Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hudson Entertainment Shuts Down, Activision Slays Guitar Hero, True Crime

In a double shot PLUS of depressing industry news, it looks as if the current recession plus gaming trends split down the middle toward bigger-budgeted or smaller indie "casual" games has taken down the US offices one a fan favorite middle range publisher and a couple of major franchises by a major publisher. Of course, the real story is how companies see games (and the creativity behind them) as commodities and simply chop product lines and jobs based on under-performance (among other things) rather than shift jobs around to other projects. Fan favorite Hudson Entertainment is shutting down its US offices by the end of this month, according to multiple reports including a blog post by Morgan Haro, Hudson's US Brand Manager.

Konami had recently acquired the company in Japan and more likely than not deemed the US branch extraneous to its current strategy of publishing mobile and social network-based titles featuring Hudson characters. My own history with Hudson started back in the NES, GameBoy and TG-16 days (and might be the subject of a longer article down the road), but more recently, I had the grand opportunity to write my first full-length strategy guide for the iPod Touch/iPhone version of Neo Nectaris: Military Madness. Feel free to check it out HERE before Hudson's site disappears into the ether. Go BUY the game as well if you haven't, as it's inexpensive, pretty damn good and VERY challenging.

As for Activision...

Say goodbye to Guitar Hero, DJ Hero and the upcoming True Crime reboot, for starters. The company has killed its formerly profitable music games division, plans to cut 500 jobs and stopped development on the nearly completed True Crime: Hong Kong after deeming the game had quality issues that could cause it to under perform at retail. The cuts are continuing as I type this, so I may just total things up at week's end or early next week once the bleeding stops. The also formerly popular Tony Hawk franchise is on the ropes with no 2011 installment and a few other game franchises might see their end as well. I'm guess that the Marvel and Transformers licenses are safe, as these games seem to do well amongst comics fans young and old. World of Warcraft is safe, as are any other Blizzard products yet to be released.

As for Call of Duty? get ready for a full-fledged assault, folks. Activision is committing a new online-focused studio called Beachhead to develop what's looking like download-only content for PC and consoles, which means we may be seeing a subscription-based COD at some point. Also planned is a free to play online COD game for China, a HUGE market that's going to be focused on for its large gamer base and their loyalty to online gaming. No news on Bungie's upcoming project or the fates of Prototype 2 and other Activision titles is known, yet, but as noted, I'll update when more news hits.

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