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THQ shutters five studios, trims two

Paradigm, Mass Media, Helixe, Locomotive Games, and Sandblast Games all officially closed as of today; layoffs hit Rainbow Studios and Juice Games.


Despite the overall health of game sales in the US, American publishers have seen their stock prices ravaged during the ongoing economic crisis. Now the effects of that overarching downward trend are trickling down to the individuals on the ground.

A THQ spokesman today confirmed for GameSpot reports that the publisher had shuttered five of its studios and laid off workers at two more. Paradigm Entertainment, Mass Media, Helixe, Locomotive Games, and Sandblast Games have all officially ceased operations as of today, while a portion of the workers at Rainbow Studios and Juice Games were laid off, the representative confirmed. The total number of project cancellations tied to the layoffs and studio closures is unknown.

"It's just constantly trying to react dynamically to the market," the spokesman explained, "whether it's because of things happening to our industry or the economic environment as a whole. It's making sure that we're set up over the next three to five years to be profitable and successful."

The exact number of layoffs at Rainbow Studios and Juice Games were not clear. However, the representative said they were made in order to realign the sizes of the outfits with the number of projects they had in the works and where in the development cycle those products were. Rainbow Studios is best known for the MX vs. ATV line of games, while Juice Games is the outfit behind the Juiced street racing series, which THQ shelved after the most recent installment stalled at retail.

The closed studios were responsible for a number of popular and high-profile releases in their lifetimes. Paradigm worked on the Nintendo 64 hit Pilotwings 64 and the highly regarded Beetle Adventure Racing before being acquired by Infogrames. Under the French publisher's Atari brand, Paradigm's most notable titles included The Terminator: Dawn of Fate and Terminator 3: The Redemption. After being acquired by THQ in 2006, the studio worked on Stuntman: Ignition, which launched in 2007 to decent reviews, but underperformed commercially, leading the publisher to abandon the brand alongside Juiced.

Moorepark, California-based Mass Media was best known as a long-standing port house going back to its well-received Nintendo 64 adaptation of Blizzard's Starcraft. The company would work with Blizzard properties several times more, bringing 16-bit Blizzard games Rock 'N Roll Racing and Blackthorne to the Game Boy Advance. Before being acquired by THQ in 2007, Mass Media worked with the publisher to bring its Full Spectrum Warrior and Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers military shooters to the PlayStation 2.

Helixe was a Boston, Massachusetts-based studio specializing in portable gaming since its inception in 2000. The studio had most recently been working on the DS version of de Blob, but spent much of its life span working on adaptations of Pixar films, including The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Cars, and Wall-E.

Previously known as Pacific Coast Power & Light, Locomotive Games produced such games as Jet Moto 3 for the original PlayStation, MX Superfly, and the wrestling-meets-vehicular-combat experiment WWE Crush Hour. Its most recent title was Destroy All Humans! Big Willy Unleashed for the Nintendo Wii. A planned PlayStation 2 edition of that game was canceled.

Meanwhile, Sandblast had been busy working on the current-generation debut for that series, Destroy All Humans! Path of the Furon for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Both versions of the game had been announced as early 2008 releases, but were bumped to the publisher's current fiscal year and are expected to launch next month.

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