Big Huge Games in sizable peril

THQ confirms plans to sell or close Rise of Nations dev, spins off Heavy Iron and Incinerator Studios into independent businesses.

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THQ has revealed the final phase of its massive business realignment. The publisher confirmed that it will thin its internal ranks by another three studios one way or another.

Hopefully Big Huge winds up in better shape than these guys from Rise of Legends.
Hopefully Big Huge winds up in better shape than these guys from Rise of Legends.

As reported by Crispy Gamer and confirmed by GameSpot, THQ informed developers at Maryland-based Big Huge Games that it will close down the studio if a buyer isn't found in the near future. If that happens, employees at the studio will be given 60 days' notice. Additionally, THQ is spinning off two of its California studios--Los Angeles-based Heavy Iron and Carlsbad-based Incinerator--as independent companies.

"These actions were unfortunate but were necessitated by the difficult economic environment," the company said in a statement. These moves should bring to completion plans THQ announced in February to cut nearly one-quarter of its worldwide work force, some 600 people.

"With the completion of these actions, we will have achieved all of the actions contemplated within the previously announced cost reductions," a representative told GameSpot.

Big Huge Games was founded in 2000 by a quartet of PC strategy-game developers whose credits included Alpha Centauri, Civilization, Civilization II, and Gettysburg. The developer is best known for its work on Rise of Nations and the fantasy follow-up Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends. More recently, the studio was responsible for the Xbox Live Arcade game Catan, and has been developing an untitled role-playing game with Ken Rolston, lead designer on The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. THQ acquired the company in January 2008.

Although Big Huge Games was acquired by THQ after it had a proven track record, Heavy Iron and Incinerator were the publisher's own creations. THQ founded Heavy Iron in 1999 and set the company to work creating games based on its licensed properties. The studio has created games based on SpongeBob SquarePants, Scooby-Doo, and numerous Pixar films, including The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Wall-E. Established in 2006, Incinerator produced the Wii version of Cars.

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