Source: See below.
What we heard: Leading off the month, reports emerged that Microsoft was on the lookout for a new studio to take up the reins of its Project Gotham Racing franchise. The Xbox 360-exclusive series has lain dormant since 2007, when its developer, Bizarre Creations, was acquired by Activision. Now, it appears as if one possible option for Microsoft would be to simply set up a new studio and stock it with what may be more than 200 soon-to-be-unemployed Bizarre Creations employees.
The first rumblings of upheaval at Bizarre Creations occurred last night, when a NeoGAF message board user posted word that Activision had decided to close Bizarre Creations. According to the user, all 200 employees at the British studio had been put on 90-day notice. Shortly thereafter, UK gaming site Develop stated that it had confirmed with sources at the studio the same information found in the NeoGAF report.
Word of the closure has also begun to spread overseas. Reporting on its own source, Giant Bomb said that the studio has begun a "90-day consultation period" and "statutory redundancy." The source also told Giant Bomb that Activision plans to issue a press release regarding the studio closure soon.
Having made its name on the PGR series, Bizarre failed to find success with its first racing game for Activision, Blur. Though Activision has not announced official sales figures for the title, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said the game "had a very weak launch" in May, despite achieving solid review scores.
The timing on the reported closure also makes sense, considering Bizarre just shipped its latest title, James Bond 007: Blood Stone. Released on November 2, the shooter scored a positive critical reception, though it has yet to be seen how the game performed at retail.
The official story: "No comment yet."--A UK Activision rep.
Bogus or not bogus?: Looking not bogus.
[UPDATE]: Activision has since provided a statement on the news.
"Over the past three years since our purchase of Bizarre Creations, the fundamentals of the racing genre have changed significantly," the company statement reads. "Although we made a substantial investment in creating a new IP, Blur, it did not find a commercial audience. Bizarre is a very talented team of developers, however, because of the broader economic factors impacting the market, we are exploring our options regarding the future of the studio, including a potential sale of the business."