Today, Atari's corporate communications VP, Nancy Bushkin, confirmed that its Minneapolis, Minnesota-based operation was shut down earlier this month. The Minneapolis Studio, as it is referred to internally, is probably better known as WizardWorks, a publisher of budget titles that included the multimillion-selling Deer Hunter franchise.
WizardWorks first made waves shortly after it was bought by GT Interactive in 1996. Its Deer Hunter title, developed by Sunsoft and released in late 1997, went on to become the top-selling PC title for the first quarter of 1998. That original Deer Hunter title went on to spawn five sequels and add-ons galore. When GT Interactive was bought by Atari (then known as Infogrames) in 1999, WizardWorks came under the French publisher's aegis.
Some of the 50-plus games that were published by WizardWorks include the PC titles Rocky Mountain Trophy Hunter, Trophy Hunter, and Pro Bass Fishing.
GameSpot spoke with Bushkin today and asked her to elaborate on the company's demise.
GameSpot: How many layoffs followed the studio's closure?
Nancy Bushkin: There were 19 people impacted, although we are in discussions with some about other positions within the company.
GS: What games were in development at the studio when it was closed? What does the future hold for those games?
NB: The Minneapolis Studio has essentially served as an extension of our Beverly, Massachusetts, office for the past 18 months, so all the publishing responsibilities that had been handled in Minneapolis will now shift to Beverly, where marketing, PR, and creative services were already being handled.
GS: Reasons for the closure?
NB: This move will enable us to streamline operations, place the publishing and marketing people handling these projects side by side, and eliminate redundancies in support functions. As for the sales function that had been in Minneapolis, sales support will move to NY, which is the home base for our sales organization, while two of our sales directors, who already worked remotely in the Minneapolis area, will continue to do so.
GS: Is the closure part of a larger Atari consolidation or cost-cutting strategy, or is it a sign that the focus at Atari is on Hollywood brands and not the casual market that the Deer Hunter and Dirt Track Racing brands targeted?
NB: We believe it's more productive and cost effective to have greater resources housed in fewer locations than to stretch our resources across more studios, especially when the work can be seamlessly continued at another location that is already intimately involved with the projects.
GS: Does development continue in any way on the Deer Hunter and Dirt Track Racing brands?
NB: All of the publishing efforts that were being handled out of Minneapolis have now been moved to our Beverly studio, so yes, all development continues.