GDAA responds to THQ Aussie studio closures

CEO of the Game Developers Association of Australia, Tony Reed, says closures are only "a disruption" for the local industry; says decision to close studios was a difficult one for THQ.

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Earlier this week publisher THQ announced that it would be shutting down its two Aussie development studios, Blue Tongue and THQ Studios Australia.

The publisher said the decision came as a result of a global restructure of its internal studios with the aim of moving away from licensed children's titles and movie-based entertainment properties.

The announcement came as a shock to the Australian gaming industry, which has suffered a large number of closures in the past two years. Late last year Australia's largest game development studio, Krome, shut its doors following a series of staff cuts and project setbacks, preceded by an industry-wide reduction in game development staff and studios.

GameSpot AU asked the CEO of the Game Developers Association of Australia, Tony Reed, what the loss of Blue Tongue and THQ Studios Australia will mean for the future of the Australian games industry.

GameSpot AU: Tony, what are your thoughts on the closure of Blue Tongue and THQ Studios Australia?

Tony Reed: Firstly, I don't think the closure of the two THQ studios is any reflection on the capabilities or talent of the Blue Tongue or THQ Studios Australia teams. Those studios are filled with exceptionally gifted and experienced game developers. They have proven many times that they can deliver to the highest standards. Unfortunately, the closures are a direct result of a strategic shift for the parent company, and maintaining the local studios was not a part of the new direction.

GS AU: How do you think these closures will affect the local industry?

TR: I see this as a disruption for the industry, and nothing more. Once the dust settles I think we'll see the establishment of new, independent studios, in line with the studios that sprung up after the closures of Krome and Pandemic, as an example. The experience gained working at the studios, and with a major publisher, will be hugely beneficial in the development of new creative companies or for any Australian studio picking up those individuals. I absolutely don't subscribe to any thoughts that this is a blow to the industry, and I think any suggestion of such is a massive disservice to the people that made THQ Studios Australia and Blue Tongue great.

GS AU: Is this a sign of things to follow? We know the international economy is not very stable right now. Could we see more international publishers closing their studios here in Australia?

TR: That risk is always there and is not limited to Australia. In this console cycle we saw the global financial crisis and more importantly the emergence of new distribution platforms and mobile technologies that the traditional publishing sector struggled to come to grips with. Some publishers acted quickly, others have trailed. The strength of the Australian dollar has increased production costs in Australia, and that's always going to be a consideration for any investment into any industry, but that, to some extent, is offset by the cost of losing talent if a decision is made to close a studio. I suspect that the closure of THQ Studios Australia and Blue Tongue was an exceptionally difficult decision for THQ on that basis alone.

GS AU: We thought we were in the clear with so many great success stories around Firemint and Halfbrick and other indie developers popping up in the Australian industry. Should the industry stop working on console games and move into mobile and social gaming? Is that how the industry can move forward?

TR: In Firemint and Halfbrick you have two examples of independent studios that recognised the opportunity of a mobile platform early and invested in an idea that they believed in. They took a risk and it paid off, but hundreds of developers around the world have taken a similar risk and it hasn't. To my mind Australian studios should focus their efforts on the platform that enables them to make the game they want to make. There is a lot of work to be done to drive local investor confidence in the Australian industry, but it is work that is already under way. To limit our capabilities to one or two sectors would be detrimental to the Australian industry and would certainly not enable our most creative minds to produce the content they dream of creating.

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