6/23/03 Horizons Fakes Screenshots

Horizons 6/23/03

IGN 6/23/03

Tidbits 6/23/03
 

Acclaim 4/11/03

IMH 4/11/03

GameSpy 4/11/03

Earth & Beyond 4/11/03
 

SWG 3/10/03

Driver 3 3/10/03

Midway 3/10/03

THQ 3/10/03

VCS 3/10/03

Sega 3/10/03
 

NVidia 2/13/03

Sega 2/13/03

Sunstorm 2/13/03

Midway 2/13/03

Tidbits 2/13/03
 

MS-Vivendi 1/29/03

City of Heroes 1/29/03

Koster/Vogel 1/29/03

Shadowbane 1/29/03

Acclaim 1/29/03

Sega 1/29/03

Dice CE 1/29/03

Titus 1/29/03

Quicksilver 1/29/03

MCV 1/29/03

More Tidbits 1/29/03
 

Smartdog 1/8/03

Dave Simon 1/8/03

Volition 1/8/03

Piranha Games 1/8/03

More Titus 1/8/03

Strategy First 1/8/03
 

Microsoft/Sega 12/6/02
 
 
 

Past Rumors:

 
There is a thread over at the Vault Network which claims the latest batch of mmorpg Horizons screen shots are mocked-up renders.

Read the thread here.

Since these don't seem to be screenshots, they must be, at best, 3d renderings.  Sorry to burst anyone's bubble (and it's amazing nobody even noticed) so check out these two "screenshots" where it's most obvious :

and 

Unless that dwarf is the Michael Jordan of dwarves with a hangtime that spans the day-night cycle, then the shots are manufactured.  It's the same exact shot, lit differently one for day and another for night, with the models placed and no live action going on whatsoever. 

Then they removed the dwarf from the scene, rearranged things a bit and placed other races in the same manufactured shot. 

The worst bit is that they made it THAT obvious and it goes to show what they think of the fanbase.  We predict Horizons is DOA.


6/23/03 IGN Refuses to Sell

Ziff Davis media recently offered to purchase IGN whole kit and kaboodle for $40 million US. 

That was stupid. 

What's stupider is that IGN refused. What the hell were they thinking?  Gamespot only sold for $18 million at the height of the dot com boom.


6/23/03 Rumor Tid-Bits

- Acclaim is at death's door.  Cash is strapped, products aren't selling, and creditors are knocking at the office doors.  And this time there's no wrestling license to save the company.

- EA is looking to buy one or more smaller studios.  The Sims Online continues to post weak subscriber numbers.  Earth & Beyond is all but dead.

- Sega needs a suitor to buy them, now that both the Sammy and Namco mergers are off.  Microsoft execs have been seen milling around the Sega of America offices in San Francisco.


4/11/03 Layoffs at Acclaim

Acclaim, that stinking publisher, while suffering from three class action lawsuits, recently conducted a round of layoffs.  This round terminated 20% of the workforce across all Acclaim studios and the corporate office in New York.  With the company's stock trading at $.44/share and soon to be delisted from the Nasdaq market, the future isn't looking so bright for Acclaim.  Management was, however, able to secure an additional $2 million deposit for line of credit.


4/11/03 Infogrames Melbourne House

Infogrames Melbourne House has lost up to 10 people over the past few weeks.  These employees have reportedly departed due to senior management's lack of vision and unrealistic project schedules.  Included in the departures were 2 executives. 


4/11/03 Upcoming GameSpy Layoffs

Word is that an impending layoff is coming to GameSpy.  Financial performance has come in under expectations and overhead continues to run high.  Except to see some pink slips handed out shortly.


4/11/03 EA to Cancel Earth & Beyond

Our sources within the evil empire (Electronic Arts, not Microsoft) tell us the company plans to cut service to the massively-multiplayer failure Earth & Beyond at the end of July.  With the slow summer months approaching, E&B is becoming a loss leader within the halls of EA, and the ever cost-conscious company is looking to cut its losses in the wake of ever increasing Wall Street expectations.  Current monthly subscriptions number less than 30,000.


3/10/03 Star Wars: Galaxies Delayed

Our reports indicate that Star Wars: Galaxies will be delayed to a mid-fall release.  Beta testers are saying the game hasn’t even entered beta test phase 3 yet, and the servers are continuously up and down plagued by laggy performance.  Even all the feature cutting couldn’t save Koster, Vogel, and co.  Has the magic left the building?

Strong competitors to SWG include EVE Online and ShadowbaneEVE was recently delayed until early May, citing server problems, while Shadowbane still clings to a now-revised release date of March 25.

We shall see.


3/10/03 Driver 3 Slips

Infogrames' next installment of the hit franchise, Driver 3, is said to be delayed.  Does this put the game out beyond the next iteration of Grand Theft Auto?  Infogrames, already buried under a mountain of debt, cannot afford to slip their titles.


3/10/03 Midway Games

Midway Games has its days numbered.  The recent layoffs there wiped out the Milpitas-based development group, some old Atari staff having been there since the days of the 2600.  As a thank you they gave the boot to those employees.  Also, Dave Simon the Art Director of the entire company got fired.  He was organizing the layoffs when he was asked upstairs for the waiting boot.  To make matters worse the core team they had kept who worked on numerous games all jumped ship and went to Sammy in Carlsbad, CA. 

Look for Midway’s pain to continue.


3/10/03 THQ Cutbacks

THQ has cut staff and canceled products as their stock plummets.  THQ’s stock has dropped to nearly an all-time low of $12.20 from nearly $40 a share less than one year ago.

A reported 3 projects were canceled, 2 being externally developed, and close to 30 employees were let go.


3/10/03 Vicious Cycle Software Layoffs

Fat Sucker-Boy  reports:

I just laid back with some of the not so fat cats at Vicious Cycle Software.  Five employees just got laid off, and this is the scoop:  the slave drivers, Eric Peterson & Marc Racine spit out Robotech–Battlecry by driving a few employees to the grave.  Then they got "The Call" which was not worth the crap VCS’s employees had to put up with so THQ pulled the plug on the fat hog.  Apparently Raymer and Pearson were pulling in too much of the bacon and the actual development team had to be let go.  Dinotopia for TDK and Robotech II look like slim possibilities since the development team is now leaving in droves.  Fat Sucker-Boy would like to wish Eric and Marc a happy "screw you" to the loser boys of NC.  We all hope you can raise you children with more respect then you can raise a company.


3/10/03 Sega Has More Suitors

From the Wall Street Journal:

The WSJ recently reported that Sega - which recently announced plans to merge with pinball machine manufacturer Sammy Corp. - now has two video game giants considering their own bids for the ailing company: Microsoft and Electronic Arts. The Wall Street Journal reports that the two U.S. companies are separately exploring the possibility of buying all or parts of Sega. Sources stressed that the two potential suitors have yet to hold formal talks with Sega and that no deal appears imminent. 


2/13/03 NVidia in Trouble

Graphics hardware kingpin NVidia Corp. last winter had the gaming video card crown yanked away from them by upstart ATI and its Radeon 9700 ultra-speedy gem of technology.  NVidia had been counting on their Geforce FX series (successor to the Geforce 4) to help them maintain lead, but when manufacturing delays and cost overruns got out of hand, the company was forced to slip the shipment of the Geforce FX to March ’03.  It’s already February and we have no word from NVidia other than murmurs that their top of the line version of the Geforce FX will be scrapped.  What this means is that ATI will most likely continue to reign supreme in the video card arena, at least until the next round of cards ship this fall.

We predict NVidia to slowly sink into the realm of 3Dfx, the former reigning champions, who, ironically, were bought out by NVidia a few years ago.


2/13/03 Sega of America Chatter

Greg Thomas, studio head of Visual Concepts, the developer of the excellent Sega Sports brand of games, blames the lackluster sales of Sega Sports games on the "poorly run" and "generally incompetent" marketing department at Sega of America.  Thomas has supposedly said that if he were running things there, EA would already be number 2.  Look for Thomas to make a big career move at SOA sometime in the future.

Also within Sega, word has it that the company plans to lay off up to 50% of their San Francisco-based workforce.  Falling sales, out of control development costs, and an uncertain market are all contributors to the decline in confidence at the software developer. 


2/13/03 Sunstorm Interactive Shuts Down

Sunstorm Interactive is shutting their doors.  Almost 2 weeks ago, the Deer Hunter creator laid off nearly their entire staff—it’s safe to say that we won’t see Deer Hunter 23 anytime soon.  Tom Shiflet, General Manager of Sunstorm, posted his farewell message on the Deer Hunter messageboard. 

http://www.huntersrealmforums.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=3200


2/13/03 Midway West Closes

No longer a Rumor, but Midway has shut down the west coast office based in Milpitas, California.  Almost 100 employees received their walking papers—the entire studio.  The studio had been working on 2 projects:  Crank the Weasel and Gladiator: Crimson Reign, both for console systems.  It is unsure whether those projects will continue, or be scrapped.


2/13/03 More Tidbits

Just for fun, here's a list of companies that are floating in the shit, treading water, or dead in the water (Dec-Jan): 

1. Rage Software (pretty much dead) 
2. EA Warrington (a few staff let go in December)
3. Vivendi Interactive (mass layoffs) 
4. Blitz Games (Lego development let go) 
5. Versus Books (Seattle office rumored closed, no books seen since Metroid Prime
6. THQ (fat cleansing and a partial hemmorage)


1/29/03 Microsoft to Buy Vivendi Games

Microsoft financial suits and other execs have recently been sighted at the Vivendi Universal offices in Los Angeles, fueling the Rumor that Microsoft plans to make a huge buyout of one of the major software developers/publishers.  Word has been going around that Microsoft has been eyeing Sega, Namco, and even Activision, so we know Microsoft is looking to make a major acquisition.  Now that Vivendi is in the picture, it makes sense as they have the Sierra and Blizzard brands, and if Microsoft is looking to make exclusive software titles for its Xbox console, what better company to have on your development side than Blizzard?

Vivendi and Microsoft, of course, would not comment.  But look for a major Microsoft buyout by the end of the first quarter.


1/29/03 City of Heroes Slips

Superhero massively-multiplayer online RPG City of Heroes is said to be slipping out of summer and to late fall or Christmas of 2003.  Development of the game has gone much slower than anticipated, multiple problems have arisen with the network code, and some internally within the studio are beginning to question the design concept.  The concept and graphics are still something to write home about, but a major slip such as this puts it close to the cusp of upcoming releasing third-generation mmo games, such as Everquest 2.


1/29/03 Microsoft Bags the Big Ones

Look for key players in the massively-multiplayer development arena to jump ship and bail for greener (as in money) pastures once their current project is finished.  We have word that Sony Online/Verant’s Raph Koster, Rich Vogel, and others in the Austin, TX Verant Studio are preparing to depart en masse as soon as Star Wars: Galaxies is released.  Microsoft is supposedly the benefactor of that talent exodus from Verant.


1/29/03 Shadowbane Slips Again

Why do we even bother to report this?  It would be akin to reporting that Duke Nuke’m Forever has slipped its release date yet again (oh sorry, 3D Realms stopped giving out release dates for DNF a while ago).  But massively-multiplayer role-playing game Shadowbane is looking to slip their March 15 ship date again to sometime during the summer.  UbiSoft, the publisher, has distanced itself from the game for sometime now, citing a shaky beta test, underwhemling server performance, and a dated graphics engine.


1/29/03 Acclaim Layoffs

Acclaim Entertainment has recently laid off around 30 employees from their New York office.  The company struggled with slow sales and a lackluster Christmas season, losses were mounting and trimming of the fat was necessary.  Looks as if the porn in BMXXX wasn’t the savior for Acclaim after all.  More layoffs are expected to be on the way.


1/29/03 Sega Strapped for Cash

From the Business Ware:

SAN FRANCISCO--Jan. 17, 2003--SEGA of America, Inc. today announced that Peter Moore, president and chief operating officer, has tendered his resignation. Effective immediately, Tetsu Kayama, chief operating officer of SEGA Corporation, will assume the expanded role of president and chief executive officer of SEGA of America, Inc. 
"We thank Peter Moore for his four years of service at SEGA and wish him well in his future endeavors," said Tetsu Kayama, chief operating officer, SEGA Corporation and president and chief executive officer, SEGA of America, Inc.


What they don’t tell us is that Sega of America has already blown through nearly their entire 2003 budget.  Moore decided unwisely to take on sports powerhouse Electronic Arts head to head during the Christmas season, promoting NFL 2K3 to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.  Sales forecasts pegged the game to sell 1.6 million units.  Instead, it has sold barely 300,000.  The company’s losses continue to rise, and Moore has taken the fall for the extremely poor business decision.  The marketing group at SOA failed to recognize the power of EA’s branding, and SOA is now suffering as a result.


1/29/03 Dice CE & Gary Coriveau

Digital Illusions (Dice CE) has finally made one good move:  to not renew Gary Coriveau’s contract.  You may remember this moron as making 2 of the worst games last year (Pryzm and the horrible Shrek).  Most of the company’s poor performance last year can be attributed to this guy—causing half the company to be laid off.  About time his hippie ass was shown the door.


1/29/03 More on Titus

Recently, a Virgin Interactive Brand Manager walked out last week and the Marketing manager is also leaving soon, that means that there's no marketing team left–it’s no wonder, as nobody has been paid since November 2002. 

Titus is still planning on selling Interplay very soon to try and ease their debt load.

Interplay’s Baldur's Gate series is being published and possibly sold to Vivendi Universal.

and...

Following up on the 1/8/03 Rumor about Titas layoffs, the remaining SmartDog staff has also been made redundant now.  And guess what, all the ex-employees are still waiting for owed pay, severance, etc. 



1/29/03 Quicksilver Layoffs

Looks like the development team for Master of Orion 3 at Quicksilver Software has been told that when their game goes out the door, as a reward for their hard work they'll all be getting... pink slips!  Other SoCal developers are getting flooded with resumes.  It's a familiar story:  small development company hasn't been able to sign a new project, and doesn't have enough capital to keep an extra team around for shits and grins.  Most of Quicksilver's work in the past has been for Interplay and Infogrames, and the French aren't in a position to be funding much new development at the moment. 

At least the company's playing straight and giving everyone advance warning. 


1/29/03 MCV Shamed

MCV, the UK based games industry newspaper, having been shamed by links with the Kaboom Private Dancer/Wanker game are now adding accusations plagiarism to the ongoing sexism charge.  On their 'Off the Record' back page looks at the 'fun, frivolous and sometimes downright odd actives’ of the video games industry was a funny article entitled 'It’s the Future'.  This was all about the nasty 'Ghost of Christmas Future' tempting kids with preview of the very cool sounding PS5.  However observant readers will notice this article is a cut-down version of an feature in 'The Onion', the US based satire website (18th December 2002 edition).  MCV ran the article without any credit being given to those who did the actual writing; aka plagiarism. (Other clever readers will notice that credit not being given to those who actually do the work is the bread and butter of the games industry!)


1/29/03 More Juicy Rumors

- The big Rumor around these here parts is that Check Six Studios (of Spyro 4 "fame") is now Check Sux—because they have closed their doors.  Thank the maker, as Spyro 4 was a large turd.

- No longer a Rumor, but Rage Software in the UK has closed it’s doors, laying off all but a few employees who will remain to lock the doors and turn off the lights.  Creditors failed to support an 11th hour plea for additional funding, and as a result Rage was forced to close up shop, sending over 100 employees to the unemployment line.

- Midway San Diego has let an additional 20 or so staff go in the wake of their earlier layoffs.  What a nice post-Christmas present!


1/8/03 Titus Layoffs

Titus recently laid off a number of Smartdog development team members (15 of 22).  Those staff have not received any accrued pay, statutory redundancy pay or any other payments, despite pink slips being issued.  At least two cases are about to be brought against Smartdog through industrial tribunals and the court system.

Even remaining members of the Smartdog team have not been paid. 

All this is due to "cashflow problems" within the Titus group. 

The question is how long can Titus hold on? 


1/8/03 Dave Simon Axed at Midway

Not longer a Rumor, but David Simon, the legendary asshole and enemy of anyone with a brain in the industry, was fired in December by Neil NiCastro and Ken Fedesna after blowing more than $10 million on a game called Freaky Flyers which may now be dead in the water.  22 additional layoffs were issued (more than half the production staff left).  Panic has swept through the San Diego Internal Development offices with word of a complete Internal Development shutdown, leaving only 3rd Party Development to publish games for the company.  Testing has let go more than 40 people in the last five weeks, with the remaining skeleton crew not having much to work on.  So far, other departments and sites seem unaffected, for now. 


1/8/03 Volition Going Into the Toilet
 

Volition, the developer of the FreeSpace, Summoner and Red Faction franchises, is going into the toilet.  Apparently working there is starting to suck and people are bailing for greener pastures.  They've lost a bunch of pretty senior people in the last few months, including the Red Faction style lead and the Summoner character lead. 

People are disgruntled because they work their asses off to ship games on short schedules and the quality suffers.  RF2 and Summoner 2 are tanking so there's no big bonus checks coming in to salve the wounds of long crunch times.  Add in the fact that the new games aren't going any better and it's just not a very attractive lifestyle.  How easy is it going to be to find talent to replace them in Champagne, Il? 

They weren't ever a premier studio and now they're headed in the wrong direction.


1/8/03 Pirahna Games to Close?

This one a little late, but still worth a good chuckle.  FatSkinny reports:

As a follow up to the 10/24 Rumor about Piranha Games in Vancouver, on 12/03/02 the entire staff at Pirahna was laid off.  No severance was included (the owners are calling it a temporary layoff, as they hope to sign a AAA deal soon and bring everyone back on.  Internally, this is regarded as, at best, a pipe-dream), and in fact the owners didn't have the balls to show up and pass the news themselves.  Employees were just handed their walking papers as they came in for another day of work. 

A great many of these guys were quality people, and did quality work.   Unfortunately, the powers that be put idiots and yes-men in lead positions and didn't care about making a decent game. 

Now that mindset is biting their employees (sorry... former employees) in the ass.  Of course, what do the owners care?  They just got back from two months of vacation, on the company dime. 

Merry Christmas, indeed. 
 

-FatSkinny


1/8/03 More Lambasting of Titus

Confounding Factor, working to complete Galleon Islands of Mystery, has not been paid by Titus for several months now.  So long in fact that the development group is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Apparently the game is 95% complete, but the staff are being continually held back because of constant requests for changes from Titus.  This prevents the gold master milestone from being reached—another payment objective.

Is this another case of a large company destroying a small developer?  What a shame.


1/8/03 Strategy First Closes Office

On the morning of Friday the 13th, December 2002 the employees of the Ottawa Branch Development Team of Strategy First Inc. arrived at work to find VP Chuck Kroegal from the Montreal Office waiting. 

They were gathered around and told that the Ottawa Branch office was closed effective immediately.  They were instructed to clear out desks, turn in keys, sign releases, then leave. 

In the speech that was made by Brian Clarke, Senior Vice President, employees were informed, though Strategy First would finish the year profitable, the office was being closed because PC game sales had dipped and Quebec investors insisted the office be shut down.  Further cuts would be forthcoming in the Montreal Office. 

Merry Christmas to you too, Strategy First. 


12/6/02 Microsoft Looking to Buy Sega

Microsoft executives have paid several visits to both Sega of America and Sega of Japan over the past 6 weeks.  They are embroiled in high level negotiations for the software giant to purchase the Japan-based software publisher.  Although both companies are not commenting, moles within Sega of America have informed us they have seen Microsoft execs touring the San Francisco facilities of Sega of America over the past weeks.

An acquisition of Sega by Microsoft would undoubtedly give the Xbox exclusive Sega content, such as their 2k series of sports games, the trademark Sonic brand games, and high profile fighting games like the Virtua Fighter series.  This could be what Microsoft needs to swing the tide of the console wars in their favor--though they still have a lot of catching up to do.
 

 
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