Juice Games, Rainbow Studios get downloadable focus, layoffs

THQ gives new digital distribution mandate to developers of Juiced, MX vs. ATV games, plans to eliminate 60 staff positions.


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Two of THQ's racing game developers are taking a sharp turn, as the publisher today announced big changes for Juice Games and Rainbow Studios. Both developers will be rebranded as THQ Digital Studios locations and refocused on making downloadable titles, the publisher announced today. As a result of the change in direction, the publisher expects to reduce headcount at the studios by approximately 60 people.

The MX vs. ATV series will press on with the same team at the helm.
The MX vs. ATV series will press on with the same team at the helm.

Rainbow Studios, now THQ Digital Studios Phoenix, is best known as the developer of the MX vs. ATV series of games. The latest entry of the franchise, MX vs. ATV Reflex, arrived to positive critical reception in December and is on track to sell 1 million copies by April, according to the publisher. THQ has said it will continue to publish MX vs. ATV games "under the Rainbow Studios brand."

[UPDATE] In an analyst conference call following the THQ Digital Studios announcement, THQ president and CEO Brian Farrell confirmed that the MX vs. ATV team would continue to work on future installments of the franchise. [END UPDATE]

The UK-based Juice Games will become THQ Digital Studios Warrington. Acquired by THQ in 2006, Juice was best known for developing the Juiced series of racing games. After Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights posted disappointing sales, THQ put the Juiced franchise in the garage, and the developer has not had a game released since. Its current project is unknown, but the studio had been working on an original intellectual property for THQ and posted a job opening for a product marketing manager to work on racing titles.

This is not the first upheaval shared by Rainbow Studios and Juice Games. When THQ underwent a massive restructuring in 2008 and closed five of its internal studios, the publisher also instituted a round of layoffs at Rainbow and Juice to realign the sizes of the outfits with the number of projects they had in the works.

The publisher said that both studios will now focus on digitally distributed games "based on THQ's core game brands and new original intellectual properties." Additionally, the developers will be working on a community platform for THQ that ties into all of the company's core games.

The publisher has said games will be made for "all major digital platforms," specifically calling out Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, iPhone, and the newly announced iPad. It did not mention Nintendo's systems or Steam, nor did it indicate if its PlayStation Network development included both the PlayStation 3 and the PSP. The first games developed under the brand are expected to arrive in the publisher's next fiscal year, which runs from April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011.

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