head to Kotaku Oz.

About Tom Jubert

Tom Jubert is a freelance games writer / narrative designer, best known for his work on the Penumbra series, for which he was nominated for a Writers' Guild Award. His upcoming releases include Lost Horizon and Driver: San Francisco. He was previously the Managing Editor at GameShadow.com, and has also spent time in production.
  • My bad – corrected.

    Certainly with the advent of XBLA etc and a demand for lower price points it’s been good to see smaller teams producing smaller games.

  • My understanding is that EA Partners only publishes titles by developers that are not part of EA, so Pandemic titles would not come under the EA Partners label.

    And I don’t see anything wrong with having a business that can be easily scaled back in an economic downturn. In fact, I think that the downturn will see more developers becoming freelancers/contractors and the model slowly shifting away from the monolithic and vast development studios that currently dominate the industry.